The innocents still call out to us every single day. Every single day.
We dare not be cavalier and ignore their call!
The social disintegration of our communities fueled by rampant poverty and readily available guns on every American street corner has created a deadly brew. Protracted wars, violent media portrayals, and violent video games each have contributed as well. Tragically, we have become an exceptionally violent society.
How must we respond to the call of the innocents?
At the outset, we must develop the courage to admit that rampant violence is a major problem in America and that guns are a root cause of this violence. Yet, rather than wasting more valuable time debating national gun control in a Congress too moribund to act, we must act now in our local communities. We can organize and support voluntary gun turn-in days, in which guns would be turned in voluntarily and destroyed. We can petition our county councils and state legislatures to make it much more difficult to purchase guns locally, especially assault rifles and pistols with large ammunition clips. We can become public health advocates and make it socially unacceptable to own a gun in our communities, much like cigarette smoking has become unacceptable. Yes, we can act locally on gun control!
We also must address the sources of disintegration that serve to breed violence in our communities. This list is very long. Poverty, low income, lack of an opportunity structure, lack of education, discrimination, social isolation, excessive use of police force and penal institutions, especially for minorities, and ready availability of drugs, licit and illicit, among others, all lead to urban social disintegration, in which interpersonal violence and shootings now are commonplace. Further, the rapid influx of many unemployed war veterans traumatized by their experiences in Iraq or Afghanistan makes this situation even more volatile.
Again, we must act locally. We can identify and address the root causes of violence in our own communities. If these are poverty and discrimination, then we must begin to define local opportunity structures and mentoring programs so that residents actually get needed training and jobs, and develop a hopeful sense of the future. Personal mentors can serve as a very powerful force for change. If the root cause is excessive use of force by police and unwarranted incarceration for minor offenses, then we need to retrain our local police and modify our local court practices. Yes, we can act locally to address violence in our own communities!
We also must address the care needs of those in our communities with mental health and substance use conditions. First, we must disabuse our friends and neighbors about the false association between mental illness and violence. Persons with these illnesses are dramatically more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators, and no more likely to be violent than you or me.