Gun violence: a public health issue, public pressure solutions

NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 12/28/2012, 10:33 a.m.
"We in the movement have been talking about gun violence as a disease--as a public...
Activists rally against gun violence

"We in the movement have been talking about gun violence as a disease--as a public health issue, not a public safety issue--for a long time," said youth and anti-violence activist Andre Mitchell. "Gun control deals with gun supply, but we are talking about gun demand.

"We want to reduce the idea that people want to use guns to resolve a dispute--but when someone has a mental health issue, it could be a question of how they are dealing with stress. It could be about having a lack of finances, housing, peer pressure or bullying."

The CEO and founder of community empowerment organization Man Up added that the response to Newtown once again uncovers a great imbalance. "There is a disparity when looking at the Black versus the suburban communities. In the ABC--American Black Community--the issue is more to do with the handgun than assault rifles like in the ASC--American Surburban Community. There is a correlation, though, because it is still gun violence. It is one and the same but slightly different."

On Friday, Dec. 14, gunman Adam Lanza, 20, walked into Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and murdered 20 children and six staff members.

Promising that it will not be a talk shop with folks writing a report at the end of their yakking, President Barack Obama appointed vice-president Joseph Biden to head a gun commission focused on immediate anti-gun violence action. Obama announced that he would support the reintroduction of the anti-assault rifle ban, and the closing of all gun show loopholes where people can buy weapons without a background check. Biden, one of the authors of the original assault weapons ban that passed Congress in 1994, told the media that he would meet with pro- and anti-gun advocates, elected officials, community leaders and mental-health professionals.

"When a mass shooting takes place in suburbia, it becomes the most important topic in the news. Before Newtown, it was Hurricane Sandy and the fiscal cliff, but when the shooting happened, it became the topic of the day. So even though the shootings in our community is ongoing, it doesn't have the same effect to stop the country. We don't get the same type of treatment," said Mitchell, a certified Violence Interrupter.

The outcry after Newtown was immediate and international. From just a few hours after the bloody attack, the press called it "the second-deadliest school shooting in American history."

New Black Panther Party youth minister Divine Allah, based in the gun-violence-ravaged Trenton, noted, "When the media plays on that, it just automatically sets up a scenario for a next psychotic killer to decide to beat the number of people killed," he said. "The media sensationalizes the whole incident in a society where violence is glamorized anyway."

"This is the most violent nation in the world," charged Mitchell. "Nowhere else do you see mass killings like this with this frequency. But this government is centered in violence. We are engaged in more wars that any other nation, plus when this many of these soldiers come back with certain mental issues.