Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

How to End Violence? Get Guns Off of the Street

Oct 27, 2011

Whenever we hear of horrific tragedies like the slaying of Zurana Horton, a 34-year-old mother of 13 who was killed by a stray bullet last Friday while shielding children outside of an elementary school in Brooklyn, we often ask ourselves how such a travesty could happen. We watch as mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children and all those left behind mourn the loss of their loved ones and grapple with how to push forward with their head held high. But what we do not focus on enough is how guns have gotten into the hands of the wrong people in the first place, and why they are so readily accessible to them. This week in NY, eight NYPD officers were charged with helping to run a gun-smuggling ring in a city already grappling with unresolved shootings. Whether it's illegal trafficking on the streets or organized illegal trafficking with the assistance of authority, bottom line is, we must stop guns from coming into our community -- period.

I can't begin to tell you how many funerals I've attended or how many family members I've tried to comfort after they traumatically lost someone near and dear to them to a senseless act of violence. Often times caught in a crossfire of bullets, these innocent victims have ranged in age from infants to grandmothers, and have been killed while completing everyday tasks like picking up children from school or running an errand, or simply sitting in their home. But what is strikingly clear is that a vast majority of these shooting victims have been Black and Latino, and we simply cannot remain silent about saving our families and protecting our streets.

Gun supporters and advocates always champion the 2nd Amendment and our right to bear arms. But this right doesn't mean that everyone should possess a weapon. It doesn't mean guns should be so readily accessible to the least stable among us. And it doesn't mean that we don't need stricter gun laws to keep them out of the hands of criminals and those with a complete disregard for human life. Perhaps the fierce gun proponents need to take a walk in our neighborhoods, where young children have to dodge bullets just to get an education, or where mothers and fathers spend sleepless nights figuring out ways to keep their families safe. Or maybe they need to have a conversation with Zurana Horton's 13 children who will now have to somehow survive without a mother for the rest of their lives.

The trafficking of guns in this country is it an astronomical level. The sheer fact that police officers who are hired to serve and protect us would willingly participate in such behavior is egregious at best. We must ensure that those eight NYPD law enforcement officials receive the appropriate punishment and we all must work to get these guns off of our streets and out of the hands of would-be murderers. We at NAN previously held gun buy-back programs, and we will continue such activities with the hopes that others will follow suit.

We cannot continue to watch heroes like Zurana Horton lose their lives, and we cannot continue to bury our precious ones. Life is indeed short, but let's not make it shorter by killing one another needlessly. Get guns out of the community and stop them from ever finding their way back in. Together, we can save ourselves -- and the next generation.