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Guns DO Kill People

One of the first gun purchase transactions I participated in was at local bodega in Brooklyn. A buddy and I went to the store after hours and made the business transaction through the Plexiglas window as if we were buying a half-gallon of milk. That gun eventually graduated into bigger guns through neighborhood commerce. Tragically, that singular experience evolved into my role as a lookout in the deaths of two innocent people on a Manhattan street in 1999, a crime that happened in less than 15 seconds.

Several years into my 12-year prison sentence for my role in those horrendous murders, I asked one of my co-defendants who was convicted of being the finger behind the trigger, “What happened that day in the store?” “Why did those people get shot?” In his strong Trinidadian accent, his sagely honest answer to me was: “I don’t know; we were just shtupid (sic) kids who were scared.”

That conversation happened more than 10 years ago in a maximum-security yard in upstate New York. Ten years late, I ask myself, “What if guns weren’t so abundant in quantity? Would the attempted robbery that resulted in terminal trauma for those harmed and comparable carceral trauma of us that perpetrated the harm (four of us were convicted and sentenced to a cumulative total of 124 ½ years in prison) have occurred if guns were not so abundant in quantity? Yes, we had a mindset that was informed by malcontent, but without the gun, without its own ability to produce harm in a rapid and vicious manner, would those two people still be alive today? Would Carey Gabay still be alive? Hadiya Pendleton, Neshawn Plummer, the babies at Sandy Hook, the church parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina?

Today, just 5 1-½ years out of prison, I get to do some amazing work by being in community with people who wish and work to create communities free of the pang of guns violence. Contrastingly, I also get to have surprisingly informative conversations with people who actually refuse to envision a world without guns and gun violence.

One of those experiences occurred at a recent in-studio “conversation” I had at a national television news network with the president of the New Jersey 2nd Amendment Association. I spent over two hours in a room slightly bigger than the size of my past prison cells (which isn’t saying too much), conversing, but mostly debating with this gentleman who was two years my junior at 33-years old. The conversation went from a shared love of Batman movies to volleys of viewpoints revolving around gun ownership, the 2nd Amendment, gun violence in Black and Brown communities, and mass shootings like Sandy Hook and Charleston, South Carolina.

Did I expect him to capitulate Confederate style to my thoughts; thoughts that America needs to have a 21st century lens when discussing the 2nd Amendment and not one seen through the experiences of militiamen during the battle of Lexington and Concord? No, of course not. That wasn’t the purpose of the conversation. We were supposed to see each other as humans with a biography and see areas of commonality first, and, as opponents with great verbal jousting skills—of which I vote myself as the undisputed winner (if we were voting, of course).

But, what amazed me about this conversation was that my fellow Batman connoisseur felt comfortable dismissing the fact that gun violence that is literally killing Americans, documented and undocumented, as just another problem that requires no particular attention; that Sandy Hook would have been prevented if teachers had guns; that the stray bullet that killed Carey Gabay would not have harmed him if he had a gun; that the 2nd Amendment was more important than the 14th Amendment that at least three republican candidates are advocating for repeal; that people should be able to purchase and receive a gun without any wait time for background checks; that he would never want to imagine a world without guns or gun violence.

…That he would never want to imagine a world without guns and gun violence.

…That he would never want to imagine a world without guns and gun violence.

…That he would never want to imagine a world without guns and gun violence

That amazed me more than anything.

Black and Latinos own guns at a far lesser rate than whites in America. When the founding fathers created the dream of a nation, their dream did not include the aforementioned groups, or women. They did not consider me, the son of immigrants from the Caribbean. They did not envision a nation of non-white immigrants who would vote; hold elected office, own property. They conceived a nation of white property owners, and fought to their death for that conception, and to that core is what we pledge allegiance to. It is, perhaps, what Mr. Trump means when he says he wants to “make America great again.” Perhaps that is why more white people connect their liberty and freedom as Americans inextricably linked to the 2nd Amendment in ways I cannot pretend to understand.

This nation’s relationship with guns is unique to any other place on this planet. That relationship has manipulated people to repeat rhetoric like, “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Have they ever considered that tragedies like Sandy Hook, Charleston, South Carolina, and the drive-by shootings normal to places like South Central, Englewood, and Little Rock would not happen if we had less guns available; that there are no drive-by stabbings, or mass deaths by box-cutters or baseball bats?

Guns actually do kill people, particularly in America where there is more gun ownership per capita than any other nation on this planet. Because of this dubious distinction of American exceptionalism, this nation has just 5% of the world’s population but 31% of the world’s mass shooters since 1966, according to a study by University of Alabama criminologist, Adam Lankford. The math I learned in 5th grade is enough for me to conclude that the probability of gun violence increases when there are more guns. The point is that without a gun, the person behind the gun would not have been able to inflict terminal harm with such speed, and with such distance. Guns DO kill people, and it is about time advocates and politicians became comfortable with threatening the 2nd Amendment as republicans are with threatening the 14th Amendment.

Will less guns end our gun problem? No, gun violence is not a one solution fits all problem. But fewer guns will take us one step closer to imagining a world without gun violence; something some people in this country would rather not think about.

Please tune into a Tweetchat that Marlon and the Natural4Change are hosting on Wednesday, September 30, 2015 at 1:00 pm EST. It will first of a series of 'twittersations' about "Creating Communities Free of Gun Violence and Police Violence."

​The topic of this tweetchat is: "Which Came First: The police brutality or the gun violence."

Who to follow ? Look for @Precedential | @Naturals4Change | @SpreadMassLove to take part in the conversation.

Hashtag: #ChildSafeZones

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