Schools and homes are places that everyone should feel safe. These young people were going to school to learn and enjoy the day with their friends. Senseless violence is frustrating regardless, but when it happens to innocent people, it pains me more. These victims were not active in illegal activity; they were just people going about their day.
Living in the Bay Area, I have seen violence in a variety of neighborhoods. The time I spent in Oakland exposed me to a lot of violence, too. A few months ago, when I was presented with the opportunity to listen to people speak about gun control at the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., I didn't hesitate.
However, Brenda’s plane was delayed, and someone needed to speak about violence in our communities so I decided to step up. I did not have a speech rehearsed. I just said what came to me. People have the right to be safe, and I wanted to get that point across to the world.
The touching part was having the family members of murdered victims telling me how I honored those fallen individuals with my words. When a mother tells you, "Your words touched me and honors my daughter,” it means more than you can imagine. Sadly, the fraternity of fallen victims' families grows by the day. No one wants to be in that group.
Newtown Alliance, which was also involved in the D.C. event, is supporting people who have lost their loved ones. I respect the steps they're taking to end gun violence in America. While everyone has an opinion on what it'll take to fight against gun control, it's inevitable that the government has to get involved. However, bills that were sent to Congress fell on deaf ears before they could become federal laws. CBS News reported that not one single federal law was passed to curb gun violence or add stricter gun ownership laws.
I do believe that it is pro-gun people's right to own a firearm. However, there's a level of education and safety that must be adhered to in order to fight against unnecessary and malicious violence. When a young person is killed by accident because he or she has access to a gun, is that the child’s fault? Having access to a gun may be a right, but it is a great responsibility. I support background checks and educational classes to help with understanding the use and safety of carrying, using and storing a gun. I am not a person trying to take away guns, but I wholeheartedly support increasing the safety and understanding of gun ownership.
I attend events in the community to discuss violence. I ask young people to think before inflicting violence on one another to solve their problems. I speak at candlelight vigils and other events to continue awareness of gun violence. I fundraise to help victims’ families in their time of need.
What's bizarre is that although I was an army brat, I wasn't nearly as exposed to gun violence until I returned to America. During the Cold War in Europe, we were concerned about terrorism and the Soviets but not day-to-day gun violence. However, during my time in the American music business, I spent a significant amount of time in some of the toughest neighborhoods in the country. Gun violence was definitely an issue in some of the cities I visited. I will admit that the music I produced touched on criminal activity and gun violence. I heard first-hand stories about how the damage from senseless violence took the lives of so many.
At some point though, a person's level of patience can only take so much. Holding candles and speaking at events helps provide empathy, but it doesn't provide the results that I need to see. What more citizens need to do is get involved in the political process. Many politicians have a major concern about being reelected. To run a campaign, it takes an immense amount of money. Gun manufacturers and the NRA have lobbyists that are focused on “helping the right politicians." The only way change will happen is if the politicians become more concerned about the needs and wants of their constituents than being reelected.
The American people want change, and it is time to vote people out of office that are not concerned about these concerned citizens. Politicians are there to speak for the people and provide a service. Voters should hold them accountable for their decisions. Pushing for change is difficult, but in time, it will happen. Voters must continue to discuss background checks and mandatory safety classes. Since we have to pass an exam to have a driver’s license, we should also have a similar process in order to own a gun.
Amnesty programs have helped with getting some guns off the streets. Regardless of the widely publicized violence in cities like Chicago with tougher gun laws, I still think having strict laws beats the alternative. Illegal guns can only be bought by people who are willing to sell them. If you have illegal gun owners who are facing more time, that can be a deterrent. But if there are no repercussions to selling guns to anyone, no moderation or even mediation before a gun is purchased, and guns continue to flood the community, at some point we're going to have to look past the "thugs" on the news and start looking at the "thugs" who are distributing products without any regard to who the recipient is.