The 2016 recipient of the Thomas Merton Center’s New Person Award, civil rights activist Tim Stevens works steadfastly towards social justice and community engagement. In this week’s Insider, Tim shares his take on the continuing challenge of gun violence in our communities.
Your decades’ commitment to addressing gun violence in our region is greatly appreciated. Too often; however, what is underappreciated is the relevance of gun violence to all communities—not just those that are the centers of crime. We are all in it together. Please expand on this theme in terms of impacts to all, the economy, quality of life, and realization of the sustainable communities all want to achieve.
Almost on a daily basis, citizens of Pittsburgh and the nation hear about gun violence, some of which has resulted in deaths, fear, anxiety and a general reduction of the quality of life for all of us. The impact in the African American community of gun violence, as many of us know, has been quite devastating to our children, our schools, our businesses and our neighborhoods. What people may not realize is that the expanding presence of guns in our society is making many of us, regardless of race, class or neighborhood, feel an increased level of anxiety and fear. Gun deaths occur not only in inner city homes, but also in suburban and rural homes, where guns are kept, but not secured, sometimes leading to the deaths of unwitting children stumbling on these guns, using them as toys. Shootings and deaths might occur in a moment of violent, spontaneous, uncontrolled anger in homes where guns are kept–even in the wealthiest of homes and communities. The deaths or the injuries of spouses and loved ones, be they by accidental use of guns or by the premeditated use of guns, can leave a family in disarray and permanently fractured. For a child to lose a parent, particularly a death caused by the child’s other parent, would most likely leave a permanent scar on the psyche of that child, along with the probable profound effect of not having two parents by whom they would be raised. For a child to accidentally kill a sibling by ‘playing’ with a gun could possibly leave that child with a profound sense of guilt and dismay for the rest of their life! (The “Strategies for Change: Building More Peaceful Communities” document of B-PEP’s Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence can be accessed through http://www.b-pep.net/.)