There are two gun wars. One occurs on the urban streets of New York, Chicago, Washington, DC and other urban cities around the country. Another gun war occurs in small towns, small cities and on college campuses in places like Auora, Colorado, Virginia Tech University, Tucson, Arizona and Newtown, Connecticut. Regardless of where the gun war is taking place, the end result is the same—people are being killed at an alarming rate and in large numbers.
Gun legislation has been proposed in Congress and the Senate to address the gun issue. President Obama speaks of the urgency and need to curb gun violence. One thing is for sure if we do nothing, nothing different will happen. People will continue to be killed. The question is what should we need to do. The two wars are not fought in the same way. The urban war involves hand guns and the other war involves assault weapons and massive gun cartridges. The urban war is usually targeted against people of color. The small town war is random violent acts against anyone in the cross fire. Treating the two wars in the same way is not the solution.
In the Washington, DC area, recently a teenager was shot and killed for a shopping bag he was carrying with a pair of shoes as a gift for his girlfriend. Maryland State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said, “I am really enraged that a young person in our community with a shopping bag can’t walk down the street without being shot in the back.” In Chicago, Hadiya Pendleton, an inaugural parade participant was shot for being in the wrong place. There have been urban killings where people were sitting on their own front porch. And a baby was shot and killed in the Atlanta area because the mother had no money to give to her would be robbers. Eliminating assault weapons and large magazine cartridges will not cause these killings to cease. Increased penalties for these crimes will not also be a deterrent. There must be a different approach to urban gun violence. Prince George’s County Maryland prosecutor Angela Alsobrook recognizes that we must also treat what ails us in society. Gun laws by themselves will not be enough to stop the violence. I agree with President Obama that legislation that will save one person’s life is still well worth it.
And in the mass killings, assault weapons are primarily used to injure and kill large groups of people at a time from 26 in Newtown, 10 killed and 70 injured in Aurora, 33 dead in Virginia Tech and 10 dead in Arizona. Again, the total ban of assault weapons and large magazine cartridges will not be enough to stop the violence. It will be a start. Many of those killers who commit these crimes have mental health issues. That is not to say that killers in urban areas are not also subject to mental health and other issues. And our laws on mental health are quite inadequate to presently deal with the problem.
A a prosecutor, I prosecuted crimes of gun violence. As a trial lawyer, I have on occasions defended crimes of gun violence. The main problem is present in urban and small town gun violence—many of those committing the crime have no regard for their life or any human life. That is a societal issue. More guns on the streets in the hands of would be victims will not solve that problem.
Tougher gun laws are a necessary tool but they should not be the only tool to stop gun violence. Until we find out what ails us in society and work towards curing that problem, guns and gun violence will continue to plague us. Taking the first step is a start. But we will still need to take many more steps in the process, if we want to make a dent in the problem. It takes a village to raise a child and the same is true to stop gun violence. It will take a collective effort on a legislative, judiciary, mental health, economic, socio-economic, religious front to begin to solve the gun violence. The real question is whether we are up to the challenge.