The U.S. Senate failed to act on the gun safety overhaul championed by President Barack Obama. On Wednesday, in the White House Rose Garden, surrounded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and families of victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, President Obama expressed his frustration about the gun safety bill failing in the Senate.
President Obama has vowed to continue the fight, but when you look at the gun control debate as it relates to black children, other than the First Lady going to Chicago and attending the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago girl who was killed, and also a recent speech she gave there, you have not seen significant conversation, as a part of this gun control discussion, a gun violence discussion that involves African-Americans.
As stated on Washington Watch before, there’s a Sandy Hook-type death toll every 40 days in the black community. It’s a conversation we need to have.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas; Khary Lazarre-White, founder and executive director of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, a New York-based organization that works with young minorities to help them deal with issues like gun violence; and Steven Hawkins, chief program officer and executive vice president of the NAACP joined Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to discuss the toll gun violence has had on the African-American community.
MR. MARTIN: Hello, and welcome to “Washington Watch.”
This week’s news has been dominated by Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing that left three people dead and 176 wounded. This was the first successful terror attack on U.S. soil since September 11th, 2001.
On Thursday, the FBI released photos and this video of the two suspects, asking the public to help identify them, and the public responded. At the time of our taping, one suspect is dead and the other is still at large.
Now, we’re going to talk about that a little later; but first, in the midst of that tragedy, the U.S. Senate failed to act on the gun safety overhaul championed by President Barack Obama. On Wednesday, in the White House Rose Garden, surrounded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and families of victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, President Obama was an angry president.
[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill. I’ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, “A victory for who? A victory for what? Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans – the vast majority of your constituents – wanted to get done?”
It begs the question, “Who are we here to represent?
I’ve heard folks say that having the families of victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced. Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don’t have a right to weigh in on this issue?
So, all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.
[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]
MR. MARTIN: Now, the President has vowed to continue the fight, but when you look at as relates to black children, other than the First Lady going to Chicago and attending the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago girl who was killed, and also a recent speech she gave there, you have not seen significant conversation, as a part of this gun control discussion, a gun violence discussion that involves African-Americans.
As we’ve said here before, there’s a Sandy Hook-type death toll every 40 days in the black community. It’s a conversation we need to have, and we’re certainly doing it today. We’re joined by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas; Khary Lazarre-White, founder and executive director of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, a New York-based organization that works with young minorities to help them deal with issues like gun violence; and Steven Hawkins, chief program officer and executive vice president of the NAACP.
Folks, welcome to the show.
MR. KHARY LAZARRE-WHITE: Thank you for having us.
REP. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON: Thank you.
MR. STEVEN HAWKINS: Thanks.
MR. MARTIN: Now, is part of the problem here when you talk about how do you make changes that people want to say that this one thing can be the be all to end all, as opposed to a piece of the puzzle?
MR. LAZARRE-WHITE: I think that’s exactly right. There’s no magic pill when it comes to responding to an issue that’s a plague like violence in America. We have to look at policy. We have to look at what we can din our families. We have to look at what we can do with young people. We have to tackle this from a multi-pronged approach.
And I think what those who try to restrict the gun control bill that moved through the Senate and the House did was to try to paint it as if this can’t be the panacea. No one’s looking for that. What we’re saying is there has to be a multitude of approaches to ensure that our young people survive and that our young people live long lives. And we all have to work in all these different areas – policy around, you know, young people and around education.
REP. JOHNSON: Obviously, we need some way to check the mental health of people. We have been derelict in this country in giving attention to mental illness.
MR. MARTIN: But, Steven, the reality is you have to mobilize people.
MR. HAWKINS: What is needed is a suite of solutions, really, to violence prevention. So, we need more counselors, social workers, psychologists embedded in our schools and our communities. We need gang peace efforts. We need more buy-back programs. We need effective community policing.
So, there’s no one magic bullet here, as was said; but we have to look at a range of needs that will help reduce gun violence in our community.
MR. LAZARRE-WHITE: This issue of violence, what happened at Sandy Hook, the horrific level of violence that we see now in Chicago and the killing of black children at a rate that is truly obscene –
MR. MARTIN: Then you go to New Orleans and Florida –
MR. LAZARRE-WHITE: — all over –
MR. MARTIN: — other cities.
MR. LAZARRE-WHITE: — the country. But we have to see it within the context of American history, which is that we exist within a deeply violent country, and so this is not the problem of urban Chicago or urban New Orleans; but instead, America is a country that has this history of celebrating violence, of supporting violence. And so if we’re going to try to restrict the level of violence that we see today, we have to realize that it’s a long, protracted struggle; and we have to work in all of these avenues to ensure we win and that a small minority like the NRA cannot restrict the will of not just the people, but the will of … policymakers and the will of those who are seeking a more moral and ethical way to raise our young people.
REP. JOHNSON: And we must call upon the American people not to stop the pressure. And the people must rise and react and make sure that their voices are being heard.
You know, I just saw an article yesterday where two senators from California represent more than 38 million people. Twenty-six Republican senators represent 34 million people. So, we’re looking at a disjointed representation as we look at every one of those 26 senators [who] voted against this bill.
We must get the majority of the people in this nation to continue to contact their representatives, continue to make noise. We cannot walk away from this fight. There’re too many lives being lost and too many fringe people that are being stimulated as copycats in all types of violence.
MR. MARTIN: Is it a mistake to only, though, have Sandy Hook parents in the gallery meeting with senators, as opposed to saying, “We’re going to bring individuals who’re the victims of gun violence and their families from your specific district” –
REP. JOHNSON: I don’t –
MR. MARTIN: — “your specific state”? Because that’s different. ’Cause, look, if I’m in –
REP. JOHNSON: Right.
MR. MARTIN: — Montana, and you’re coming to me from Sandy Hook, I’m going, “Sorry about it.” You know, certainly emotional and pain; but it’s a different reaction, you know –
REP. JOHNSON: Yeah.
MR. MARTIN: — when you’re a member of Congress, when a constituent walks through that door.
REP. JOHNSON: That is very true.
You know, it is not a mistake to have the Sandy Hook parents. It’s a mistake not to have many other parents –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
REP. JOHNSON: — from many other places not to join them. I think that it has been effective to have those parents come. I appreciate the willingness of those parents coming, but we’ve got to mobilize many more parents.
MR. HAWKINS: And we have to look also at what’s happening at the state level, Roland, and we have a number of states now that are moving full steam ahead to put more police in schools – which is the NRA solution –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MR. HAWKINS: — and to put in place mandatory minimums for possession of unregistered firearms.
So, out of the tragedy of Sandy Hook, my fear is that the black community is going to suffer in two ways – right? Our kids are going to become over criminalized for typical student behavior. We’ve seen that already with police in schools. You know, in Florida alone, 75 percent of black children who are – you know, the – [unintelligible] – number of children arrested for minor offenses, things that used to be –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MR. HAWKINS: — a visit to the principal’s office are black children. And with these increased mandatory minimums, we’re going to see a whole group of young, black kids caught with an unregistered firearm – right – going to a jail because the police are going to be targeting our kids for this.
So, we’re going to have to look for vigilance not only in Congress, but what’s happening at the state level.
MR. MARTIN: And that’s the point, again – Khary, about 20 seconds left –
MR. LAZARRE-WHITE: Sure.
MR. MARTIN: — the point I’m making [is] it can’t just be about what’s happening in D.C. –
MR. LAZARRE-WHITE: [Crosstalk.]
MR. MARTIN: — because if you look at “stand your ground” laws, you have to look at those things as well.
MR. LAZARRE-WHITE: Um-hum. Right.
MR. MARTIN: People have to understand the maximum impact actually is what’s happening in your local electoral bodies versus Washington, D.C.; and that’s where the mobilization and organization comes in.
MR. LAZARRE-WHITE: It’s absolutely essential, and that’s why politicians for a long period of time have said, “You have to force me to make this change occur.”
We need to ensure that there is an organizing effort on a deeply visceral issue of those who’ve experienced violence, whose families have experienced violence saying, “Enough. We don’t want to live in a country with access to guns in this way.” Our children’s lives depend on mobilizing people, and that’s what we have to do.
MR. MARTIN: All right. Congresswoman Johnson, Khary, Steven, we appreciate it. Thanks a lot.
REP. JOHNSON: Thank you very much.