Editor’s note: The recent news coverage of gun violence in the United States has spotlighted the victims of shootings, like 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. But a column in the New York Times by Alex Kotlowitz raises a related issue that many young people living in urban environments can relate to: the residual trauma of witnessing a violent crime. Kotlowitz argues gun violence causes ripple effects that often go unnoticed in communities, because the victims do not necessarily end up in the hospital.
Alvaro Alonzo, 22 years-old, lives in Washington D.C. He remembers when gun violence affected someone close to him and how it led Alonzo to drop out of school.
By Alvaro Alonzo
The problem with guns is that, unlike a pencil, their lead can’t be erased. One very nice and sunny day, a friend of mine, Frankie, joined me for lunch. While we were hanging out, a group of kids were having a conflict about some new Air Jordan shoes that had just been released in stores. The situation escalated into a fight and they eventually took it to a local church parking lot down the street. People followed, as well as my friend, to go see the fight. I decided to go my own way because a little fight over shoes really wasn’t anything new to me.
About two hours later, people everywhere were talking about how the fight got out of hand and that three people were injured, and one guy shot down. I asked who was killed. They responded with my friend’s name, Frankie. My friend, who I had just seen, and gone to school with for three years, had been killed and had nothing to do with the beef. At this point, so many questions were racing through my mind like, “Why did he go to see that fight? Why didn’t I just take him with me?” I felt sick to my stomach and could only imagine what else we could have done other than part ways. I didn’t go to school the next day because it wouldn’t be the same without my friend. I didn’t talk to anyone for days. I just kept thinking about grabbing a gun and destroying other peoples’ lives. That was actually the last day I went to school. It was also the first day I realized that doing harm to another person would only keep the cycle of gun violence going.
I feel that as long as guns exist, gun violence will exist. Is there a solution to gun violence? I feel like it’s too late to have a solid solution, but we can still take strict measurements to ensure that deadly fire arms do not end up in the hands of criminals or in the hands of our youth. One common-sense approach that can be taken would be to require all gun buyers to pass background checks. Another action we can take that may help, would be to ban automatic/semi-automatic military style assault weapons or just make them unavailable to the public. Furthermore, we should limit the capacity of ammo a magazine can hold or limit the amount of ammo a person can purchase at any time, giving the shooter less shots to be reckless and cause less damage to anyone or anything.
Throughout my life I can say that I’ve seen enough assault rifles and extended clips do irreversible damage to families and to society. I believe in taking strict measures, like doing background checks, banning automatic/semi-automatic weapons, and limiting the amount of ammo a person can purchase and have in the magazine. That will make it easier for families and other people to feel safe around their communities. Only a coward would feel a sense of power, prestige, security or even belongingness behind a gun. We all need to recognize that we are killing ourselves over petty things: objects like shoes, jewelry, clothing and money. People need to learn once again how to fight their battles the right way -- the humane way -- by communicating and solving problems without trying to kill each other or do other physical damage that can ruin lives permanently. Violence is not the answer.