As we reflect on 2012, there were a number of gun related incidents that made many of us outraged. The senseless shooting at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado; the Sikh Temple shooting in Oak Creek; and most recently, the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that took the lives of innocent little children and their teachers.
Quite often, gun violence has been associated with urban central city neighborhoods and it is true that urban violence is much too prevalent. For example, both locally and nationally, in some African American neighborhoods, we have black males killing other black males with guns in alarming numbers. However, most of the high profile mass shootings have occurred in smaller suburban communities where violent crime is typically low. The point is, with easy access to guns, gun violence can happen anywhere.
There is no way to know exactly how many firearms are in the US, but the National Rifle Association estimates that there are nearly 300 million, including nearly 100 million handguns. With this number of guns, it is no coincidence that the US has the highest gun related murder rate of any developed country.
It is past time for our nation to have a serious discussion about the proliferation of guns in our society. I am not suggesting that we prevent law abiding citizens from their right to bear arms; nor am I suggesting that we stop hunters and sportsmen from having guns for those purposes.
But I am suggesting that we discuss having sensible gun controls and whether people need to have assault weapons with large amounts of ammunition. We also need to discuss removing and making it more difficult for people to obtain illegal handguns. As President Obama said, “dealing with the issue of gun violence is complex, but that is not a reason for us to do nothing.”
The removal of assault weapons and reducing the number of illegal handguns will not totally end gun violence, but these actions will be two specific steps in our effort to address the carnage and pain that gun violence causes.
Ralph Hollmon, President & CEO, Milwaukee Urban League