We Don’t Need a Silver Bullet to Stop Gun Violence

Hadiya Pendleton, who performed at Obama's Inauguration, was shot on Jan. 29 in Chicago.

It is time our country deals with the gun violence for real. And President Obama should should lead the way. An assault weapons ban, though an important step in reducing the likelihood of a mass shooting, would do little to reduce numbers of gun deaths in our nation. The vast majority of Americans killed by guns are killed by handguns.

What will make the difference is following through on the President's broader vision for investing in communities. It comes as a surprise to no one that the communities most ravaged by gun violence are also the ones hardest hit by poverty and joblessness. We know that people with jobs, adequate housing, and health care are far less likely to be a shooter or to be a victim of gun violence.

The gun lobby’s call for armed guards in schools would mean less money for classroom teachers. And the experience of many urban school districts shows that more armed guards would mean an increase in the number of kids who are swept into the criminal justice system for minor offenses.

We can deal with the roots of much of the gun violence by investing in strengthening the most impacted  communities and creating opportunities for everyone. We stand with Hadiya Pendleton’s parents and all the parents like them as they mourn the loss of their children to gun violence. But sadly, a ban on high capacity clips wouldn’t have saved Hadiya and stiffer penalties and mandatory minimum sentencing will only lock up more people and drain more valuable resources from neighborhood like Hadiya’s. In the end, it will make her peers and her family less safe.

We have to realize that young people aren’t the problem -- violence has existed for decades, far longer than most of the young people. We can’t blame people when we haven’t dealt with the conditions of poverty and lack of jobs, education, and health care that have been present in these communities for decades.

There is hope and proof that it can work. Richmond, CA has cut its homicide rate by half in just 3 years by identifying the young people most likely to commit crimes and working them them to turn their lives around, offering paid fellowships and structure to help get them on the right track. And in Boston’s “Operation Ceasefire” model had similar success in the 90’s.

Changes like these are possible in your city. Contact your city council member and let them know that you stand for real solutions to violence.

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