For many of us, the holiday season reminds us of all the great things we have to be thankful for. For others, the holidays elicit reminders of a lost family member or friend. For those who have lost a family member or friend because of some form of gun violence, it’s a reminder that we must continue speaking out against it.
On Nov. 20, 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear a case challenging a circuit court ruling in March 2007 about the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns. The lower court ruled that the District’s handgun ban was unconstitutional. Now on appeal to the Supreme Court, there is an opportunity to reverse this erroneous ruling and give jurisdiction back to the local authorities to decide what is best for their communities. It is imperative for this ruling to be reversed if America stands any chance of reducing unnecessary gun violence. The Second Amendment must be interpreted in its entirety, and communities must have the right to ban handguns and save their residents’ lives.
According to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence our country is experiencing a startling problem. There are approximately 65 million privately-owned handguns in America. It is estimated that 1 to 3 million handguns change hands on the black market each year. In 2004, 29,569 people in America died from firearm-related deaths, including 11,624 murders, 16,750 suicides and 649 accidents. As the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence found, “For every time a gun is used in a home in a legally-justifiable shooting, an estimated 22 criminal, unintentional and suicide-related shootings occur.”
As an undergraduate student, I took a year off from school and volunteered in an inner-city neighborhood. I lived in a violent community and witnessed the effects of gun violence on a weekly basis. It seemed like everyone I talked with knew someone who had been a victim of gun violence. The thought of having someone close to me shot and killed was foreign to my sheltered mind, but when I found bullets on my street, heard gun shots at night and talked to the friends I made, the reality sank in: This is commonplace for many people.
As a graduate student working toward a masters degree in social work, I am interested in working with children and adolescents who struggle with mental health problems. Among the many topics in our readings and lectures, suicide continues to startle me. I’m learning about the psychodiagnostic assessment that could prevent suicidal ideation, but I can’t seem to understand why we’re making it so easy for our children to kill themselves by allowing easy access to the guns that are so often used to commit suicide.
Our country is in the midst of a preventable pandemic. Advocates, lawmakers and politicians alike must rally around this issue and put the decision-making power in the hands of those who know best: the communities. It is my hope that the Supreme Court reverses the previous decision and gives the fight against gun violence a chance.
After all, who is thankful for gun violence?
Craig Root is a graduate student in the School of Social Work.