In the Midst of Fierce Debate, Some Voices Worth Listening To

The gun control debate is raging these days, and it’s hard to avoid.  If the NRA and its celebrity proponents are vociferously citing the Second Amendment and claiming the problem can’t be addressed through legislation, those calling for gun control make the point that banning assault weapons is one (practical and immediate) facet of a solution.  I think this is a crucial topic for discussion, but I can’t help but feel that politicians on all sides have exploited the real pain and tragedy experienced by families to advance their positions.  For an issue that’s so complicated, the discourse has largely been crude and has evaded the broader reality of U.S. violence, both here — in neighborhoods where children live in chronic fear — and abroad – in regions where children have died by our military strikes.

This weekend, I happened to tune into WNYC just as This American Life was starting, and I listened to the first of two episodes focusing on Harper High School in the West Englewood region of Chicago.  Last year 29 students were shot and eight of them died. This portrait of a school whose students are contending with both gun violence and “aggressive police behavior” on a daily basis is illuminating and something, I think, worth listening to in the din.  It orients us to the deeper question of how can we keep all children safe and value all children’s lives.

You can find it here.


  1. Priya,

    The gang culture at Harper probably wouldn’t change one bit if there was an assault weapons ban–I agree that most federal solutions would probably be crude. Yet any answer to Harper’s gang culture would have to be political, at least on a local scale. If we look at the history of New York City, there was a cleanup operation done in the name of safety, a mostly top-down enforcement (with some support and help from local community members and local organizations) of order which turned Manhattan into a kind of tourist paradise. Yes, the city is safer, but a lot of its “character” was lost, and many of its inhabitants pushed out. I found this article by George L. Kelling really interesting in the way that it talks about the psychology of enforcing petty crimes so as to deter more serious crimes: The best solution at Harper would probably involve cooperation between the community and law enforcement…but then, it seems like the law enforcement is more interested in winning than cooperating.

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