A Response to Violence
Richmond Region LULAC stands in solidarity with Richmond Public Schools in protecting the well-being of its students and other RPS community stakeholders.
Human beings often offer condolences to families after a loss of life. “Our condolences” is an expression of sympathy. The Oxford Dictionary defines sympathy as a deep felt sorrow for SOMEONE Else’s misfortune suffered. I ask, is this a fitting gesture in the context of gun-related loss of life? We should ask ourselves if gun violence exposure– and death and injury– related to gun use among children is really only someone else’s sorrow and suffering? Or rather, is the loss of lives by firearms, especially children, the responsibility of ALL of us? We propose that all of us are civically and ethically responsible to the Greater Richmond community, which is regularly impacted by shooting injuries, shooting exposure, and shooting deaths that involve children. Firearm violence is a high-level public health issue that (1) is unique to the US, 2) disproportionately affects the lives of children and adults of Color (3) and is preventable.
Incidents of gun violence and injury represent ONE of our current National crises— homicide and unintended homicide and injury by firearms. National data from the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that, since 2020, the NUMBER ONE CAUSE of death in children ages 0-17 is by firearms — no longer is it car crashes (U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022). In 2022, 6,152 US Children aged 17 and younger were killed or hurt in gunfire (GunViolenceArchive.org, n.d.). As a National Civil Rights Organization since 1929, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) recognizes OUR civic duty to advocate for child welfare. The data is clear, –there is an urgent need for gun legislation to safeguard children’s lives and their overall life chances. While we recognize that since the tragic loss of life last week, Richmond Public Schools has provided much-needed, trauma-informed counseling for the school children affected. I think we can all agree that while this is an important intervention in response to supporting children's mental health and well-being, it cannot ever be enough to affect any kind of systemic change. As a nation, we tend to respond especially poorly to any type of gun violence. Whether it be state-sanctioned homicides, for example, police practices of shooting unarmed Black men and youths, mass shootings in schools and other public spaces, or unintended shootings involving children, we find ourselves in a cycle of shooting-induced, trauma triage– all the while anticipating ‘the next time’.
Parents, children, and whole communities are living in a perpetual state of fear and anxiety merely imagining the possibility of gun violence in the spaces they occupy. Parents and loved ones of young Black boys and men are terrorized every time their young person leaves the house, whether it be walking or driving, none is safe.
Certainly, RPS stakeholders and Richmond residents in general, are desperate to figure out how to stop this. Whatever action is taken, this work must be non-partisan-– children do not get a vote. Gun violence is a multifaceted problem that requires evidence-based, multifaceted solutions. We, the voters, have a CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY to protect the children from our current, careless federal and state policies that disproportionately affect the life and death outcomes of children of Color. Indeed, “the research is clear: states with stronger gun laws have less gun violence” (Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, n.d.).
In closing, and in solidarity with Richmond Public Schools’ stakeholders, we urge our fellow community members to lock up their weapons and to take swift and intentional civic action to protect the lives of Richmond children. Children's welfare depends on responsible government oversight of access and the usage of firearms.
-In solidarity, Richmond Region LULAC Council 4614