When I was 16 years old I was playing basketball at the "E-3" courts in the Parkchester section of the Bronx. Parkchester is the neighborhood in which I was raised. It was around July 4th so hearing the sounds of firecrackers was pretty routine. There were a bunch of us playing on the court that day as my play cousin and his boys were practicing for a big tournament. Now envision a basketball court that had one entrance/exit and was enclosed by a singular high chain link fence that formed a semi circle opposite of a brick wall. One way in and one way out. There are benches along the gate. On this day, one of my friends was sitting on a bench and seemed to get into a random verbal altercation with three teenagers. I was sitting on a separate bench that was on the opposite end of the exit. I looked away not worried about the argument because we far outnumbered the three guys outside of the fence. A couple seconds later, I hear what sounded like firecrackers. Then I saw people running out of the courts for dear life. Finally, I saw my play cousin's coach on the ground, clutching his face and screaming. The three guys were trying to shoot us. I had to run across the line of fire to make it through the exit. This was my introduction to gun violence. As I have stated on this site in the past, this topic is near and dear to my heart and that incident was the genesis. In light of the horrific tragedy in Connecticut, I have seen countless opinions, ideas and suggestions on how to tackle these events. I don't want to use this space to debate gun control laws or the second amendment. What I do want to shed light on is that gun violence cannot be limited to these heinous mass shootings. The problem extends far beyond one person deciding to inflict havoc in a contained space. This past weekend, there were multiple shootings in Chicago. Again. There were shootings in New York and Baltimore and Washington DC and Atlanta and Indianapolis and Oakland and many other places in America. It is time to acknowledge that we are experiencing a social and public health epidemic in the form of gun violence. This is an everyday occurrence that the media, politicians and too many citizens are failing to recognize. A conversation on banning assault weapons is not addressing the reasons, factors and results of everyday gun related incidents. There are too many people who have stories like mine. There are too many people who live in an environment where a situation like Newtown can happen to them literally at any moment albeit on a smaller scale. The national conversation cannot ignore this aspect. If we are to really make a difference we have to honestly discuss why gun violence is too normal in too many neighborhoods and then devise a multi-platform plan of concrete solutions. I sincerely hope we can use last week's tragedy as a springboard for improved safety, but I also hope we don't forget to bring the everyday tragedies into the conversation as well.
P.S. My play cousin's coach faked getting shot so the shooters would flee the scene quicker. It wasn't his first rodeo as they say.
P.S.S. I would really welcome comments on this topic. We have to figure out solutions to improve our way of life. Thank you for reading.