When we subscribe to the idea that “Black Lives Matter,” it’s something we state without pause or reservation. And while we are pleased to learn that the family of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody in Baltimore earlier this year, has received a settlement of $6.4 million—as if a price can be placed on a Black life—we are deeply disturbed by the unrelenting proliferation of gun violence.
When we declare that “Black Lives Matter,” it is not to minimize the importance of others whose lives are senselessly expunged by the police or anyone else. We were shocked again this past weekend when attorney Carey Gabay, a lawyer with the Cuomo administration, was shot in the head in the morning hours leading up to the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn.
Gabay was an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time—and that can be almost anywhere nowadays in a society overrun with guns and people clearly unfit to have them.
We are as aghast by the endless barrage of bullets as we are helpless in finding ways to curtail the violence. Even as we write and publish these comments, another mass shooting has occurred, another unarmed Black man has become a statistic and another police officer has been gunned down merely because he’s a cop.
“Black Lives Matter” evolved from the urgency of combatting the epidemic of police killing unarmed Black men, but the movement—and it’s indeed more than a meme, as several activists have noted—must have meaning in the Black community and address fratricidal aspects of Black-on-Black violence. Gabay was felled because he was caught in the crossfire between rival gangs. In the fusillade of gunfire, only Gabay was wounded—and this was one Black body too many!
In our editorials over the past several years, we have hammered away at the problem of rampant gun violence until all the remedies and suggestions for solutions have been voiced. Even so, we are in the business of words, not bullets, and we will not put down our weapon until the federal, state, county and municipal governments step up and do something about it.
Background checks are obviously not enough because many gun dealers are less than forceful, and even if they are, how do you stop the flow of illegal guns? In the past we’ve endorsed initiatives by some manufacturers and communities to put forth measures on smart guns in the same way we have smartphones, thereby making it useful for only the owner. Moreover, these owners must be rigorously checked by sellers to ensure they are mentally prepared to purchase a gun and use it sensibly.
OK, we know. You’ve heard this all before. But you’ve heard the gunshots before, too. You’ve seen the ceaseless fatalities, and too many of you have witnessed these horrific murders, so while we may be preaching to the choir, it’s time for you to lift your voice and singalong with us, chorus after chorus, that “Black Lives Matter.”
Some of us don’t feel motivated to act until a person we love and admire is gunned down. By then it’s too late. The next time there’s a “Black Lives Matter” rally or demonstration calling for an end to gun violence, do your best to get there. If that’s impossible, you can do what we do: write to the elected officials, civic and church leaders. Let them know that you know about the problem and that you are willing to stand with them if they choose to stand.
Standing and singing, showing solidarity against a pressing menace may be all we can do, but remember how effective it was in the past when Dr. Martin Luther King and other freedom fighters walked among us. Black lives mattered then, and they are no less precious today.