Standing by and watching gun violence won’t fix it

gun violence protest - Getty

Growing up in West Baltimore, as a young child, my parents always told me and my older brother to stay away from the living room windows for fear of stray gun fire. Those windows faced out on busy North Avenue. As a five-year-old child, I questioned why we couldn’t look out of the windows. I eventually learned that it was to protect us in case of any gun shootings. Later in life, my brother would tell me that he had witnessed a shooting from those windows.

In my 20s, my awareness with gun violence took on a more active role. After graduating from law school, I became a Baltimore City prosecutor where I prosecuted gun cases. The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s office had a strong policy against illegal gun possession and violent gun crimes. The policy did little to stop gun violence. I learned then that we cannot prosecute our way out of gun violence.

In cities like Baltimore and Chicago, gun violence soars. So far in 2019, 186 murders and 735 shootings occurred in Chicago with almost 4,000 illegal guns confiscated. My hometown of Baltimore reports a higher homicide rate for its size than Chicago. Since 2015 to present, Baltimore has seen a higher crime rate than at any time in the last 25 years. Overall, in the U.S., the rate of gun deaths in 2018 was the highest in 50 years. There are over 100 deaths a day due to gun violence. Suicides accounted for almost 60 percent of all gun deaths with homicides accounting for almost 37 percent in 2017.

Accordingly, public mass gun shootings and killings account for only a small fraction of all gun deaths and shootings. Due to mass shootings occurring in schools, churches, synagogues, places of employment, malls, concerts or movie theaters, almost everyone feels the pain or threat of gun violence. Anyone could become a victim of random gun violence. Since I was five years old, the gun violence epidemic has grown. Therefore, it begs the question of why we aren’t doing more to address gun violence.

June 7 is National Gun Awareness Day. It began five years ago to honor Hadiya Pendleton who was killed by gun violence in Chicago just days after performing in President Obama’s second inauguration parade. Wear Orange Weekend from June 7-9 is one way to bring attention to gun violence. Passing meaningful legislation is what is needed.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Breaking the cycle of systemic gun violence in many of our cities is as important as a common-sense solution for mass shootings and suicides. There are common-sense gun solutions that must be applied to stop the gun-violence carnage plaguing us. Banning assault weapons, high-magazine cartridges, silencers, closing gun loophole laws and addressing the systemic causes of urban gun violence are but a few. President Trump is wrong when he says that assault weapons like an AR- 15 are used for entertainment. They are used to kill in mass shootings. And banning them will save lives.

We must not only talk but act against gun violence and the lives lost, like last weekend’s Virginia Beach killings. My parents did the best they could to keep us safe. We must do more than what my parents did — tell our children to stay away from windows or hide under school desks and tables and inside closets. And we can’t avoid all public spaces where gun violence occurs. If we keep doing the same thing, we will get the same result — and more Hadiya Pendletons will die from gun fire.

Debbie Hines J.D. is a former Baltimore prosecutor.

Tags Criminal justice Donald Trump gun violence Mass shooting

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