Executive Director Khary Lazarre-White’s statement on reducing gun violence
April 25th, 2013
The recent rejection of the gun control legislation by the US Senate was a callous and shameful political maneuver. 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 is needed to pass nearly any bill, as opposed to a simple majority. This tactic has been disproportionately used in recent years for solely political reasons. However, this issue of gun control legislation is not merely one of politics, but instead it strikes to the core of the vision of the America we want to see. This debate raised 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 warranted 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 is immaterial. Thousands of children and innocent people are dying in this country each year. 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? 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 current regular analysis of the relationship between violence and the kind of false and hyper masculinity that is rampant in America. Women experience anger too, but almost never associated with violence of this kind, in fact, more often 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.