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Gun Policy and Bloodshed in America

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The continued lack of reform to control guns and gun violence in America is shameful and immoral and constitutes an abdication of the responsibility of those in political power. Children are dying all across America in numbers not seen in any other democracy that is not at war. This continued inaction is a stain on this nation, made in human blood, and one that continues to expand, day by day.

I am a social entrepreneur and I have worked in Harlem for 18 years, through my organization, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, to decrease violence and gang activity. I have been dedicated to teaching young people to resolve their conflicts in more humane ways and to turn away from violence. I am an attorney who has focused on constitutional law issues and advised the New York City Council on a 5 million dollar effort to reduce gun violence in New York City, as well as Mayor Michael Bloomberg's and George Soros' Young Men's Initiative, which seeks to engage disconnected young men via a 140 million dollar multi-pronged approach. The effort to decrease gun violence must be multi-faceted, diverse, intelligent and innovative. There is no single answer.

The overwhelming majority of Americans supported the effort to deepen gun control in America, and the majority of gun owners believe in background checks, in ensuring the mentally ill do not have access to guns, and in closing the gun show loophole. The inability to pass what is in fact a quite moderate bill, displays the broken reality of the American legislative system in which a super majority, as opposed to a simple majority, is needed to pass nearly any bill. This tactic has been disproportionately used in recent years to block the political will of the people. However, this issue of gun control legislation is not merely one of politics. It strikes to the core of the vision of the America we want to see. This debate raises moral and ethical questions regarding what in fact it means to be an American.

The horrific shooting and mass killing in Newtown opened more fully a national dialogue on the issue and afforded a blood soaked opportunity to seek change -- change that is essential for America to become a more moral, ethical and just society. Every day over 30 people are killed by gunfire in America -- every day. Whether these deaths occur in suburban areas like Newtown, CT or in the urban areas of Chicago or Harlem should be irrelevant.

Thousands of children and innocent people are dying in this country each year. The disproportionate number are Black and brown young men -- those deemed the most expendable. America purports to be a land of freedom, but what kind of freedom do our children experience when they face death or fear the specter of violence each and every day? Urban areas are overrun by violence, guns and gun violence. These are all too familiar realities for our children -- and as they live each day in fear of these realities, America's political and policy class hides behind fraudulent claims of infringement of rights and liberty. Where is the liberty for the children of the tough streets of Chicago, Detroit, Oakland or Harlem?

America has a history intertwined with violence, it is one of the bedrocks upon which America was built and expanded, and until we come to terms with this history and continued obsession, we will continue to be among the world's most violent societies. What has not been spoken of much is the role of gender within this issue of violence -- the terrible toll that is taken by male violence, by the lack of any systematic analysis of the relationship between violence and the kind of false and hyper masculinity that is rampant in America. Women experience anger too, but are almost never associated with violence of this kind. In fact, when they are violent, it is almost always in response to terror.

We cannot be held hostage to the NRA nor be swayed by some misguided "originalist" interpretation of the 2nd Amendment that claims that all citizens have a right to have access to all guns at all times. The 2nd Amendment guarantees access to bear arms, not all arms. Clearly a responsible and rational society puts in place some restrictions.

Those who have been affected by gun violence, those who are among the millions of responsible gun owners, those who want a more humane and ethical America, must join hands and organize, must advocate and vote, must demonstrate and yes, educate our children to believe that a responsible and decent and moral America will not stand by and allow children to be shot and killed while we do nothing.

America is an ideal, a journey, and history will judge us by the America we form and create, the America that we, under our watch, allow to come to pass.