Amidst all of the hustle and bustle of of Congress’ jumbled talk about gun policy, the black community is yet reminded of the dire consequences associated with untamed gun violence. Since Newtown, the city of Chicago has seen 50 deaths at the hands of gunmen. One of those deaths was the last surviving child of a woman named Shirley Chambers. Her 33-year-old son, Ronnie Chambers (picture at right below), was killed while sitting in a parked car.
An upstanding young man striving to better his community, Ronnie was on the Ricki Lake show recently where he said the following:
“I told myself that you know, I need to protect my mother and be out here for her.”
According to Ms. Chambers, Ronnie was trying to help people and his past was behind him. But, it seems as if his transformative endeavors were not enough to shield him from the violence in Chicago.
Critics of President Obama have mentioned that these types of tragedies continue to occur even while he stands before audiences of white families impacted by more “media friendly” gun massacres like Newtown. They sometimes question whether or not the President truly stands with all of his constituents as he did a few weeks ago in his efforts to push gun legislation.
I posit that another question is much more relevant and pertinent to this discussion. Where is the leadership from our Congress, state legislative bodies, and local elected officials? Many people fail to realize that even with copious reform efforts from the President, congressional members have to follow suit. Otherwise, no bill will ever be passed and any efforts to bring forth gun legislation will continue to disintegrate into a partisan football game.
Not only that, governors and state legislative bodies must adopt and integrate the new policies into their own charters and state constitutions. This is much like the abortion debate wherein abortion is legal in this country but several conservative states have made striking efforts to limit its existence within their borders. This is not a presidential issue. This is an everyone issue.
Rahm Emanuel, current Mayor of Chicago and previous Chief of Staff for the Obama Administration, has taken a hard line against guns in a political sense. But, his efforts to remove guns from the hands of aggressors in his own town have been lukewarm to say the least. He has even attempted to thwart gun ownership directly at the source: manufacturers.
Recently, Emanuel had this to say on the gun issue:
“There is federal legislation today, as it relates to shotguns, that is … a ban, no more than three at any one time…we are more protective of ducks than we are of kids.”
He continued by addressing the President’s efforts directly:
“Whatever you can do by executive order, take care of it. An executive order is not as good as legislation, but if you can do it, do it.”
And while these sentiments are great, they have done little to move the needle on gun legislation and reform. So, it is safe to say that we are at an impasse when it comes to guns. But blaming the President won’t move us a lick until we start demanding change from our own representatives.
Newtown was absolutely tragic. Yet, there are parents, sisters, brothers, and families facing their own version of this tragedy of unnecessary gun violence each day. We cannot continue to raise one tragedy over another. And, we cannot continue yelling at one another in an echo chamber hoping that our message is heard clearly.
When are we going to take this issue seriously and make a change for the better?