Tackling youth and gun violence

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Youth and gun violence is a major problem plaguing the cities and towns of our country. To be quite blunt, it is of epidemic proportions when you look at the relentless daily occurrences of youth committing felony crimes as covered by the news media.

This is a problem that doesn’t just affect isolated communities, but all America.

No community is immune to this problem, whether it is low disadvantaged communities or opulent, influential communities, urban or rural areas. The families of all Americans are affected by the outcome of crimes, injuries and murders committed by the hands of youth with guns.

Youth gun violence is destroying families, harming and taking the lives of innocent people in our communities. People who don’t want to personally become involve in remedying the problem but want to live in safe neighborhoods are realizing that they have a role and responsibility to control the type of neighborhood they choose to live in and raise their families. We cannot become so desensitized that we accept this practice of young children harboring guns as normal and as an acceptable practice becoming status quo.

We must understand that youth with guns is not a problem to be primarily tackled by law enforcement agencies or legislators enacting stronger gun control legislation. This is a complex problem that is going to require communities, and families working together along with legislators and law enforcement agencies to help combat this proliferating practice among our young adults.

While there is an array of reasons youth choose to carry guns, whether for protection; because of fear from bullying and threatening peers; protection from intimidation in drug related activities; being simply bored and looking for excitement associated with gang banging; ease of acquiring gun; or simply used as symbols of power and respect among certain peers. It is unacceptable. We all must work together to fix this problem.

We may not be able to totally stop the possession of guns by our youth, because of the easy accessibility of acquiring or stealing them. But we can put a significant dent in youth gun violence by more vigilant and cautious supervision. Parents or primary care providers of children must be more responsible in following and monitoring the behavior of their children as well as the peers they chose to spend time with. Guardians must make random inspections of the bedrooms and private areas where their children tend to spend a lot of their isolated time.

Don’t fall for the child demanding privacy from searches while living in your home—because we live in times that dictate being cautious rather than sorry. No child warrants immunity, no matter how quick some parents are willing to adamantly state what their child will or won’t do (cancel that thought if you are wise). We can only put some measures in place to combat the possibility or potential for some regrettable act to occur on the part of our children.

An added warning is necessary to those parents who have children with cars. Parents should randomly search (under the seats, glove department, and trunks) children’s’ cars. You would be surprised at what you will find. A multitude of these young children, especially young boys, are carrying guns—more than you can imagine.

The second most important deterrent of eliminating guns outside the immediate family should be that of the community. The community should report suspicious and threatening activities occurring among children. There should be a well-known public number to call if you choose to be anonymous. Let’s be honest. For the most part, you can find many adults to point out or identify negative activity in the neighborhood.

The community should also provide mentoring, tutoring and athletic programs to help monitor and keep children busy and off the streets where they often become involved in negative gang-related activities. Many of these supervised activities should be in the churches, schools, or community center—especially after school hours and the weekends.

While many organizations (fraternities, sororities, civic and social clubs) are working to help combat this problem, more help is needed. Investment in these programs plays a vital role in reducing youth violence with guns. There is no substitution for hands-on involvement offering moral and academic motivation to become productive and successful individuals.

Keep in mind, the first and most important line of combating gun possession by youth starts in the home. We cannot expect law officials and legislators to fix this problem alone. There should be a national day of awareness for all adults to search their children’s’ rooms, private areas and cars for contraband, especially for guns. This may sound overboard for some, but we are living in times where such action is necessary to help assure we live in safe neighborhoods so that innocent people are not injured or killed.

‘Youth possessing guns is not a private, solitary issue. It concerns us all. We must all do our part to help remedy this daily abomination, and it starts at home. Let’s stop talking and act.