All Articles Tagged "gun violence"
When people ask me why I moved from America to Australia, I hate to admit that one of the reasons was gun violence. It seems almost outlandish to cite gun violence as a reason for shipping oneself off to the farthest corner of the globe, but while I was living in America, the fear of being gunned down by a random assailant burrowed itself into the back of my mind and continued to grow with every occurrence of a mass shooting.
Here in Australia, the news is uneventful (and I’d like for it to stay that way). But Australian news could have very easily turned out to be like the American news we see today, had it not been for the swift gun control measures put in place by the Australian government following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre where 35 people were killed by a mentally unstable gunman. Between 1996 and 2014, the incidence of gun related deaths dropped dramatically — by about half. Moreover, by some definitions, there have been no mass shootings in Australia since 1996 (by other counts, one has occurred). Let’s discuss why.
Australian gun law reforms
Under the National Firearms Agreement of 1996, Australia took a unified approach to regulating gun ownership across all states. As summarized by the Library of Congress, the reforms included:
… a ban on certain semiautomatic and self-loading rifles and shotguns, standard licensing and permit criteria, storage requirements and inspections, and greater restrictions on the sale of firearms and ammunition. Firearms license applicants would be required to take a safety course and show a “genuine reason” for owning a firearm, which could not include self-defense. The reasons for refusing a license would include “reliable evidence of a mental or physical condition which would render the applicant unsuitable for owning, possessing or using a firearm.” A waiting period of twenty-eight days would apply to the issuing of both firearms licenses and permits to acquire each weapon.
Alongside legislative reforms to implement the National Firearms Agreement, a national buyback program for prohibited weapons took place in 1996-1997 and resulted in more than 700,000 weapons being surrendered.
Some Second Amendment enthusiasts reading that may think, “Wow, what a nation of sticklers!” Yup, Australia might be the uncool kid who shows up to the skating park wearing knee and elbow pads, plus a helmet. But I’m good with uncool for the sake of safety.
But gun laws infringe on individuals’ freedoms, right?
We live in a world that looks drastically different than the world of the 18th century when the Bill of Rights came about: hate propaganda can now spread rapidly and easily via the internet, we see unprecedented levels of mental health problems, and gun technology has advanced significantly. It would be negligent to ignore these very different circumstances in which we live in the context of public safety and the laws that are meant to protect the public. Or, put in another way by an Australian gun owner who wrote in an article in Time, “Australia is a great country. You can go hunting, you can go shooting. And as long as you hurt nobody and abide the law you can continue to do it. That to me is freedom. The idea of having people own guns with no concept of gun safety and no reason to have a gun? That is not my idea of freedom.”
But “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” right?
Despite empirical evidence that more stringent gun laws do reduce gun related deaths, some people will argue that gun access is not the real issue at hand because, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” I do agree that gun violence is a symptom of other societal issues such as: poverty, mental illness, depression, racism, homophobia etc… These are very real issues which certainly deserve attention. However, treating the root cause of a problem does not necessarily have to preclude the treatment of its symptoms. If I go to the hospital with a broken leg, I want the doctor to fix my leg and also to give me pain meds. I wonder how much longer America can ignore this symptom–how many more lives need to be lost at the hands of armed attackers.
While it might not be feasible to 100% replicate the Australian solution in America, I believe that there are worthwhile elements of the Australian example that America can pull from in its fight against gun violence.
When I hear about the mass shootings in America, a place that I grew to love and called home, I am filled with both deep empathy and grave disappointment. The sad thing is that as I write this, I know that there is a good chance that in a few months there will be yet another mass shooting tragedy in America, and the world will go through the same cycle of outrage and frenetic social media hashtagging #PrayFor[insert name of city] #WeAre[insert name of city]. Often times people are left shaking their heads, wondering what they can do to help. There are grassroots movements to end gun violence (like the Everytown movement) that offer practical suggestions and resources for individuals who would like to get involved by signing a petition, completing a form letter to send to congress, donating to the movement, or getting information about how to connect to your senator. The time is now to speak up–what are you going to do to end gun violence?
I was consumed by the fatal shooting of 49 human beings in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub the moment I caught wind of its subsequent hashtag, #PrayForOrlando. As minute-by-minute facts and stories of the victims continue to flood in since news broke early Sunday, I’ve come to realize the full scope of its impact on all of us. We pray, we beg for gun control reform, we donate blood and even update our social media to show our support of every person this world lost that day. But what we usually refrain from discussing is how our day-to-day lives are completely reshaped because of such tragedies.
From what I can gather, this is about the fifth time where my day was totally eclipsed by news of a gunman opening fire on a group. Before what’s being called the deadliest shooting in U.S. history, I remember Columbine, when I was too young to fully process how someone could kill 13 of their high school classmates and a teacher. I also recall that fateful day at Virginia Tech when my school, Norfolk State University, though roughly 300 miles away, was put on lockdown until authorities confirmed Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people, then himself. Then, there was the Aurora shooting during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises and, of course, Sandy Hook, which arrested the entire country after the killing of 27 people, including 20 children.
Though it’s easy to believe that we’ve become desensitized to children being shot in classrooms, people being gunned down while trying to have a good time at the movies or in a nightclub, and another AR-15 making headline news, but what’s real is that, because it takes just seven minutes to buy an automatic weapon, and mental health is still talked about in whispers and hushed tones, I almost jump out of my skin whenever someone takes a bathroom break during a movie. I keep my eyes almost squarely on the exits when I’m in a crowded bar. Even somewhere in the small spaces of my mind, I second guess bringing kids into this world, because Lord knows my heart would stop beating if I received an “I’m gonna die” text from my child.
That’s why, as stories and facts still come pouring in through tickers on CNN and news anchors and witnesses give live reports and accounts, Americans are begging for gun control NOW. Let’s face it, though. Guns are only a part of problem, not the sole problem. This hate crime was unequivocally aimed at gays in a country that doesn’t do enough to fight in their favor. They’re a tragically marginalized group of folks who solely want to love freely and without consequence. Still, even after such a massacre, the FDA continues to refuse to lift the ban on blood donations from gay men who haven’t been celibate for at least a year. Furthermore, the minute Omar Mateen was identified as the Pulse shooter, media, and Donald Trump, immediately conjured anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Trust me, the problem runs much deeper than firearms.
These horrific accounts aside, there is an overwhelming amount of good in this world. It’s seen in the way we band together in times of distress. But until we combat systemic and individual hate and intolerance with preventive laws, these senseless acts will continue to chip away at all of our lives, be it in the form of yet another mass shooting or the sheer fear of pumping gas in broad daylight or going to a crowded festival, not knowing what may happen next.
Until there is a true solution, I pray for those who’ve had to personally endure these brutal acts. I can’t even begin to fully grasp the haunting feeling of losing a child or being blindsided by the barrage of bullets from an AR-15 while dancing with friends. I pray for our country, which at the moment, seems overly concerned with eradicating “radical terrorism” and mislabeling entire groups and cultures as our enemy, to fix the emotional and physical corrosion caused by these undertakings. We deserve better from those elected to govern, protect, and serve.
These are scary times we’re living in right now, and it’s hard not to live in fear. As it stands, those leading us and hoping to lead us down the line need to realize that the only way to make America truly great is to make it safe for every single one of its citizens. Period.
The day started like any other. Georta Mack, 14, was dropped off at the bus stop in the very early hours of Tuesday morning by his father to make his way to school. Afterward, the father headed back home. But unbeknownst to him, so did Mack. The teen decided to skip school and soon after being dropped off, he headed back home, sneaking back into the house through the basement.
According to Cincinnati’s WCPO, when Mack’s father heard a noise coming from the basement, he grabbed his handgun and went to see who or what it could be. That’s when the unthinkable happened.
“I just shot my son by accident,” Mack’s father said when he called the 911 operator. “He scared me. I thought he was in school. I heard noise and then I went downstairs looking. He jumped out at me. I shot him.”
The teen was shot around 6:30 a.m. and was hit in the front of his neck. The father claimed that when he was startled by his son after flinging open the basement door, immediately after, the handgun discharged. During the 911 call, the operator told Mack’s father to apply pressure to the teen’s neck to help with the bleeding, doing so as Mack was struggling to breathe. Sadly, after Mack was rushed to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, he died.
Those who knew Mack and his family told WCPO that they were a tight-knit bunch, making this tragedy all the more heartbreaking.
“They were very close,” said neighbor Courtney Williams. “His dad is actually a good guy, too. He was a very good guy.”
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said the father’s story matches the forensic evidence, so no charges will be filed.
“It is impossible to imagine how horrible this father must feel for mistaking his son for an intruder,” Deters said. “All of the forensic evidence matches what the father told police, and, therefore, no charges are appropriate.”
And the 911 call definitely shows a concerned and confused father, as he can reportedly be heard saying, “Oh God” repeatedly and even asking his son, “Why didn’t you go to school?”
With his last term in the White House coming to a close, President Obama is doing all that he can to dedicate his time to pushing gun control and educating Americans on why taking action on such matters are important, since Congress has not passed legislation doing so.
In an effort to continue this task of executive action, Obama has decided to leave a seat empty in the first lady’s box to honor slain victims due to gun violence during the State of the Union address on Tuesday (Jan.12), The Huffington Post reported. Historically, the process of deciding who will sit next to the first lady takes a significant amount of time, but instead of a high-profile figure, Obama felt it was only right to use that opportunity to reflect on larger issues the country is facing at large.
“We want them to be seen and understood that their absence means something to this country,” Obama said.
A White House official explained, “because they need the rest of us to speak for them. To tell their stories. To honor their memory. To support the Americans whose lives have been forever changed by the terrible ripple effect of gun violence—survivors who’ve had to learn to live with a disability, or without the love of their life. To remind every single one of our representatives that it’s their responsibility to do something about this.”
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 5, 2016
I don’t have to tell y’all that gun control in this country is a problem. From the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, to the one in a Black church in South Carolina and then the nearly everyday occurrences in Chicago, there is a problem and we have to address it.
Today, during a press conference on gun control, President Obama is seeking to do just that.
President Obama has been calling Congress to act on gun control for months now, with no results. So after meeting with his team to see what could be done, today he proposed an executive order that seeks to do several things.
1. Keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people, through background checks.
2. Make the communities safer from gun violence, through stricter enforcement of gun laws, tracking the illegal sale of firearms, renewing domestic violence outreach efforts.
3. Increasing mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system.
4. Shape the future of gun safety technology
You can get a more in depth look at the proposal here.
In proposing this new legislation, President Obama shed tears speaking about the children slain in Newtown, Connecticut.
“All of us should be able to work together, to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important. Second amendment rights are important. But there are other rights that we care about as well. Because our right to worship freely and safely, that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina. And that was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel and Sikhs in Oak Creek.
Liberty and the pursuit of happiness, those rights were stripped from college kids in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara and from high schoolers at Columbine. And from first graders in Newtown. First graders. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.
Wiping tears away, he said, “Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad. And by the way it happens on the streets of Chicago everyday.”
You can watch President Obama’s full remarks in the video below. (The press conference starts around the 35:15 mark.)
As many of us know, Christmas Day was chock full of family and friends, good food, gift-giving, and of course all the men in the family huddled around the TV watching several hours of basketball.
However, the NBA stars that are known for defensive plays and scouring triple doubles, decided to talk about much more than their love for the game. On Christmas, a public service announcement debuted, in which four ballers – Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Joakim Noah – lent their voices to an anti-gun violence campaign by Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization that aims to prevent gun violence.
“My daughter Riley is that age,” Curry says, referring to a three-year-old girl that was fatally shot over the summer. “The gun should never be an option,” Anthony says during his segment.
The series of videos, which aired as one commercial, was shot by director Spike Lee, who is also a member of the organization’s creative council.
“I think [Lee] sensed and saw that our guys were feeling that same passion that he had and he reached out to Adam [Silver, the NBA’s commissioner] and said, ‘I want to do something about this and I think we should do it together,’ and we thought it was a good idea,” said NBA president of social responsibility and player programs, Kathy Behrens.
“The guys really wanted to kind of put their voices behind this, and so we like the way it’s come together, and I think the guys speak very passionately about the issue of trying to end gun violence, trying to make their communities stronger and safer for families.”
Watch each of the NBA player’s video segment below.
Barbershop: The Next Cut Will Not Only Make People Laugh, But It Will Also Tackle Gun Violence In Chicago [Trailer]
Welcome back to the barbershop!
It’s been more than 10 years since the last installment in the Barbershop franchise. But after rumors of another film being shopped around popped up last year, Malcolm D. Lee was able to make it happen. Ice Cube and the gang all hustled back into Calvin’s barbershop in Chicago to make a third film. Barbershop: The Next Cut will open nationwide on April 15, 2016.
Until then, you can check out the first trailer from the comedy, which was released today.
Directed once again by Lee, but written this time around by Black-ish showrunner Kenya Barris and The Neighbors‘ Tracey Oliver, we catch up with Calvin (Ice Cube) and Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) and the inhabitants of their beloved shop. Major changes have been made to it, including the establishment now being co-ed thanks to the addition of a beauty shop that brings with it Angie (Regina Hall) and the feisty Draya (Nicki Minaj).
And major changes are also happening in the surrounding community, where gang violence is rampant. In the hopes of not only saving the shop, and the neighborhood, but to also keep his son Jalen (Michael Rainey Jr.) out of harms way, Calvin and the barbershop crew work together to try and bring about change.
That’s right. This story is a bit deeper than what we were given the first and second time around–and I’m not mad at that.
But no worries! Based on the trailer, the film still has very humorous moments, and that makes sense considering all the funny folks with roles. Anthony Anderson is back as J.D., of course, Cedric the Entertainer is an important player, and then there’s JB Smoove, LaMorne Morris (of New Girl fame), and Deon Cole (of Black-ish popularity).
Common has joined the cast, and some of your old favorites are back too, including Sean Patrick Thomas (Jimmy), Troy Garity (Isaac) and Eve (Terri). No sign of Michael Ealy though.
Check out the trailer for yourself and let us know if you’ll be down for another visit to Calvin’s barbershop next spring.
We don’t have to go on about the alarming murder rate plaguing the metropolitan city; almost daily a national newspaper does that for us as it details yet another shooting or massacre of some sort. And while many on the outside are stunned by what’s transpired in the city during the past few years, April Lawson says young Black men in Chicago are operating as if a crisis isn’t on their hands. It was seeing a group of young males camped out in front of a shoe store recently that let Lawson know she had to do something herself.
“You’re watching these guys just like buying gym shoes and carrying on like life is normal,” she said before pointing to another inspiration for her sex strike. “Then I saw the trailer to ‘Chi-Raq’.”
If you haven’t checked out the trailer already, the premise of the new Spike Lee film centers on neighborhood women withholding sex until gun violence ends. Lawson wants to bring that notion from the big screen to real life. The mother has already started an online petition, asking other women to agree to this pledge she read aloud on ABC news:
“I vow to stay celibate until Black men organize and create a strategy to keep the peace in our neighborhoods.”
In an open letter on the petition site, Lawson wrote:
The day after Tyshawn Lee and Kaylyn Pryor were shot dead on the south side within blocks of each other I watched you file into stores on State Street to buy gym shoes despite the fact that your neighborhoods are being torn apart. I watched in dismay as you carried on with your lives at work and at home as if this were of no consequence. I watched when you shook your heads and uttered, “That’s a damn shame,” on the CTA Red line with the newspaper in your large brown hands. I listened when you gave benign excuses about how there’s not much you can do about it and that somehow through it all, “God’s got it.”
You simply ran on Dunkin in the morning. And you supersized your fries at lunch time. As Londoner’s say, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. Seriously, you kept a little too fucking calm, in my opinion.
Step into your greatness and out of the shadows of impotence. I need you to be leaders, not consumers. I need you to cherish your woman and protect your babies using every ounce of fortitude and creativity you can muster. I need you to insist the adage “justice for all” includes you too.
No, Chicago men. I’m done marching. I’m fed up with chanting catchy slogans like, “Black lives matter.” My silent protest to fight this battle is by keeping my panties up and my skirt down, one day at a time. My legs are closed to you. IT’S GAME TIME. I’m bringing on some real life Lysistrata in Chicago, and I’m hoping to enroll thousands of other single and married women in this city before the end of this bloody week.
My headshot could be plastered just as easily on the front page of tomorrow’s headlines. How dare you shake your heads and just walk away. God gave man more muscle mass than woman because it’s his job to protect and defend. Isn’t it time ya’ll got on your job?
Just like Lysistrata entreated the mighty women of her city I implore the strong ladies of Chicago to take this oath. If you are a woman who is sick and tired of the senseless violence then please, please take this pledge.
Elaborating on the pledge, Lawson added this:
Until an official treaty is signed and an actionable plan is in place by all black men who live in this city, I take a vow of celibacy. I vow to refuse sex to any man I’m dating, engaged to or married to until the perpetrators of these heinous crimes are brought to justice. I vow to keep my affections for men vocal, spirit filled and non-sexual until all children on the south side are safe to play outside their doors. I vow to stay celibate until black men organize and create a strategy to keep the peace in our neighborhoods. All men must take responsibility to take back their communities and behave as global citizens who patrol their own streets until every block in every neighborhood can all breathe again in ease.
Until ALL men in every neighborhood take a solemn oath that they will stay proactive instead of passive I will remain vigilant to the cause.
GENTLEMEN, THE CANDY STORE IS OFFICIALLY CLOSED. WE ARE ON STRIKE. PANTIES UP. SKIRTS DOWN. Let the lockdown begin…
If All Lives Matter where is the outrage over the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon?
It really is an obvious question, but it is also a poignant one.
When folks say Black Lives Matters, they are told “nuh-uh. All Lives Matter” and how it is not fair to focus on one specific kind of death in America.
And it would be a fair argument if the folks who proclaim All Lives Matter were actually doing something about it. Heck, I see more folks upset about the Jenner-Kardashian being christened “America’s First Family” by Cosmopolitan than I do about the latest mass shooting, where people actually died.
For whatever reason the mass violent death doesn’t bring about the same sense of urgency as it does when a single cop kills an unarmed Black person. Maybe it is because when it comes to death, Black lives matter more?
Or maybe folks just don’t care.
As noted by Ben Dreyfuss who writes in a piece for Mother Jones entitled, 16 Years After Columbine, How “Never Again” Became “Oh, Well:”
“Both responses, “never again” and “don’t bother trying,” offer statements about the USA. The former says “America is the greatest country on Earth. We went to the moon. Surely, we can stop kids from getting shot to death at school! If the Brits can do it, so can we. ” The latter says, “No, we can’t. We’re America. The greatest country on Earth and the cost of the liberty that makes us so is that our kids may get shot to death at school.”
Every time there is another mass shooting and nothing happens it becomes a little easier to believe that the “don’t bother” crowd is right.
Nothing changed after 13 people were killed at Columbine, or 33 at Virginia Tech, or 26 at Sandy Hook. Each of those tragedies came with the same breaking-news urgency as Columbine, but none generated the same sense of expected action because fewer and fewer people actually believed things could change. The last 16 years have been a lesson in how “never again” can be cowed into “I need a drink.”
What is great about the Black Lives movement, and subsequently those who champion the BLM hashtag, is that it essentially embodies the former, more optimistic side of the America in which Dreyfuss speaks about. The side that believes that although police killings of mostly young and unarmed Black people has gone on forever – and although there are other kinds of violent death that warrant outrage – we have to take a stand somewhere in our demands for “never again.”
It also illustrates how the only ones actively working to address any kind of violent death in America are those activists on the front lines championing the cause of more police accountability.
Meanwhile, it has been three days since the tragic shooting in Oregon and there has not been a single call by any All Lives Matter leader for nationwide protests, which demand an end to the violence. No one is bum-rushing Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump’s campaign to demand they pay attention to mass shootings or make all lives a priority. There are no ALM activists holding sit-ins in the corridors of power, demanding their elected leaders enact new anti-violence laws. There are no rallies outside of gun stores or the NRA headquarters demanding that they be held accountable for their parts in this tragedy.
Basically. all of those who claim they are about all lives mattering have no demands, which would give any impression that violent death – regardless of the color of the person who died – is worthy of doing something about.
There is a bit of truth that exists at the core of the All Lives Matter argument: what is needed in society is a cultural shift, which values and respects the lives of all people equally. But if folks who champion the All Lives Matter want to see that cultural shift happen, then they need to be out here in these streets, putting themselves on the frontline and taking a stand for “never again.”
Until that happens, All Lives Matter will continue to sound like nothing but hollow rhetoric.
“Thoughts & Prayers Are Not Enough” Pres. Obama Delivers Stern Remarks On Need For Gun Control Laws After Oregon Shooting
Yesterday, when I heard the news that there was yet another mass shooting, this time at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, I sighed. I asked myself if I knew anyone in Oregon and then checked to see if that person was ok.
At the time, they were reporting that there were 10-15 deaths and I took a brief moment to think about the loss of 10-15 lives. And then I went on about my day. Mass shootings are all too commonplace in America and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t desensitized to people being killed as they’re trying to go about their everyday lives.
And that’s sad.
Yesterday evening, as the details of the shooting and facts about the shooter, who was killed, continued to trickle in, President Obama held a press conference discussing the shooting and how it evidences the need for stricter, more effective gun control laws.
He was not playing around with this speech. Watching him speak so emphatically, President Obama reminded me of the type of lecture your parents would give, in the middle of the night, when you just couldn’t seem to do the right thing. He looked angry and yet exhausted.
Check out the most poignant words from his speech below and watch the full video below.
…America will wrap everyone whose grieving with our prayers and our love. But as I said, just a few months ago and I said a few months before that, and I said, ‘Each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough.’ It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted some place else in America, next week or a couple months from now.
We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did. And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on earth that sees these kind of mass shootings every few months.
You know earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying ‘The United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient, common sense gun safety laws even in the face of repeated mass killings.’ And later that day there was a mass shooting in a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. That day.
Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this. We talked about this after Columbine, and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newton, after Aurora, after Charleston. It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.
Later in the speech he spoke about the opposition:
Somebody, somewhere will comment and say Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.
I would ask news organizations, because I won’t put these facts forward, to tally up the number of Americans who have been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence and post those side by side on your news reports.
We spend over a trillion dollars and pass countless laws and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?
This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen, every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.
I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as president to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances. But based on my experience as president, I can’t guarantee that. And that’s terrible to say… and it can change.
May God bless the memories of those who were killed today. May He bring comfort to their families and courage to the injured as they fight their way back. And may He give us the strength to come together and find the courage to change. Thank you.