During the early hours of May 2, a South Side Chicago family discovered the beaten, abused and burned body of their 15-year-old son who ultimately died from a gunshot wound to the head. A child with no criminal record or gang affiliation who was tormented and threatened by others for months, and eventually chased and viciously murdered. He was the 35th Chicago public school student killed this year alone.
That same weekend, homeless 17-year-old Cory Squires was gunned down in the chest after an encounter with a group of men in Harlem. One week prior, 13-year-old Christopher Owen was enjoying a barbeque in his NY neighborhood among friends when he was fatally shot in the head after a gunman opened fire on a crowd of over 300. And just earlier that month, two teenagers in Queens–aged 17 and 19–were shot to death in cold blood.
Everyday I hear the cries of mothers, fathers and grandparents who are tired of burying their young. Gun violence and homicide in the United States are at an astronomical and disturbing level. According to the Violence Policy Center, firearms are the second most frequent cause of death overall for Americans aged 15-24. This Center also reports that since 1960, more than a million Americans have died as a result of firearm suicides, homicides and unintentional injuries.
In the midst of record violence and the loss of entire generations, the State Senate of Texas has chosen to pass a bill that would allow concealed weapons on college campuses. The bill, championed by Republican Senator Jeff Wentworth, won passage by a 19-12 vote and would allow licensed college students and others aged 21 and older to bring weapons onto state campus buildings, dormitories and classrooms. Already, half of Texas’ House members have signed on in support of the bill; now all that stands in between college kids and guns is a final approval by the State Senate.
How can we consciously further arm our children when we continue to lose them everyday to the same weapons? When the lives of innocent boys and girls are cut short just walking to the store, going to the park or trying to make it to school, we cannot openly promote and advocate the use of guns–especially in an educational environment. In the wake of massacres like Virginia Tech, the resolution is not to allow further guns on campus, but to educate, prevent and curb further violence via peaceful measures.
On May 11th, I was joined by Grammy-award winning actor/rapper T.I. at our National Action Network headquarters in Harlem as we called today’s youth to action, to end the senseless murders and to put down their guns. T.I. openly apologized, took responsibility for his own mistakes in the past and urged the throng of supporters to steer clear drugs, guns, hostile aggression and a life of crime. We marched, and were joined by others like Ja Rule and Kevin Liles as we visited the site of where young Cory Squires’ life was cut short. We marched for justice, we marched for peace and we marched for an end to the destruction of our children. When an average of 16 youths are killed per day due to senseless violence (CDC), we must–we must–reject any proposed notion of legally advocating the use of more weaponry. Whether it’s Texas or any other state, we cannot create a hostile environment where our young people go to seek an education, enhance their lives and many times escape a hostile atmosphere back home. It’s time to accept the challenge of creating a sustainable future for the next generation.