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Stop the guns.

Student breaks out semiautomatic weapons at his suburban high school and shoots to kill--slaying several classmates and teachers and wounding dozens of others. A preteen boy receives a life sentence for the murder of a 6-year-old girl. One teenager pulls a pistol and guns another down in a dispute over a girl. Or was that a pair of sneakers? A leather jacket? An angry look? The news has become so common that the respective horrors have begun to coalesce, overwhelming our sense of hope and security as individuals and as a society.

Schoolyard insults that once resulted in a challenge to meet, for a scrap at 3:00 p.m. have escalated to children literally going for their guns. Once upon a time, it was a big deal for someone to bring a knife to school. Now, it is all too easy for a child to get a gun--the metal detectors installed in many of our public schools are recognition of that grim reality. And, as a society, we are faced with the prospect of trying children as adults for crimes ranging from rape and assault to murder. There are no winners when we must choose between sentencing a minor to life in prison or sending that child to the executioner.

We, in the black community, have paid the high price of easy access to guns for decades. Too many African Americans fill our prisons and our graveyards as a result. Each of us knows of at least one person--often someone in our family--who fell victim to gun-related violence. One of the first, for me, was my uncle, Joseph Graves, who was shot to death during a robbery of the pharmacy he owned in my old Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. The tragedy represented the loss of a black-owned business, as well as the loss of a beloved father, husband, and uncle. The perpetrator? A 14-year-old black male--a child with a gun. How do we allow this to happen? When does it stop? And who is responsible for ending it? The solution starts not with the teachers, the preachers, the police, or the politicians but with you and me.

We must see gun violence and angry children as not the problem of other people--other communities, other schools, other neighborhoods--but our responsibility. Our kids--each and every one of them--are the business of each and every one of us. We must be involved in the lives of young people--not only those we are responsible for parenting--as a matter of personal safety and of national security. The time to deal with a child--via tutoring, mentorship, internships, or simply talking and listening--is before isolation and alienation place a smoking gun in their blood-stained hands.

Furthermore, we must take a serious and uncompromising stand in favor of the passage and enforcement of grin control laws. We must do whatever is necessary to make it next to impossible for a child, whether an alienated suburban teen or a would-be urban gangbanger, to gain access to a firearm.

The hard truth is that, but for your intervention, the child you deem unworthy of your time and attention today is likely to be the young person who terrorizes you or a loved one tomorrow. By the time it becomes a matter for the schools, for the police, or for the courts to deal with, it is far too late tot them--and for all of us.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:need for gun control demonstrated by how easily people kill with them
Author:Graves, Earl G.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:May 1, 2001
Words:568
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