I have grown weary of the endless empty rhetoric regarding what we can do about the gun violence that occurs throughout communities, especially within urban communities where oftentimes the climate resembles a war zone. After looking at the statistics of deaths caused by guns in the US I can only say there are TOO MANY! You can look up the stats yourself as the purpose of this article is not to focus on the problem, but to shift our attention to some possible solutions. I have six ideas that we as individuals can begin to do starting RIGHT NOW to help solve this problem.
Before I present the solutions let me address the perpetual critics who are always the quickest to discredit the solutions of others. You know who I'm talking about ...those who never have a solution to present themselves but practically and some literally make a living from downplaying the attempts of others to correct a problem of our community.
NO...this piece IS NOT an attempt to make people think that solving this problem is easy or quick to solve. This is a very complex and difficult problem to solve and in no way should we ever feel that any solution when implemented will dissolve it easily or overnight. This will take time, this will take patience, this will take diligence, and this will take a unified effort from ALL within the community in order for us to make any progress.
NO...this article DOES NOT represent ALL SOLUTIONS. Of course there are many other ways to resolve this issue. You may not see one of the solutions you feel will effectively address this issue in this article. I urge you to continue to implement your ideas as ALL solutions and strategies should be on the table.
Now that we've determined what this article is and is not, let's look at 6 solutions you can start today to help end gun violence:
1. Pressure Your Local Political Officials
The NRA is strong, but it shouldn't be as strong as the voice of the people if we come together and make our voices heard. Common sense tells us that assault rifles shouldn't be available to anyone except those in the armed forces. Mitt Romney himself passed an assault weapons ban as the Governor of Massachusetts so at one point, probably before the influence of the NRA on his Presidential campaign kicked in, he rightfully felt it would be an effective solution. Don't sit on the sidelines...you must find your local Congressman, Senator, State Senator, Assemblyman, etc. and contact them through any means possible to pressure them to pass legislation to make these dangerous weapons illegal. This website will help you get the information you need to contact your local elected officials.
I feel the need to restate what I stated above because I can hear the critics in my head. NO...this IS NOT A SILVER BULLET to solve this problem! Passing legislation by itself WILL NOT solve the problem of gun violence but it will provide crucial aide to the issue by making these illegal weapons more difficult to obtain.
The safety of those in our communities should be more important than some prideful, ignorant, underground creed. One year after I moved to Brooklyn in 2000 a little girl was shot in the crossfire of some street gangs. Every day I walked to the subway I had to walk over the blood stained sidewalk. I could still see traces of that blood stain as long as a year after that incident occurred reminding me that this little girl, who was not even a teen, lost her life. There WERE many witnesses to this crime but no one stepped forward to assist with the investigation. Have we gotten that scared of these criminals that we are willing to allow them to be pseudo-vigilantes in our communities even at the risk of allowing our youth to be murdered? Have we adopted a sense of moronic pride that dictates how we must maintain our silence as our justice system attempts to bring these criminals to justice? Shame on anyone who feels they should not "snitch" on those criminals who put ALL our lives in jeopardy through their ruthless crime sprees.
3. Find Solutions in Your Community
We should all be aware of those community organizations in our neighborhood that are actively involved in making our communities stronger. In my community I know of many organizations such as Mentoring USA which helps place mentors to youth in need; Brooklyn Educational Opportunity Center which provides free training/education for the underserved in Brooklyn; the FORTUNE Society which helps reduce recidivism by helping those recently released from prison obtain jobs; the Eagle Academy which provides new and creative ways to educate community youth; or the Campaign for Black Male Achievement which provides funding to many organizations doing great work to empower many who are underserved. In many of our communities there are many solutions doing great work, but it is our job to first locate and identify these organizations so that you may have a solid understanding of who they are and what they do to empower those in your community.
4. Promote/Support Solutions in Your Community
Once we have located these organizations, we must inform others in the community of the work they are doing, where they are located, and how people can benefit from their services. In this difficult economy, many local organizations are having difficulty with funding to continue their vital services, and inevitably with a shortage of funding, their marketing budget is one of the first casualties. If you see a flier take a few and pass them out at your local church meeting; plan an event at your church and invite the local organizations doing good work to sit on the panel AND set up a booth to pass out information; follow them on Twitter or Facebook and share their accomplishments with your network as they post them; and do whatever you can to help spread the word about their services. If as a community we come together to promote our community organizations we could almost alleviate the need for a marketing budget!
An easier way to support these organizations is to contribute funding to their cause. Sure, you can give money to the Red Cross or United Way which are tremendous organizations doing great work, but have you seen their balance sheets lately? They are not suffering from a short fall of cash. You have an opportunity, through the support of a local grassroots organization that you see doing great work, to make a direct impact on those in your community which you encounter regularly. I can promise you there is a nonprofit in your community right now that is educating those coming from prison, helping at risk youth, or providing a means of empowerment for the homeless; however, at the same time they are wondering how they are going to keep their doors open for another year and continue their much needed mission. Do the research on the work they are doing and support their mission in the most tangible way possible...cutting them a check!
5. Join Solutions in Your Community
Currently, I am the sitting Chair of the Medgar Evers Educational Foundation. I joined the board because I no longer wanted to sit on the sidelines; I wanted to take an active role in an organization that I feel has a heavy footprint on the education of youth in my community. There is an organization in your community which I am sure can use your expertise, guidance, and support. Gather your family and adopt an organization where one to two days per year the entire family will come together to volunteer their time to support that local organization. Volunteer every weekend at the local church to tutor youth. Whatever it is you do, join in the movement of that organization and try to enhance its impact on your community.
6. Be a Solution in Your Community
I started my first youth organization by simply volunteering my time teaching "step" at a local elementary school. When I started my financial planning company I began teaching financial literacy to youth. I still continue to volunteer my time to teach financial literacy to youth today. I am certain that some of youth I worked with at one point believed that belonging to street gangs was their only option.
There are many ways you can be a solution in your community. If you are a lawyer you can use the local YMCA to give free legal classes, if you are a doctor you can use your local church to provide health screenings, if you are an accountant you can visit the local school 1-2x per year to teach the youth about what it means to be an accountant, etc. Whatever you decide to do be consistent and make it an integral component of your life in that community.
I repeat...this won't be easy, this won't be quick, the solutions above are a part of many others I am sure you may have, and I welcome and accept any ideas you have to join with these you see above. There is no idea or solution that is too small to be considered. The one solution that is totally unacceptable is to do nothing at all. Criticizing with no action is the equivalent of doing nothing. In the green room of CNN I had the opportunity to meet with Ted Sorensen, ghost writer of "Profiles of Courage" and speech writer for John F. Kennedy for almost 10 years. He told me this poem:
Bull fight critics row on row,
Fill the enormous plaza full,
But only one man is in the know,
And he is the one who is fighting the bull.
We don't need more critics; we need bull fighters in the ring doing the work if we are to have any success in decreasing the pointless gun violence. I hope you find the courage within to join with the many, but at this point far too few, people who have decided to not sit on the sidelines and join the fight to take back our communities from the grips of crime and violence.
Follow Ryan Mack on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ryancmack