I woke up early on Sunday, January 9, to go to the Old Brick Church. I arrived, and Reverend Hallstein opened the service by saying that in light of recent events, we would have a time for reflection and discussion about the horrifying shooting that had occurred the previous morning. As she described it, I felt sickened. My stomach tightened into a knot. I was ashamed I hadn’t heard about the shootings until more than 24 hours after they occurred, and I shared everyone’s shock that something so awful had happened right here in the good ‘ole USA, in an average supermarket, on an average Saturday morning.
After church, as I read news about the shooting and the political discourse that followed, I asked myself, what did I think? The discussions centered on several questions: the interpretation of the Second Amendment, the need for gun control and background checks, the similarities between this shooting and previous tragedies. But one thing seemed clear to me in the midst of it all. Although we may never agree on the interpretation of the Second Amendment, or the best use of guns, or how to control them, guns are bad.
Gun violence may seem far away to many people at Deerfield, but for me it strikes right near home. I come from a poverty-stricken city torn with gang violence, Rockford, IL., which was recently highlighted in a New York Times article, “Portraits From a Job-Starved City.”
I went to Auburn High School there, and during my freshman year I sat locked in my English classroom for three hours because a ninth-grader from my school was shot in the cornfield across the street. I remember in middle school when an eight-year-old boy, who attended the Boys & Girls club program at my church, accidentally shot his best friend when they found a loaded handgun in a vacant lot. I remember in 8th grade when Scott Madison* was shot by his cousin in gang-violence. On January 22, one person was killed and four were injured when someone open fired into a group of party-goers on Sherman Ave, four miles away from my house, two miles away from my church, and less than a mile from Auburn High School. Gun violence, especially related to gangs, is an everyday occurrence in Rockford, IL., which doesn’t make it any less terrible or horrifying.
After the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, I spent hours looking at all sorts of studies and statistics designed to convince the reader that stricter gun control laws were good or bad, effective or ineffective. The truth is, there are numbers out there to prove any point you wish to make, but what I know from living in Rockford, IL, is that guns kill people every day and it’s easy for us to forget about it here in our Deerfield bubble. Even for me, it’s easy to forget about the violence that tears apart the city I call home.
When it takes a shooting as widely publicized as Gabriella Giffords’ to grab our attention about gun violence and gun control laws, something is wrong. Contrary to the popular line, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” guns do kill people. Everyday. No matter what we believe about the “right to bear arms,” I believe we all have the responsibility to pay attention to what is really happening around us and support programs and policies that minimize gun violence.
*Name has been changed.