While writing at home one night, a few loud bangs exploded outside.
I told my partner, Bette, who was at another desk, that it sounded like gunfire, uncomfortably close. She didn’t believe me until sirens and flashing lights filled our Northeast neighborhood.
The shooting at 8:30 p.m. had taken the life of a man less than a block away. That closeness to a gun-related homicide rattled Bette. But it didn’t have the same effect on me. I grew up with guns and people doing violent and stupid things with them.
I also owe the early days of my journalism career to guns. When I worked nights in the late 1970s as a young reporter I covered many shootings, gunfire deaths, suicides, and other gun-related family and community tragedies. I helped chronicle the start of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime.
I am not proud that I have benefited professionally from the Second Amendment and people who insist on more and more terribly powerful guns.
But none of the victims, the perpetrators with guns or their respective families and loved ones caught in the explosive force unleashed by triggers being pulled has profited. They’ve all been hurt.
They’ve all suffered. They all have a bleeding hole in their lives that guns created.
The tragic and unending mass shootings get people’s attention more than the gun-related killing of the one person on the street where I live. But every gun-related death is a loss, especially when children are the victims.
It is unfortunate but clear in this country that guns mean more to people than children. Guns have rights and a constitutional amendment. Children don’t. Instead of the empty, often-used phrase, “Children are our future,” in America, because of the Second Amendment, we should proclaim and put it on our money: “Guns today, guns tomorrow, guns forever.”
After all, guns are our future. After the mass killing of 20 children and six educators on Dec. 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., most federal and state lawmakers’ responses revealed what they value.
They either did nothing nationally or very little in a few states to strengthen gun laws. Others like Missouri and Kansas went to the opposite extreme to liberalize gun rights. In Colorado, where gun laws were strengthened, voters recalled the legislators who pushed for more gun controls.
I agree with Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund. People should be outraged that we do more to protect guns than we do to protect children.
Lawmakers won’t even institute stringent background checks before all gun sales and ban the manufacture and sale of assault rifles. Edelman said the “complicity in the nation’s destructive culture of gun violence that kills or injures a child or teen every 30 minutes” is obscene.
“We must all follow the example of the Newtown families and channel our shock and grief into action,” Edelman said in a prepared statement. “The Newtown families are standing up and turning their pain into a mission for common-sense gun safety laws and improvements in mental health services to keep preventable tragic events like Sandy Hook and the daily toll of child gun deaths from happening again.
“We must all act with urgency and persistence to protect children, not guns. Sandy Hook was no fluke. The number of children and teens killed by guns in 2010 was nearly five times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action that year in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The tragic relentless taking of life by gun violence will continue if Congress and state legislators remain silent and do not act to end this public health crisis. It is time for every parent, grandparent, and faith and community leader to stand up to Congress and say, ‘Enough — protect children, not guns now!’”
We’re still waiting for lawmakers to take meaningful action against guns.