At Save Our Streets and Crown Heights Community Mediation Center our hearts go out to the town of Newtown, Connecticut and to the families of those who were killed and injured in the horrific incident last Friday. While massacres carried out by lone gunmen share some root elements with the daily shootings and killings that take place in urban inner cities across the United States, they are not the same. It is the gun violence in the inner cities that Save Our Streets focuses on. The maiming and killing of young people in the inner cities occurs daily with no notice by the media and without national public uproar, mourning or demands by elected officials that something be done to stop it.
Intelligent gun legislation would certainly be welcome. But we also have to address other factors that contribute to the gun violence in our inner cities and the increasing frequency of bloodshed and mayhem in theaters, college campuses, schools and other public places where people gather with a reasonable expectation of personal safety. We cannot leave it to legislators and other elected types to figure out and enact what the solutions should be. We have to challenge ourselves as individuals, families and communities to work to understand the problem. Working toward understanding will be a process that involves some discomfort for us all. It will require that we examine how we feel, think, talk and behave towards others and how we model for our children how to treat others, solve problems and deal with conflict. Education will have to be re-thought and de-politicized. Our feelings and thinking and policies about mental illness and mental health have to be dragged out of the dark place where we keep them and examined. Our glorification of force and dominance has to be considered. We should look closely at the increasing audiences for blood sports and our tendency to rationalize bigotry, greed and meanness as acceptable character traits. Our language, music, film and national politics reflect all of these things. Our young, our mentally ill and those who feel oppressed and powerless are particularly vulnerable to these influences in the social atmosphere and when they act out, they reflect what they see around them.
If we want a more sane and peaceful society we will have to work at it because creating harsher sanctions for the sale and possession of guns will do little to affect the uncountable number of guns already in the hands of people and it could create a new wave of criminalization and incarceration like the one that followed the war on drugs. Having learned that the war was unwinnable and economically unsustainable, the states are now trying to unwind those policies. We should take care not to go down that road.
For Crime and Safety Reports by neighbourhood go to http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/crime-safety-report/brooklyn/crown-heights