#NEVERAGAIN: Gun violence in black and white

Sherri Jefferson is an advocate, author, and an attorney. Transforming the lives of children is her passion. Transferring knowledge is her profession.

The terrorist attack committed upon students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has stirred debate over banning assault weapons, creating a national database for background checks and conducting mental health checks.
The Valentine’s Day Massacre took the lives of 17 children and injured more than a dozen others.
Last week, the Florida House of Representatives declined to consider legislation to ban assault weapons while the United States Supreme Court upheld a California law requiring a 10-day waiting period for background checks.
The decision not to ban assault weapons and demand background checks is nothing new. However, the attitudes of children toward guns and the momentum that they have created following the massacre is new.


The Impact of Background Checks Will Not Deter Mass Shootings or Gun Violence
What is the impact of background checks on mass shootings? We can answer this question by simply stating that the Florida shooter had purchased his guns legally.
Further, if given a background check, the Florida shooter would have cleared because he did not have a felony record and he was never committed to a mental institution. Therefore, a simple background check on this ground is insufficient to end mass shootings.
Respectfully, during these times we all look for answers, but a ban on assault weapons and background checks is not the answer.
Most victims of gun violence are victims of a failed system whose backgrounds checks only seek information about a prior history of violence. Most people who are likely to fail a background check are not likely to engage in mass shootings.
Most people who are likely to fail a background check are not likely to purchase an assault weapon with the intent to enter a school, church, or public setting to murder people. The majority of the people who fail background checks are individuals who have been charged with drugs, property, or petty offenses.
A hardcore criminal would not seek to purchase a gun legally. To this point, a background check would not be a deterrent.
Neither the Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Columbine, Colorado movie theater, Okalahoma nor Florida shooter would have failed a background check.


Gun Violence in Black and White

What can black and white children learn about each other’s experience regarding gun violence? According to the Brookings Institution’s Richard Reeves, he cites that “among whites, 77 percent of gun deaths are suicides. But among black Americans, 82 percent of gun deaths are homicides.”
According to the Children’s Defense Fund, black males between the age of 15-19 are more likely to be murdered by gunfire. Would a ban on assault weapons or a background check change their fate? The answer is no.
The persons who sell guns to underage children or to gangs is generally a licensed broker or person legally able to buy and carry firearms. Under the standard background check, this person would be approved to continue business as usual.
The bigger issue is monitoring how guns enter the black community that leads to mass killings. In cities like Chicago, Newark, New York City, Houston, Atlanta, Compton/Los Angeles, and Miami, black males are gunned down every day. The killing of black males by gunfire is an American pandemic.
Would a ban on assault weapons or a background check change the fate of white children who die from suicide or mass shootings? Again, the answer is no.
The majority of white children in America lives in homes whose owners legally possess firearms. The majority of whites in America legally possesses firearms. Their usage for hunting alone would enable them to have firearms capable of mass destruction upon human life.
The ban on assault weapons and demands for background checks will not change the plight of victims of death by gunfire in America.
Black children and their families are encouraged to join the families and advocates in Parkland and across this country to end gun violence and to find a way to end gun dealing in their respective communities. This is the time to speak out and to be heard. This is the ideal time to state that your lives matter!


The Answer Lies Within Every Home, School and Community
If we want to change the way children and families are impacted by gunfire in America, then we have to change the way we teach children about guns. Moreover, we have to examine how we treat victims of mental illness.
Through early detection, we must create a database that will not label this population, but would document on their drivers license that they have a mental health illness.
Realistically speaking, instead of using the term terrorist, we use mental illness as the term to justify mass shootings in America.
Did the Vegas shooter have a mental illness? Did the Texas shooter have a mental illness? These people planned and executed a strategic operation to murder dozens of people. What is our definition of mental illness?
Let us be honest, what if a Muslim had committed the Florida shooting, would we say that he suffered from mental illness or say that he was a terrorist?
A depraved mind is not the sole precursor of mental illness. We must come to terms that people will kill, but also look for ways to deal with the reasons why people kill. Otherwise, we will forever be looking for answers in the wrong places and from the wrong people.
To this end, neither Congress, the President, nor any state legislative body can change the way we raise and teach children in America. The Power of the Ps is responsible for rearing and teaching children. Every parent, pastor, and principal will interact with children before the police, prosecutors, and the prison system.
Every adult who has engaged in mass shootings in America started as a child. What did we teach him/her about the value of life, about how to deal with their hurts and pain and moreover, about seeking help?
To every victim of death or injury by gunfire, now is the time. #NeverAgain




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