I remember the story. It happened at 3am on February 5th, 1997. A young man approached another sitting at a red light. They didn’t know one another, but one aimed his gun and shot his victim in the head. The story still moves me, because of its gruesome nature, and the victim was a police officer.
Incidents of gun violence happen with more frequently. Guns are more accessible. It feeds the power and inferiority complex of hearts corrupted by hate. That’s why we see an uptick in mass shootings and police shooting unarmed citizens. Even as I write this, another mass shooting occurred in a Lafayette, Louisiana movie theatre.
My friend Abby Dart in Michigan and I talked about what needs to happen to stop these incidents. She believes America needs to treat the epidemic of gun violence as a public health crisis, similar to the anti-tobacco campaign.
Anti-tobacco campaigns created greater awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco products. People still smoke you might add. But public policy and higher taxes, including a tobacco fund, helped some stop smoking.
She shared her belief that gun violence can be curbed if, “the Surgeon General, Department of Health and Human Services and CDC address the deadly combination of mental health and guns as a public health crisis.”
But opposition by The National Rifle Association is strong. Each year, they successfully lobby Congressional members for more, not less access to firearms. The result is despite the President’s call for them to research gun violence, agencies like the CDC, fearing their funding will be cut, fail to act. And the frequency of shootings increase.
Gun related deaths are spiraling up, not down. When a Ferguson police officer in Missouri murdered Michael Brown, the #BlackLivesMatter movement sprung forward. It has brought greater awareness to police officers shooting and killing unarmed Black men. But it hasn’t focused our national attention on cities like Chicago, where Blacks are killing each other.
The video involving police officers stopping of Walter Scott in North Charleston and Sandra Bland in Texas give us a glimpse of guns and weapons giving police officers a feeling of superiority. That’s why, I remember the trial of the man convicted of murdering Officer Brian Gibson. Even then, the story was different, an officer killed as he sat in his patrol car.
Prosecutors painted a picture of a twenty three year old, disgruntled Black man who felt powerless against a police officer. Gibson approached a busy DC intersection and stopped at a stop light. Little did he know, that moments before he came to that light, this man had been escorted out of a nightclub, yards away.
That intersection changed the Gibson family’s life forever. And stories like it are where the lives of murderers and victims are intersecting every day, altering the lives of thousands of families, every year. Whether it is the parents of the children and teachers killed in Newtown, Connecticut or a Congresswoman and eighteen others shot, some killed in Tuscon, Arizona th,eir families lives are impacted. And Congress has failed them, by failing to pass meaningful gun reform legislation.
American communities, rich and poor, citizen and immigrant, White and Black, Christian and Muslim, straight and gay have to come together and fight back. Mothers and fathers of those killed can relate to the need to protect our nation’s family health. How many more lives have to be lost, before we come together? “Political issues build the largest coalitions when we approach the subject from the largest common denominator.” Abby says. This is a political issue of epic proportion.
Together, as a nation, we can address our nation’s long standing gun issue as an issue of public health. We can start by asking President Obama, to bypass Congress and do something through an Executive action..
Because, this health epidemic is claiming the lives of thousands every year. If we step forward and support reform together, we can save the lives of thousands. We all have to come together to ensure that A Change is Gonna Come!
For 2015 statistical data on gun incidents in America visit http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/
Abby Dart is an Advisory Board Member for Party Politics “Dinner and A Conversation”.
Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP). Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.