KEEPING IT REAL: The Supreme Failure
By Rev. Al Sharpton
There’s a war going on outside. Despite the public’s belief, this war isn’t confined to the battles waging in Iraq or Afghanistan, nor is it occurring only in distant lands like Nigeria or Thailand. There is another conflict much closer to home taking place virtually every single day in cities and towns all across this nation. It is the vicious epidemic of gun violence that is claiming the lives of our young men and women in horrific record-shattering numbers. And when the Supreme Court on Monday overruled Chicago’s ban on handguns, they literally opened the floodgates for a drastic rise in shootings, instability and homicide in a country that already leads the way in lethal violence.
In March of last year, WCBSTV in Chicago reported that in the preceding 16 months, an astounding 508 students were shot–enough kids to fill an average size elementary school. According to most reports, in the weekend prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, around 54 people were shot and 10 were killed on Chicago streets–in one weekend alone. And in this metropolis, local CBS TV reports that the number of homicide victims during the current year equals the number of American soldiers killed during the same period in Iraq and Afghanistan–and that 80% of Chicago’s victims were Black.
It isn’t surprising that those far removed from the realities and complexities of life in urban America would rule in a manner that would further jeopardize the safety and security of every day families. These are mothers and fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles who stay awake at night wondering if their child will return home. These are innocent elementary students who literally dodge bullets just to get an education and a chance to alter their circumstances. And these are community leaders and legislators that are fed up with burying their citizens and living in fear.
The Supreme Court’s disappointing ruling on Monday not only dismisses this ban on handguns that has been in place since 1982, but it simultaneously creates an environment and culture where gun usage is accepted and encouraged. At a time when economic strains are pushing more and more individuals to crime and violence, the last thing any city or town needs is more readily available guns. And as the number of militia and anti-government groups skyrocketed over the last year and a half, stricter legislation and oversight is needed to ensure the safety of all–rather than an easing of our already lax gun laws.
With its incomprehensible growth in homicides and violence, Chicago became the forefront for advocates to create some semblance of change and hope in the troubled city. And as the highest court sets us back in the fight for justice and peace, the focus is again back on the distressed streets of the windy city. But unfortunately, the issue of guns, shootings, homicides and crime isn’t confined to Chicago alone. As we continue to lose our loved ones, fear traveling down our residential neighborhoods and worry about making it through a school day, we do a disservice to everyone.
For those that may believe gun violence in America does not affect them or they are far removed from the crisis, here’s some food for thought: according to the Violence Policy Center, direct medical costs for gunshot wounds total more than six million dollars a day, and nonfatal gunshot wounds are the leading source of uninsured hospital stays–with an estimated half of such costs borne directly by the public. This same institute cites that public health research has shown firearm violence is directly related to the availability and density of firearms.
If only someone notified the Supreme Court.