(crossposed at Nonviolent Choice, http://www.nonviolentchoice.blogspot.com )
It happened again last week in my neighborhood, just a few blocks from where my family lives. I didn’t hear the shots or the screams this time, but other times, I have. Sometimes it happens at night, but this time, it was in broad daylight. The toll was one dead, one wounded–both young Black men.
And not a word about their fates in the big media, though certainly there was among the distressed neighbors. Including the children who grow up here knowing every day what children shouldn’t have to think about too much: that their lives could be cut short on purpose by someone else in an irrevocable instant. A sweet-faced young man my daughter grew up with died from a gunshot to the back of his head. He left a baby girl behind. As much as for him, we wept to see his overwhelmed parents, family, and friends at the funeral.
I could take you on a sad pilgrimage around my neighborhood and show you all the telephone poles, corners, stretches of sidewalk, and weedy vacant lots where fellow human beings, mostly young Black men, saw the last of this Earth because of gun violence. There is nothing left in these places to mark their premature and abrupt departures except for the sorrowful and outraged hearts of those who pass by and remember what happened there and there and there.
Every year in the United States, gun violence kills 30,000 human beings and injures another 70,000. Gun rights advocates like to say, "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." So why is it that I’ve never met anyone in my neighborhood who agrees with this statement? So many of these killings and woundings happen regularly in neighborhoods like mine, to low-income people of color, often Black and Brown young men.
In other words, it’s not the same world most gun rights advocates inhabit. They tend to be majority-white and far more prosperous and able to pay for lobbyists. I am speaking of those who manufacture and profit from the gun trade, and the hunters who (in this country anyway) kill animals primarily for sport and not substinence.
In casting the gun issue as a matter of individual rights and responsibilities, the gun lobby only fuels the criminalization and scapegoating of impoverished people of color, especially young men. Framing the issue this way has an unmistakable implication: better-off white people must know how to handle their guns responsibly, and low-income people of color must not–why else would there be so many more gun crimes and deaths in *those* neighborhoods? *Those* people got what was coming to them, didn’t they?
This framing of the gun issue prevents Americans from taking up the collective responsibilities we have too long failed: our collective responsibilities to structurally alleviate poverty, classism, and racism.
These include our collective responsibilities to challenge the patterns of underregulated or unregulated marketing and distribution which have allowed the gun industry to systematically insinuate its way into inner-city neighborhoods. Geoffrey Canada, a noted child welfare activist from the Black community, has spoken up about the gun industry’s conscious strategies for moving into the inner-city once it had saturated and achieved the maximum profit it could from the "sportsmen’s" market.
In the inner city, it’s human beings who get hunted with guns now, and in most cases legal guns. 88% of guns used in crimes were bought quite legally from the rampantly unregulated sectors of the gun market. And US-made guns flood the international trafficking in small arms, which is responsibile for the high rate of gun violence in other beset places populated by poor human beings of color, like the favelas of Brazil.
Every single human being killed or hurt by gun violence made it onto this Earth in the first place because a woman carried him/her for nine months, birthed him/her, and in most cases raised him/her. And many victims of gun violence are, or were, parents themselves.
The right to raise our children in a safe, healthy environment is a core demand of reproductive justice. Not surprisingly, this demand arises from the very communities of color most devastated by gun violence. As well as an obvious pro every life concern, gun control is a reproductive justice issue.
Gun rights advocates are also without exception the children of mothers, and many are parents themselves. Aside from the gun makers and those who hunt animals for sport, some honestly believe that the unregulated right of gun ownership is essential to protect themselves and their families.
What if they could see how much the lack of gun control undermines the ability of people in neighborhoods like mine to protect ourselves and our children? What if they could glimpse what we already have learned too often, the hard way: that guns constitute the falsest of hopes for personal security? That widescale disarmament is ultimately the best way to keep every mother’s son or daughter, every parent, and every human being safe and healthy as can be?