Three years ago on January 8th, a mass shooting in Arizona took the lives of 6 innocent people and nearly killed U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Since then, mass shootings and urban gun violence have plagued this country. When Congresswoman Giffords was shot, gun reform advocates were sure that there would be change in Washington, with members of Congress seeing one of their own as a victim of the senseless violence. But many bills failed to advance. Since then, nothing changed, and the senseless violence has continued to permeate through communities across the country.
Almost two years later in December 2012, the world stopped when a gunman entered an elementary school and killed 26 people, including 20 children. It seemed like the time to pass sensible laws. Even Congressional Members who were members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and represented communities in pro-gun ownership states were committed to introducing reform.
But the bi-partisan bills failed to pass and no further serious attempts have been introduced.
With each New Year comes the promise of a new opportunity – a chance to do something differently, an opportunity to improve. We have an opening to address gun violence and on January 8th, the National Action Network’s (NAN) Youth Move will memorialize the past shootings and repurpose the day as the National Youth Day of Action Against Gun Violence.
On this day, NAN chapters and other advocacy organizations will come together for community discussions and agenda setting to tackle gun violence and create opportunities for conflict resolution.
The sad fact is that urban gun violence often takes a backseat to the stories about mass shootings. Many legislators don’t take notice to the violence seen in major cities like Chicago, New York, Miami, and L.A.
It’s seen as an urban problem, something that doesn’t infiltrate the lives of people with education, opportunity or money; categories that many legislators fall in to.
When a mass shooting happens, it normally affects just about anyone and can happen just about anywhere – school, church, the mall, a movie theater — however, to the families of victims of urban gun violence, the pain is no less and the urgency is just as great.
The families of Lloyd Morgan Jr., Hadiya Pendleton, or Deidra Smith never expected to lose their loved one to a senseless shooting — but all three people are victims of urban gun violence, leaving only their memory as a guiding light to the rest of us to be resolved to peace so that others don’t share their fate.
We have a new year, a new opportunity to work on getting Congress to pass reform bills. Young people are leading this effort, and it’s their goal that adults will see them and follow suit. These young people want to live without fear. They want to walk in their neighborhoods and not worry that a simple misunderstanding by strangers could mean the end of their life because they turned the wrong corner.
We owe it to them to do everything we can to support their efforts. We owe it to ourselves to not mourn another friend, family member, or loved one because we didn’t stand up when we had the chance. It’s a new year; we need a peaceful resolution to the problem of gun violence that is gripping this nation. What better way to do it than to pledge this year to peace.