My very smart and outspoken sister -in-law, Christina Cox, wrote on her blog, The Real Housewife of Santa Monica http://realhousewifeofsantamonica.com, a gripping essay about gun violence in America and her experience of being a teacher in South Central Los Angeles. Her students dealt with violence and survival on a daily basis.
I am also a former public school teacher and over the years, Christina and I shared our common experiences as teachers, from funny stories about our students to tips on writing up creative and engaging lesson plans. Like Christina, I was also surprised by how many of my young students (I taught visual art to high school and elementary school students) had been affected by the violent death of at least one family member by the time they graduated high school. When Christina wrote about her Día de los Muertos project with her middle school students and their tributes to relatives who had violently died, this reminded me of teaching Portraiture to my high school students in Beaufort County. So many of my students chose to do a portrait of a relative who had passed away; many of their kinfolk had died through some violent random act. Below is a repost from her website.
If you could hear a heart break…
Every day 8 kids under 20-years-old die from gun violence in America.
This weekend many of us feel helpless in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. Instead of just reminding one another to hug our children close with a “there but for the grace of God go I” mentality, we can support the parents and families of those lost in Connecticut, of those lost all over the U.S. due to gun violence. To honor the children and innocent victims who lose their lives EVERY SINGLE DAY due to gun shots in the inner cities whose deaths get less media attention due to their frequency and to “only” being one death instead of a mind blowing 20 child massacre. (Not to mention the adult victims who were mothers, fathers, daughters, sisters and aunts.)
To bring it closer to home, last July, 14 year old Unique Russell was shot during a 4th of July barbecue in South LA. That was by no means an isolated incident in her neighborhood.
Before I had kids, I taught 6th grade at John Muir Middle School in South L.A. Most of my students were used to hearing bullets whiz by outside, were not allowed out of their apartments after dark, and many had family members deceased from gunshots. I remember preparing for Day of the Dead, we were coloring masks to hang in the auditorium for the day’s celebrations. I gave them each a piece of stationary to write a letter to a anyone they had loved who was now deceased. In my naiveté I imagined letters to grand or great grandparents. What they wrote were letters to uncles, cousins, siblings and parents many killed by handguns. It was shocking to me, coming from a strongly middle & upper middle class community. I didn’t know anyone killed by gun violence. The celebration was not one of your typical Hallmark holiday celebrations, it was a genuine opportunity to honor and remember a loved one but it also hilighted a massive problem – the high number of gunshot deaths which were now being treated as an unavoidable “part of life.”
I bring up the urban gun deaths to shine the light broader on this subject. While we’re all shocked into action by this latest massacre, it’s actually been going on at an individual rate right under our noses.
Here are some arguments against gun control:
1. It’s not the time to discuss gun control.
2. Crazies will get guns illegally so upright citizens need guns to fight back & protect themselves.
3.The 2nd amendment protects our right to bear arms. It’s what the Founding Fathers wanted for us.
4. Mental illness is the problem, not guns.
5. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
6. It’s the violence in video games & movies that is responsible, not the right to own hand guns & semi automatic weapons.
Here are my refutes:
1. If not now, when? This is the PERFECT time to discuss gun control. Whenever a shooting happens we are told, “Now is not the time to discuss this.” and “Let the families bury their dead.” etc. However, please let us know when we CAN discuss it. If my child died at Sandy Hook last Friday, I think I’d want a massive public uprising.
2. What are the statistics regarding how often legally owned guns in the home have been used to successfully protect their owners? How many of those guns in the home have been involved in accidents? Then compare the numbers. Just Google “man accidentally shoots his own son.” for an idea.
Just last week a father accidentally shot his 7 year old son outside of the gun shop in a horrific tragedy. This man loved his child, was out shopping with him, never intended to use his gun on any humans and yet look what happened. Is there any hobby worth this?
3. The 2nd amendment was created when the country was new for militias. The US Army IS the current replacement for the militias. The US Army IS heavily armed. The police are heavily armed. (Let’s take a moment to admit that neither the US Army nor the police are always perfect with their arms at all times. Police brutality IS a huge issue that can’t be denied.)
4. Mental illness IS a massive problem. Constant budget cuts to mental health supports (education & treatment) are happening in front of us, under our noses. BUT, if a mentally ill person is UNable to access handguns & semi-automatic weapons, the damages will be resultantly less. (Excuse any poor grammar!) Why did Lanza’s mother have 2 handguns and a semi-automatic rifle in her house when she knew her son wasn’t right? Also, take for example the man in China who went on a rampage the exact same day as the Sandy Hook Massacre. While it is deeply troubling/shocking & horrific, and while the children, parents & community will never forget this, none of those children died. That’s a big difference – just ask the parents.
5. It IS the person not makes the gun kill people but what could the person do without the gun? They can use bombs but that is much less widespread, but much more difficult & requires a lot more time & prep that guns don’t. Bombs require much more planning than guns do. Would Lanza have done this had his mom not provided the weapons so handily? I even read today that she had taken both sons to shooting ranges so that they knew how to fire the guns. If he hadn’t had easy access to these weapons, would this have happened?
6. If video game/tv violence is responsible, someone please explain to me why Japan’s handgun deaths were in the double digits while ours in the US were over 10,000 last year. Bueller? Bueller?