Back when heroin commanded our attention and was a menace in our society, many concerned citizens and experts would often declare that opium wasn’t grown in the community. A similar complaint is echoed nowadays about the proliferation of guns, especially high-capacity assault weapons, that they are not manufactured in our city.
Well, like the heroin, the guns have made their way into the hands of many users who probably never should have had them in the first place. This problem is at the core of the prevalence of gun violence, and the recent Easter weekend brought the issue home to us in a tragically lethal way.
So, what’s to be done, a question like the upsurge in violence that has plagued us for years? After several days of visiting various sites and gathering information on gun violence, most of those who have been probing this public safety matter for years usually arrive at similar solutions, if they don’t just throw their hands up in utter frustration.
First, let’s consider this troubling statistic: on the average in the nation, 35,000 people are killed with guns every year—that’s nearly a hundred a day.
Grappling with a problem in which young people in America are more than 80 times more likely to die from gun homicide than their international peers is something that probably prompted Mayor Ben Walsh of Syracuse to appoint a pastor to head his Office to Reduce Gun Violence. This was done back in January and that’s something other cities can do, along with support from the federal government.
The banning of assault weapons is certainly an ingredient to add to this recipe to reduce gun violence; as well as a requirement of serious and thorough background checks on all gun sales; curbing the access of guns from domestic abusers; and taking steps to improve and expand various community groups that have been actively involved in ending gun violence.
After all is said and somewhat done, no doubt we will still be struggling for solutions and ways to bolster public safety. Another important measure in this process is treatment of those suffering from mental illness. And with this provision we circle back to the widespread heroin addiction in which treatment helped those trapped in its usage. Stopping heroin at the border was also a decisive factor in reducing the number of addicts, just as interventions on I-95, the “iron pipeline,” would at least put some constraints on the flow of weapons into the city. Also, the gun industry should not have a broad immunity from lawsuits that is provided under federal law.
We commend the mayor of Syracuse and his appointment of the Rev. Lateef Johnson-Kinsey of the Wall of Hope Church in leading the fight to end gun violence, and he will need more than our prayers to stem this pervasive menace to society.