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Wednesday, 06 February 2013 10:51

Why Does the Cry for Gun Control Become Impassioned Only When White Kids Are Shot?

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT             bullets

The Sandy Hook massacre was a horrifying result of the collateral damage that results when a gun industry combines with psychologically paranoid white guys to dominate politics at the federal and state level.  Like almost all mass shootings that ignite national dismay and outrage, the perpetrator in Newtown was white as well as the victims.

BuzzFlash at Truthout praised President Barack Obama for finally standing up to the gun lobby after the Connecticut massacre ( "President Obama Puts His Life on the Line for Gun Control.") It takes some courage, because as I heard – in some variation -- from politician after politician in my years advocating for gun control, "Mark, listen, let me be frank, these guys crowd into your home district office and curse and threaten you and you realize, 'Hey, they've got guns.' And you know they will vote the way the NRA tells them, while gun control is not a single vote issue for those who support it."

Remember, it's not just the "crazies" or the "bad guys" that fire off their guns and kill people.  For every "crazy" and "criminal," look at articles about shootings – or watch coverage on your local "knife and gun club" television evening news -- and you'll as frequently, if not more often, find an account of a neighbor who when asked about the shooter, comments something akin to, "He was always very nice to me and my dog, although he generally kept to himself.  He was a quiet man, a good neighbor."

These are the "good guys" in the world of the NRA, who just happen to have guns when they literally go ballistic. (Not to mention the "good guys" who get mad at their wives and girlfriends and use guns to beat or shoot them.)

More importantly, there is a side of the "the more guns, the safer we are" agenda that is generally ignored in terms of precipitating a call for taking on the gun lobby and gun industry, who value membership dues and profits over lives.

Because as the hometown of President Obama has evidenced over the last few decades, it is minority young people in urban areas who are caught in the crossfire and die or are wounded by gunfire in epidemic proportions.  Chicago -- and many other large cities with areas of impoverishment that have been abandoned by society -- are killing grounds for black and Latino youth.  It's both a by-product of the gun industry and gun store selling of hi-tech weapons to gang members without sufficient measures to stem the flow – and the social-political neglect that has left vast swaths of urban America economically decimated.  There's always violence in desitute areas that provide only two job opportunities of any significance: selling drugs and being a police officer patrolling the economic wastelands like an occupying military force.

That's the reality, but we as a nation have come to accept this as the natural order of things. As a result, relatively few people -- except those who live within this daily shooting gallery and a small cadre of gun control advocates with limited financial resources -- take any action to ameliorate this bloodbath. (Mayor Michael Bloomberg who is largely self-financing his mayors against gun violence group is an exception, given his ability to fund the group when needed.)

The recent slaying of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton who appeared as a member of a band featured at Obama's second inaugural, but was gunned down a mile north of the president's Chicago home just days later, recently brought this all home -- literally to President Obama.

According to the Chicago Tribune, "Hadiya was the 42nd homicide victim this year in Chicago, where killings last year climbed above 500" – and the vast majority of Chicago homicides are with handguns.

The highly respected "Chicago Reporter," an investigative newsletter on issues relating to urban affairs and minorities, recently ran an article headlined, "Chicago’s homicide epidemic is a youth homicide epidemic." It is a description, sadly, that could have run 10 or 20 years ago and still have been true.

The Chicago Reporter puts Hadiya Pendleton's death into context:

Last week, Hayida Pendleton was performing at President Obama's inauguration festivities. Today, the body of the 15 year-old girl is in the Cook County morgue.

She died yesterday of a gunshot wound to the back, hit by a gunman who opened fire on a crowd of teens gathered under a tent after school, trying to avoid the pouring rain.

The story is tragic. The stories about Pendleton and the pictures her family shared are heartbreaking.

Her death is one single tragedy, but it's part of a larger story about gun violence in Chicago. Young people are the No. 1 target when it comes to the city's sky-high homicide rate.

From 2008 through 2012, nearly half of Chicago’s 2,389 homicide victims were killed before their 25th birthday. That statistic is from our new story in our ongoing series, Too Young To Die, which includes documentary photos from photographer Carlos Javier Ortiz. Ortiz has spent six years documenting Chicago's homicide epidemic, and his photos are gripping.

I know this painful story of youths gunned down all too well. For years, I worked with victims of gun violence in Chicago who survived and the family members of those who didn't.  I ran two events for then President Bill Clinton: 1) on the issue regarding gun violence as a public health problem for children and adults; and 2) presenting him an award for his passage of the now lapsed assault weapons ban. I have run numerous news conferences with well known national and local politicians, public health officials, victims family members, and so many others. I have toured states with a massive .50 caliber sniper rifle that was bought from a gun dealer and is available for purchase to civilians. From the morgue, to state houses to the National Press Club, the case has been made to the American public that guns are the problem, not the solution.

But still the din of gunfire and the death toll mounts.

During his first term, President Obama not only did nothing about reducing gun violence, he actually stood silent as the NRA got legislation passed that made the horror even worse.  Like many politicians, he fell prey to the perception that the thousands of dead and injured each year from guns (more than three times the death toll of 9/11 every year in gun homicides alone in the US) were not worth the conventional wisdom (largely faulty) that the NRA would seek successful revenge at the polls against anyone who didn't fall into their "guns for everyone" agenda.

The grief of a black or Latino Mom or Dad or sister or brother or friend is no less devastating than it is for a white parent.

This we must understand and act upon if we are to be one nation.

The blood that flows is red, and as a country, we must feel the loss with one grieving heart.

Only then will we overcome the toxic, deadly legacy of a gun-crazed pathology among white males and a pernicious, greed driven gun industry.

(Photo: Wikipedia)