Two signs above the crows, "Guns Do Kill Be People" and "Black Lives Matter," with the U.S. Capitol in the background.
Eric Falquero

Many thanks to my friends concerned about continued school shootings. It’s about time common sense won over this insane “debate.” But there is more to be done.   

Just imagine how the African-American and Hispanic communities must feel about all the years of cheap handguns like “Saturday Night Specials” that killed our loved ones. The top cause of death for young Black men is murder. Yet these deaths have seemed to go unnoticed or uncared about by the country as a whole.   

Any talk or bargain concerning assault weapons should also include handguns. There should be no deal without both in play. Nobody is hunting with a .357 canon or a high-capacity 9mm with 16 shots. Many of these wind up on inner city streets after being sold and resold or stolen. The result? Seventy-three teens were shot dead in the first 37 days after the Parkland massacre. So, my friends of good will, if you settle for half of a solution or applaud any deal that doesn’t save all children, then you are practicing the worst kind of racism!   

While the school shootings are sad, so is the nightly news that reports the number of people killed each day by handguns. For many, this problem is not new. The losses don’t just stretch back to the tragedies at Sandy Hook or Columbine. 

As several of the young speakers at the March for Our Lives said, gun violence in Black and brown communities has been overlooked, even normalized. It doesn’t make the front page, but it decimates our communities. Putting controls on assault-style weapons without reigning in handguns would only point out how some lives have more value than others, just like the country’s response to the “Opioid Crisis.” Black Lives Matter!  

A poster showing several teenagers that died from gun violence in DC in 2018.

Photo by Eric Falquero

So many righteous people are convinced we can’t get guns off of the street because there are so many of them, more than 300 million in the U.S. But I can remember when the same thing was said about assault weapons, before this rash of suburban school murders over the last decade or so.   

This disparity in attitude is inherently racist. Just the other day a Black policeman in Minnesota was charged with murder in the shooting death of a White women. Yet time after time, White policemen are completely cleared of killing unarmed black and brown men. Remember Rodney King? Even video and audio recordings have not been able to convict a single one of those policemen. Now imagine how that looks to those of us who are of color? 

Different groups of people, with the same sentencing points used by prosecutors, have received vastly different sentences for the exact same crimes. Why? Because the judges have come up in a system that sees one type of person as more redeemable than others.   

Most people are not aware of their white supremacist views because that’s how things have been presented to them since birth. It’s the lens through which they can’t help but see the world; there are some things they just don’t have to be concerned with. It’s not their fault, per se, but some open-minded people must take a critical look at that privilege without seeing it as a personal attack.  

It’s hard and painful work, and I am proud to say I have many such open-minded people as friends and supporters. It is refreshing to hear them speak on these matters. And it takes speaking out on these matters, to family, friends and elected officials alike, to create change. 

The number of gun deaths correlates directly with the number of guns available. Yet, two years after Congress passed a 10-year assault weapons ban in the 1990s, our own Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention were blocked from studying gun violence. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can’t even build a database to trace where stolen guns end up. All this, no doubt, thanks to the National Rifle Association’s influence. 

And even when we broaden the scope to include all gun violence, that only makes up one third of gun-related deaths. Access to a gun, any gun, makes a suicidal attempt by someone in mental anguish almost guaranteed to be fatal. And it makes accidental home shootings possible. 

These young people marching last month won’t have any of it. Many of them boasted about their ability to vote in the next election. And ralliers chanted the refrain, “Vote them out!”After my 68 years on this Earth, this growing movement of young people gives me great hope that our struggles in the 1960s weren’t wasted. 

Easy access to guns in America has us all living in a dirty, violent room. Why clean just one corner when, with courage, we can clean the whole room?