We hope that this time there is not a parent or other caring adult who is not heartbroken or scared or angry over the murder here in Evanston of Yakez Semark on Feb. 8, the killing of 17 youth and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, and many other killings that have taken place.
We know there were others: Less than a year ago the journal Pediatrics reported that each week gunfire kills an average of 25 children 17 years old and under in this country. Among wealthy countries, the United States is responsible for 91% of firearm deaths among children 14 and under.
In a New York Times piece by Max Fisher and Josh Keller published Nov 7, 2017, we find this paragraph: “‘In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. gun control debate,’ Dan Hodges, a British journalist, wrote in a post on Twitter two years ago, referring to the 2012 attack that killed 20 young students at an elementary school in Connecticut, ‘Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.’”
Our culture is besotted with guns – there are about 270 million in this country. Most people do not own any, but others amass them. Some use them reasonably – for hunting animals they will sell or consume. Others see humans as legitimate targets.
A gun may seem to be a magic wand – something to wave about to show one’s power. But when it is used to kill, it destroys families and communities. Here in Evanston, a son is dead. Two young men are in jail. Three families are destroyed by gunfire. Had there been no gun, the altercation might have ended up with the young men bloodied and beaten, but it is likely there would have been no death and no charge of first-degree murder.
Guns pour in – from gun shows, from other countries, and from the black market. They are too easy to buy – legally or illegally. There are no gatekeepers. There is no reasonable regulation, and that fact can be laid directly at the feet of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) allowed the private ownership of firearms for “traditionally lawful” purposes. It opened the floodgates to gun ownership across the country, rendering states and communities powerless to regulate guns. It is a travesty that has allowed our country to be ravaged by murders.
At this point, finding a way to have that decision reversed seems difficult, but we hope that thoughtful Constitutional scholars will be able to find a way to challenge it.
In recent years, the Evanston police have taken more than 75 illegal guns off the street, preventing possibly as many shootings. The Police Department also has an ongoing gun buy-back program, through which people can turn in their guns.
Evanston’s ban of handguns is gone, but its ban on assault weapons still stands. Perhaps our City attorneys could look for ways to strengthen the defenses we do have against gun violence. Can we outlaw bullets?
In the meantime, there are actions that Evanston residents can take. Write to elected officials to take a stand against this plague of gun violence and urge them to implement stricter regulations on gun ownership and on guns, including a ban on assault weapons,
But consider going further: This is an election year. Check each candidate’s position on guns and see who has accepted donations from people or organizations, such as the NRA, that oppose reasonable curbs on firearms. See who has voted against gun-control measures.
We can all be more attentive in daily life. In any neighborhood, there are always a few people who know what is going on. Social media sites are powerful; there are posts about slights – perceived or real – and revenge. Think.
Mayor Stephen Hagerty has called a community meeting to discuss gun violence, slated for 7 p.m. on Feb. 22 in the Parasol Room of the Civic Center. We know that many people have stories to tell, and these, however painful, must be heard. But we hope too that the meeting will produce ideas about measures we can take to protect our children and our community.