Violence Is A Public Health Crisis by Tamika D. Mallory

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    That’s it, America — we need to come up with an overhaul approach to addressing gun violence. Violence – particularly gun violence – has become a straight-up public health crisis.

    While they’re over there mickey-mousing in Congress — with anti-gun legislation that never clears both chambers and trying not to piss off the pro-gun lobbyists with deep pockets so they can continue to collect campaign dollars — We the People are literally getting gunned down on our streets. And by streets I don’t just not mean Malcolm X Boulevard; I mean main street — The Avenue of the Americas.

    Yes, the chickens have come home to roost.

    By now you’ve heard about this latest foolishness: on Saturday, November 9th, a 16-year-old boy named Corey Dunton, looking to score a five-finger-discount on a popular coat decided to use by any means necessary to get it. He opened fire at an outdoor skating rink, in Bryant Park, located just off of one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world, Times Square. That’s right, he let bullets fly inside of a winter wonderland full of children in a neighborhood where gun-related incidents are so rare and related stats are so low the police can’t even point to the last time something this terrible happened there.

    Just like when Air Jordan sneakers were super popular and Starter jackets before them, this wayward, misguided teen – an alleged member of the Bloods gang — put his desire to have a near $700 Marmouth Mammoth coat over the lives of innocent people – and now one of his two shooting victims, a 14-year-old boy, may be paralyzed for life.

    But why are we even surprised anymore? After all, these stupid incidents keep happening. They happen all the time in poor Black neighborhoods, where hope is a joke and violence is a way of life. I REALLY hate to bring it up, but let the bystander victim have been a white teenager instead of Latino. If that had happened the park probably would have been shut down for days and the incident would have been front-page news nationwide, making Bryant Park center stage for marches and rallies calling for the need for justice and better gun control. Because they were not we’ll be lucky if we hear about this in a week — despite the fact that there were likely more little white children skating inside the park at the time of the shooting than minority ones. In fact, they’re skating there right now even, as if nothing ever happened.

    We are operating according to a double standard, America, and it’s putting all of our children in danger. We are also paying the price for being a nation obsessed with not having our freedoms revoked — the freedom to bear arms, the freedom to go about our business ignoring the hurt, angry, and disenfranchised among us – even if it means more senseless bloodshed. Even if it means endless violence from our youth – hurting, broken children who don’t have anything to lose. We are collectively paying the price for naively believing that this violence can’t and won’t spill over into to our wealthiest neighborhoods and impact the broader community– because these things usually only happen in impoverished, ghetto neighborhoods and the projects, right?

    Well, hate to point out the obvious but this kind of ‘”hood” nonsense has been spilling out of the hood for quite some time now.

    Newtown, the Virginia Tech massacre, Columbine and God knows how many other school-and-gun-linked tragedies confirm that. But here we are, our heads still stuck in the sand, waiting for legislation to stop what cannot be stopped without our help. What cannot be prevented without our awareness. We just don’t get it, do we? None of us are immune to violence — regardless of color, location and economic status — and none of us are safe. We can do something about it. The biggest take-home lesson here, if we choose to accept it — is that we are all accountable for gun-and non-gun-related violence.

    Speaking of accountability, where the hell were Corey Dunton’s parents when all of this was going down?

    Where were they when he was on Facebook using racial epithets, posing with bottles of liquor up to his mouth and making violent gestures, like a damn grown man?

    Where were they when the cops were knocking down his front door for an hour, while he was on social media essentially confessing to the crime?

    According to news reports Dunton’s dad, Corey Dunton Sr., asked reporters if they had seen his son with a gun on the night of the shooting, as if to imply that the whole thing had been a mistake, a figment of the police’s imaginations. Well, we have a question for you, sir – did you see the gun at any point when he was under your roof, and if so, why the hell didn’t you do something about it?

    We’ve also got a question for you, Facebook – what role do you and other social media sites play in stopping the violence? The NYPD has reported that many of the crimes they investigate are actually broadcasted on Facebook before and after they happen. That said, we want to know — how far are you willing to go to help your supporters? Is there a plan in place to deal with the Corey Duntons of the world *before they attack us? If so, what is it exactly and how can community organizers help?

    There have been many times throughout history when America, recognizing the severity of its public health crises, has banded together to fight with our government leading the way. We’ve all watched widespread campaigns urging us not to smoke, not to get pregnant before its time, not to start forest fires and to “just say no to drugs.”

    Now is the perfect time for New York City, with our new Mayor-elect Bill DeBlasio, in place, as well as leaders from cities and towns across the country, to get back to these kind of grassroots efforts – posting gun-related stats on subways and on street corners and having the victims of gun violence — the ones who are still around — speak publicly about their harrowing experiences.

    Violence must be declared a public health crisis and the only way to address it is through education, prevention and relief. So many great minds have developed extensive plans, but is ANYONE IN POWER READY TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP AND MAKE THE SACRIFICE OF IMPLEMENTING NEW STRATEGIES?

    Perhaps if the town leadership in Newtown, Connecticut, for instance, did this in the aftermath of after the Sandy Hook shooting pistol permit applications would not have soared there, bringing us closer to witnessing another tragedy than preventing one.

    I’m just saying. And I will keep saying!

    -Tamika D. Mallory

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