Gun Violence Has Become a Universal Language

Gun tragedies are nothing new. They are sequences of events that are full of heartbreak and heartache. There are no winners when it comes to these now frequent incidents. Families of both the victims(s) and perpetrators find themselves devastated from the aftermath of the trauma left behind.

Communities are left asking questions about possible red flags that could have been taken more seriously, whether it comes in the form of a street crime or a cold, calculated shooting of a couple of working journalists. The pain of losing a loved one at the hands of someone standing behind the barrel of a gun is irreversible.

Trayvon Martin parents have felt the sting of that pain. The Sandy Hook Elementary School community was rocked when 20 children and six adults were abruptly taken away from us in the face of a shooting massacre. Former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords miraculously survived a fatal encounter that left her with a debilitating scar for life. Six people lost their lives in the Arizona public shooting that resulted in 19 people in all, including Giffords, being hit by gunfire.

The list, which includes the Virginia Tech shooting, the 2012 Aurora, Colorado nightmare, and the recent shooting of a Texas deputy and the deadly ambush of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, is extensive and too long to run through. Gun tragedies crosses ethnic, cultural and gender lines. It has no discrimination process in which to operate.

photo credit: Protest outside the NRA Office via photopin (license)
photo credit: Protest outside the NRA Office via photopin (license)

Actor and comedian Phil Silvers (Houseguest) was shot to death by his wife as he slept in the couple’s bed. Former NFL player Rae Carruth ordered the execution-shooting death of his baby’s mother. Hip hop artists Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. both lost their lives to gun violence. Then there is the church shooting in South Carolina where nine people were executed simply because of the color of their skin.

Sitting in the car, going to the movies, working at your job, sitting in the classroom or even attending Bible study at church, gun violence has made its way into every facet of our life. The attention now paid to the rate of velocity of gun violence has stepped up in the wake of recent tragedies. But why did it take so long? Probably because gun-toting junkies and Second Amendment wackos refuse to even consider the idea of gun restriction laws.

The push back to this latest conversation about improving gun laws in this country is for sure going to be met with strong resistance. People love their guns so much that it seems to matter little to them that someone with mental illness in their background may be able to get their hands on a .38 or a 9mm Glock just so they can get some sort of revenge on people they view have treated them wrongly.

What’s the point to all of this? Well, the point to all of this is that even with much-needed tighter gun control laws, how are we going to keep the guns out of the hands of someone going through the black  market to get back at a cheating spouse, a disgruntled co-worker or someone minding their own business and walking down the street? How do we keep the children in urban communities safe from harm’s way?

I’ve lost several members of my family to gun violence. It is shocking, fast and lethal in the way it can wreck your family. I lost an uncle who was just doing his job as a clerk issuing out payroll checks to longshoremen in Long Beach. One worker, apparently upset about not getting his check when he wanted it, walked to his vehicle, came back and emptied his gun on my Uncle Charles without warning.

My uncle’s killer took away a pastor, a mentor and community leader. How many families have felt that kind of anguish from losing a loved one to gun violence and the unwinding senseless tragedies like this? When will it end?

It is unfortunate that it has taken so long for people to strongly discuss the possibility of improving gun control laws here in the United States, because urban America that has been plagued by gun violence for decades with little or no remedy to squash the problem. There does seem to be some type of disconnect by which the whole gun control issue has been addressed as it relates to communities of color and to those living in middle and upper-class.

As a child, I grew up in a certain part of Long Beach, California, where attending school was like having to dodge the Wild, Wild West show before and after you left school. Gangs were paramount, as they were in the surrounding Los Angeles areas. I remember my siblings and I being terrified of having to walk through this dangerous maze of gang occupation, fearing of being attacked or shot. I would hear stories about fellow students losing their lives to a bullet.

Urban communities have been dealing with these incidents for years. Too many black and brown lives have been taken without provocation when it comes gun violence. Where was the gun control rallies for young Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old black girl who was killed by a gunman’s bullet in a Chicago park while hanging out with some friends? Urban communities, like the South Side of Chicago, have been held hostage by gun violence and gun tragedies for a very long time.

Being the top high school player in the nation wasn’t enough to shield Simeon High School basketball star Ben Wilson from being shot and killed on Chicago’s South Side in 1984. Black and brown folks have witnessed these events too often to count. The call for gun control in these communities have largely been placated in vain. So now if we’re going to have a serious debate about gun violence and gun control laws, let’s keep all communities in mind, not just a select few.

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