By Barbara Chavous-Pennock
The United States of America is the greatest nation in the world, but I am not experiencing that greatness today. I am feeling terribly disappointed in our Congress and elected leaders who will not take immediate action to stop the repeated mass murders that are taking place in our country. Leadership who continually allows a gun debate to stilt the commonsense measures needed to protect innocent lives.
I am angry that a gunman just turning 18 years of age could purchase a military-style rifle and use that weapon to go into a school with evil and malicious intent and forever rob parents, siblings, grandparents, loved ones, and the community of precious little ones who should be playing, going to the pool, and enjoying their summer break.
I am terribly saddened that our teachers go to school in fear, wondering if their class, their students, and their own lives will be the next sacrificed to the overwhelming violence and mass killings we are witnessing.
Why are we, the people, allowing our elected officials to politicize gun violence? Why has it become commonplace for bullets to riddle our streets and numb us to the reality that our children, young people, and human beings are being killed in our city daily?
Too many children are afraid to go to school, play on their porch, or walk to the corner store. In fear, drivers motor down the street wondering if their vehicle will be the next to be riddled by stray bullets. Young adults are looking to relocate to other major cities and no longer feel Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love but rather, a place where it is too likely that they could be killed or maimed.
Mental health is used as a ploy in the discussion about gun violence and an outcry is made to increase mental health services. Today, we do need more mental health services because we are living through a pandemic that has lasted for years and the loss is tremendous.
However, mental health professionals will readily tell you that to blame gun violence on mental illness is not statistically correct and further damages those struggling with the disease by placing labels on the ill that are not true.
We are living in a constant state of trauma, and more must be done to recognize the signs of trauma and help those affected to be healthy and whole — on this there is no debate. We need more laypeople and professionals trained to identify the traumatic effects of gun violence, and we also need our elected officials to institute policies and legislation that will implement commonsense measures to protect citizens.
Other countries have taken such measures. Why is the United States continuing to fail its citizens? We must come together, therapists, educators, faith leaders, community activists, social workers, arts, culture, and recreation, police and law enforcement, and our institutions and elected officials to enforce an institutional approach at the macro level that brings hope instead of fear to young men who believe they have to “pack” because it is “kill or be killed.”
Our elected officials who fail to take action, and who fail to stand with those trying to institute violence prevention initiatives and stop mass murders are complicit in the loss of life we are experiencing in overwhelming numbers each day.
I applaud the many programs that with and without funds are doing everything possible to bring much-needed attention to the issue of gun violence and have been doing so for many years.
I acknowledge the frustration of professionals and organizations who have pleaded for help to address the prevention of gun violence and have suffered each time life has been needlessly lost due to inactivity and inertia to make the changes needed to prevent repeated occurrences. I empathize with those in office who want to do more than offer platitudes, but lack the votes needed to make necessary changes.
Our babies are crying for our help. Our little ones are pleading for us to protect them. Our children are calling 911 and begging us to save them. Our innocent offspring are asking for a stop to the carnage. They are asking if we are willing to do everything needed to come to their rescue. They want to know why are we waiting, taking so long, and allowing needless lives to be lost?
Those were the haunting questions that the children asked in Uvalde, Texas at the Robb Elementary School of the officers as they huddled in fear of calling 911. Nineteen precious children died on May 24, along with two teachers, while those elected to serve continue the gun debate.
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