Photos and question by Christopher McIntyre
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
Domestic Violence Statistics Alarming, Need to Be Addressed by League
Washington DC – The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans, today is offering its partnership to the National Football League (NFL) in an effort to curb alarming rates of domestic violence associated with its players.
On December 1 the NFL received its latest wake-up call in Kansas City, when linebacker Jovan Belcher took his own life along with his family’s in a tragic murder suicide.
Sadly Belcher’s case is not unique – in 2012, 21 of 32 NFL teams employed a player with a domestic violence or sexual assault charge on his record which represents nearly 2 percent of the entire roster for the season. These incidents represent a significant portion of the staggering 1.3 million women who are impacted by domestic violence each year in the U.S.
These numbers only tell a part of the story – not only do nearly 45 percent of domestic violence incidents go unreported, but professional athletes have notoriously low conviction rates.
A Los Angeles Times investigative report found that athletes charged with domestic violence were only convicted 36 percent of the time, compared with a 77 percent general conviction rate. “What happened to Jovan Belcher and his family is both horrendous and preventable, and our prayers are with their loved ones” said Rev Anthony Evans, President of NBCI.
“NFL players’ contribution to domestic violence rates in American is alarming, but thankfully it can also be addressed with the help of surrounding faith communities and league leadership.”
NBCI is pledging to work hand in the hand with the NFL and the young men it employs to address the root of the problem and connect players with the strength of the black faith community. Staff and volunteers will create programs to be a ready and willing resource to guide affected families and equip them with the communication and life skills they need to win off the field.
“For the sake of every family member and stakeholder involved, we hope that the NFL will be a willing partner in this effort to curb domestic violence. In the aftermath of each tragedy lies an opportunity, and we hope that leaders will work with us to make sure to take every step possible to avoid another Jovan Belcher tragedy.”
President Barack Obama arrives with first lady Michelle Obama, top, and daughters Malia, top left, and Sasha, bottom right, at Honolulu Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, for the start of their holiday vacation, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
by Associated Press
Honolulu (AP) — President Barack Obama is condemning violence in Kenya that left at least 39 people dead in renewed fighting between farming and herding communities that have a history of violent animosity.
The White House says in a statement that Obama urges the Kenyan government and police, along with leaders from the Orma and Pokomo communities, to end a deadly cycle of conflict.
At least 39 people were killed early Friday when farmers from the Pokomo tribe raided an Orma village of cattle herders in southeastern Kenya. The violence appears to be driven by competition for water, pasture and other resources in the Tana River Delta.
The Obama administration is calling on all sides to intensify peace efforts in the region and says those responsible for the attack should be held accountable.
Violence Survivor Empowerment Program
The Avon Foundation for Women for the second year in a row has awarded a $65,000 one-year grant to Sojourner Family Peace Center in support of its Avon Domestic Violence Survivor Empowerment Program, which provides annual funding for 20 full-time coordinator positions in domestic violence agencies across the United States.
The 2013 Avon Domestic Violence Survivor Empowerment Program is part of the Avon Speak Out Against Domestic Violence initiative, which launched in 2004 to help end the cycle of domestic violence. The Avon Foundation for Women has donated $33 million for domestic and gender violence programs in the United States, including support for awareness, education, direct service and prevention.
The Avon Domestic Violence Survivor Empowerment Program’s coordinator position at Sojourner Family Peace Center will support victims in the Milwaukee area by providing domestic violence survivors with the critical resources and economic empowerment tools necessary to develop self-sufficiency and guide them toward breaking the cycle of abuse.
Maggie Anderson (second from left), the founder of “The Empowerment Experiment” and the author of “Our Black Year,” which chronicles the year she and her family purchased exclusively from Black businesses, was the keynote speaker of the Milwaukee Urban League’s 53rd Equal Opportunity Day Luncheon held recently at the Pfister Hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave. Anderson is pictured above with (left to right) MUL Board Chairman Jerry Fulmer, Dr. Eve Hall, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce and MUL President/CEO Ralph Hollman. The luncheon is an event that helps reinforce the importance of diversity and equal opportunity. It also generates funds which help support all the organization’s programs. You can read about Anderson’s visit and her experiences as a consumer of all things Black in next week’s MCJ. (Photo by Yvonne Kemp)
by Associated Press
Washington — Spurred by a horrific elementary school shooting, President Barack Obama (pictured right) vowed to send Congress new policy proposals for reducing gun violence by January.
“This time, the words need to lead to action,” Obama said Wednesday. He tasked Vice President Joe Biden (pictured) with leading an administration-wide effort to create the new recommendations and pledged to push for their implementation without delay.
The President, who exerted little political capital on gun control despite a series of mass shootings in his first term, bristled at suggestions that he had been silent on the issue during his first four years in office. But he acknowledged that Friday’s deadly shooting had been “a wake-up call for all of us.”
Twenty children and six adults were killed when a man carrying a military-style rifle stormed Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Friday morning.
The President also called on Congress Wednesday to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and to pass legislation that would close the gun show “loophole,” which allows people to purchase firearms from private dealers without a background check. Obama also said he wanted Congress to pursue the possibility of limiting high-capacity ammunition clips.
“The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing,” Obama said. “The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence.”
The President’s announcement Wednesday underscores the urgency the White House sees in formulating a response to the Newtown shooting. The massacre has prompted several congressional gun rights supporters to consider new legislation to control firearms, and there is some concern that their willingness to engage could fade as the shock and sorrow over the Newtown shooting eases.
Obama said it was “encouraging” to see people of different backgrounds and political affiliations coming to an understanding that the country has an obligation to prevent such violence.
Appealing to gun owners, Obama said he believes in the Second Amendment and the country’s strong tradition of gun ownership. And he said “the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible.”
“I am also betting that the majority, the vast majority, of responsible law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war,” Obama said.
Obama also tasked the Biden-led team with considering ways to improve mental health resources and address ways to create a culture that doesn’t promote violence. The departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, along with outside groups and lawmakers, will all be part of the process.
Biden’s prominent role in the process could be an asset for the White House in getting gun legislation through Congress. The Vice President spent decades in the Senate and has been called on by Obama before to use his long-standing relationships with lawmakers to build support for White House measures.
The President challenged the National Rifle Association, the country’s most powerful gun lobby and key backer of many Republican politicians, to join the broader effort to reduce gun violence as well.
“Hopefully they’ll do some self-reflection,” Obama said of the NRA.
The NRA made its first comments since the shooting on Tuesday, promising to offer “meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”
Obama said that while taking the necessary steps to reduce gun violence would take commitment and compromise, he said it could be achieved if Washington summons “even one tiny iota of the courage of those teachers, that principal in Newtown summoned on Friday.”
by Oretha Winston, Lead Editor, Elev8
Once again, parents and teachers are faced with the challenge of discussing a tragic incident of community violence with children.
On Friday we saw a tragedy unfold in an elementary school in Newton, Conn.
Here are a few things to help you have this meaningful discussion.
- Give children honest answers and information. Children will usually know, or eventually find out, if you’re “making things up.” It may affect their ability to trust you or your reassurances in the future.
- Use words and concepts children can understand. Gear your explanations to the child’s age, language, and developmental level.
- Be prepared to repeat information and explanations several times. Some information may be hard for them to accept or understand. Asking the same question over and over may also be a way for a child to ask for reassurance.
- Acknowledge and validate the child’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Let them know that you think their questions and concerns are important and appropriate.
- Remember that children tend to personalize situations. For example, they may worry about their own safety or the safety of friends and relatives, especially those who are away at college.
- Let children know that lots of people are helping the students, teachers, and families affected by the recent shootings.
Incidents of community violence are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept. Understandably, some young children may feel frightened or confused. As parents, teachers, and caring adults, we can best help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent, and supportive manner.
(Huff Post Black Voices)
Washington– Speaking before an auditorium of grieving parents, community members and others there to mourn the killing of 20 first graders and six adults from Newtown, Conn., President Barack Obama pledged Sunday to use the power of the office he occupies to end the epidemic of gun violence shaking the nation.
“We’re not doing enough,” the president said. “And we will have to change.”
“We can’t tolerate this anymore,” he added. “These tragedies must end, and to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and it is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.”
The speech was the fourth and most direct that the president has given in the wake of a major instance of gun-related violence. His day had started with a trip to see his daughter, Sasha, at her dance rehearsal at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Md. And as he took the stage at Newtown High School, in a quiet New England town tucked in the southwestern corner of Connecticut, it was evident that he still occupied the mindset of a father frightened at vulnerability of young children.
“If there’s even one step we can take to save one child, or one parent, or one town from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try,” the president told the auditorium.
“In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators in an effort to prevent more tragedies like this,” he said. “Because what choice do we have?”
These moments have become disturbingly regular for this president. His speech in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings touched on the concept of justice for such heinous acts. His address to the victims of the Tucson, Ariz., shooting that nearly took former Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s (D-Ariz.) life focused on the need to renew the human spirit in the wake of seeming madness. His talk before the National Urban League convention following the shooting in Aurora, Colo., rested on the notion of community and how society can protect and better itself even amid epidemics of gun violence.
The address in Newtown offered a more stern call for cultural, or even legislative, change.
“We can’t accept events like this as routine,” he said. “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that the violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”
But like the three speeches before, the president stayed vague on the methods of seeing that change through. This could very well be out of a sense of proper setting. A vigil isn’t always the best time to make policy points. But that may not be much comfort to those who are tired of the debate being ducked.
Obama’s advocacy for gun control has, to this point, had an inverse relationship with his rise in elected politics. The state politician who once touted a comprehensive plan to get guns off the streets of Chicago was absent from the debates once he came to Washington. The Senate candidate who said it was a “scandal” that the assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse in 2004 became a president who pledged to pursue gun-control reform only within existing law.
Over time, caution was how the president became defined on the issue, his eloquent words of sympathy no longer sufficing.
“The president’s tears were nice,” said Toby Hoover, director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, shortly after Obama addressed the Newtown shootings in a statement on Friday. Hoover lost her husband to gun violence when she was 30 years old, and was attending a candlelight vigil outside the White House gates. “But he was supposed to lead us. He told us that if we elected him, he’d give us hope. I need hope.”
Whether the president’s remarks on Sunday will change the viewpoints of Hoover or others — or whether it will alter the contours of the gun control debate — will be clearer in the weeks ahead. But certainly there is more room to operate.
Americans’ support for stricter gun control laws appeared to grow in the days following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. According to a poll conducted by YouGov and The Huffington Post, 50 percent of respondents support stricter gun control laws, up from 43 percent in August.
This January, congressional Democrats plan to introduce identical bills in the House and Senate to renew the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was allowed to lapse in 2004 after 10 years. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) said on Sunday that the bills would be introduced on the first day that Congress reconvenes next year.
Whether the ban would have changed the course of the Sandy Hook shootings is a complicated question. Authorities said Sunday that a Bushmaster .223 assault rifle was one of the weapons that 20-year-old Adam Lanza used to commit Friday’s murders, and that it was purchased legally.
Connecticut has a statewide ban on certain types of assault weapons, but in the decade since the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban, gun manufacturers have devised numerous ways to get around state bans like the one in Connecticut by making small alterations.
Feinstein initially called for renewing the assault weapons ban in July, following the massacre of 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. In the wake of this and other instances of gun violence, the White House has usually reaffirmed the president’s support for the legislation, which President George W. Bush declined to renew when it expired. But that support is always accompanied by lines — usually from the serving press secretary — that the administration would work within existing law, rather than revisit old ones. Obama has actually loosened gun restrictions while in office and declined to pursue others that were recommended by his own Justice Department.
Feinstein and her caucus face a powerful and well-funded opposition to any legislation designed to curtail access to firearms.
Led by the National Rifle Association, pro-gun lobbying groups in Washington have donated more than $5 million to House and Senate candidates since the assault weapons ban expired in 2004. In 2012, the NRA’s political action committee made more than $600,000 in federal campaign donations, overwhelmingly directed towards Republicans. The NRA has been largely silent in the wake of Friday’s mass shooting, and an NRA spokeswoman said that the group would not release any comments “until the facts are thoroughly known.”
In the meantime, the pro-gun lobby faced an ongoing barrage of criticism on Sunday from a wide range of public figures. As Feinstein was calling on Congress to act on gun control, across town, the dean of the Washington National Cathedral, the Very Rev. Gary Hall called on people of faith to “serve as a counterweight to the gun lobby,” and “stand together with our leaders and support them as they act to take assault weapons off the streets.”
The massacre at a Brookfield spa last Sunday, where three individuals were killed and four seriously wounded, ironically took place in the month the nation focuses its attention on the prevention of domestic violence.
Since 1989, October has been the month we nationally observe Domestic Violence Awareness. Created by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the intent of the observance is to connect battered women advocates across the nation and educate the public about this intimate form of crime committed against women and children.
We doubt Radcliffe Haughton, the shooter who took the three lives (one of whom was his estranged wife Zina Haughton) at the Azana Salon and Spa before committing suicide, was aware–or even cared if he did–of the significance of the month in which he committed his horrific act.
Most men who committed domestic violence this month and the other 11 months of the year probably didn’t know or care either.
The only thing Haughton and the other abusers cared about was revenge against the ones who they believed spurned them and their peculiar expression of “love,” the type which requires the use of violence, threats, intimidation, psychological control and–unfortunately–death.
Anti-domestic violence advocates are now engaged in an effort to assure women that saying “enough” to their abusers is the right thing to do (Zina Haughton had a restraining order on her husband at the time of her death); encouraging them to take out restraining orders to keep the abusers at bay until they can divorce them and completely break the hold they have over their lives.
The massacre has reportedly prompted state lawmakers to pursue the creation of a law that would prohibit the sale of firearms to people under restraining orders, allow police to remove guns from the scene of a domestic violence incident, as well as let courts and prosecutors know if a batterer has a conceal/carry permit.
State Sen. Lena Taylor is one of two legislators who reportedly vowed to reintroduce a failed 2009-10 bill that would have forced abusers to prove they have complied with a restraining order requiring them to surrender their guns.
Experts have said getting guns out of the reach of batterers is the most important thing lawmakers can do to keep domestic violence situations from escalating to the level it did Sunday. Will these laws stop batterers from getting their hands on guns?
No. But as one judge reportedly said, everything humanly possible must be tried to educate the public and protect the victims.
Only then can we reduce the number of domestic tragedies like the one we witnessed in Brookfield Sunday.