Saturday, December 12, 2015

Dr. Jill Stein on Gun Violence

“Gun violence is really the second cause of deaths for young people in this country after automobile accidents and we need to do what needs to be done here; this is not rocket
science…we need background checks so that people who do not need to have guns in their hands, do not get them. We need to take automatic and semi-automatic weapons off the shelves.
Automatic weapons are not for hunting; they are for killing people… communities have a right to make rules to create safety; communities have a right to deal with the dangers that they are facing, so while we support banning automatic weapons and background checks, that is a
national policy that is the mere minimum. We will allow communities to go beyond that and ban hand guns.
 There are other parts to this problem that needs to be addressed but we need to start
with the weapons to get it under control and the community ban on hand guns is a way to start.

Gun violence or any kind of violence does not exists in a vacuum; it exists because people are
desperate, because people are stressed, because poverty drives people to do desperate things, and
poverty drives conflict, which is why we have to make jobs a part of this, make good schools and
education a part of this, which is why we have to deal with homelessness, and when the political
establishments say that they do not have enough money they are saying that they do not have
enough money for you, and this is what a part of the “Green New Deal” will address; it
guarantees the right to a living wage job; it guarantees the right to affordable housing and the
right to healthcare and this is the basis for reducing gun violence in our communities. We can fix
this and we have the power to fix this. I just want to implore you to go to our website and sign up to make the change. It’s time to build a people’s movement to end
unemployment and poverty; avert climate catastrophe, build a sustainable, just economy and recognize the dignity and human rights of every person. The power to create this new world is not in our hopes, it’s not in our dreams-it’s in our hands.”

Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President

Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President
Question: The issue of gun violence seems to be getting out of control across New York City, innocent people are losing their lives, for example Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Aide, what do you thing is responsible for this problem and how can it be curbed?

BP Eric Adams: I think that it’s important that we look at the mind set of society where guns are easily accessible and readily available, we really have to focus on that, and when you match that with people believing that the answer to their dispute is to quickly pick up a hand gun that’s readily accessible it only adds to the problem. The name of the game we believe is to look at the underground organizations. The police can only take the battle of gun violence so far. Now we have to go to the crevices of our communities and allow those on the ground organizations like Man Up, SOS, Gangsters Alive in the Hood, Fight For Life, SNUG, all of these organizations that are made up of young people who are on the ground and would like to participate in saving their communities, and saving the lives of young people who are carrying guns and who are the victims of guns. What we are finding is that many of these organizations need the proper funding to go and expand their catchment areas and my call is to the Mayor to allocate an additional 10 million dollars of emergency funding to these organizations so we can focus on the pockets of violence that we have. We’ve done a great job over the years with the over proliferation of hand guns in many parts of the community, but there’s still residue of problem areas, particular around public housing that we really need to focus on and the police are not going to be able to do it on their own, they need the assistance of these on the ground organizations.

Question: What can be done to prevent young people from engaging in Gangs?

BP Eric Adams: I think that it is a combined effort, I don’t think that one group or one person can resolved this problem for our children and the goal I think is, number 1, to encourage our parents to be extremely proactive in identifying when their child or children is participating in the wrong activities or is in the wrong environment. I don’t believe the answer is merely incarceration, I believe it is giving young people opportunities and finding safe spaces for them. One of the most important initiative is, I am in negotiation with City Hall with is to open our school buildings because it is extreme unfortunate that at the end of the school day, we close our school buildings when we can clearly use these structures to allow our young people to have a safe space, and when we did this in Inwood housing with Councilmember Laurie Combo, we were able to see a substantial decrease in violence in the area with young people because they had a safe space, and there was a location where they were able to involve themselves in activities that were healthy for their development and we want to continue to see this done throughout the entire city. Then we want to look at how we can find ways to occupy our young people who are either victims of crime or are participating in crime, particularly during those hours when parents are not home and are at work trying to make ends meet? It is our responsibility to be the safety net and find the right program to have our children do something constructive instead of becoming a victim of crime or participating in crime. We have made Borough Hall available to thousands of people as a safe space since I’ve been in office and we want to continue to do that. Then we want to expand our internship program throughout the borough. You will find that one of the well-kept secret, particularly in the inner-city is how young people can move ahead and getting a head start on other groups is by being an intern, learning some of the proper mannerisms of being in the corporate or business environment is part of the development of our children is putting them in places where they are in safe spaces instead of harmful spaces.

Something that I found in my first year and a half in office is that we are leaving too much free resources on the table because people are not aware of how to go about getting access to many of the resources that they can get access to. We just rolled out a book called: Free Services That are Available to Brooklynites, the goal is that we can be able to connect people with the resources that are available. I also want to say this, that Governor Cuomo cut the funding of a program we called SNUG and it was the wrong thing to do and he needs to refocus his attention to gang violence, to street violence and to hand guns. When I was in the senate there was a mass shooting using automatic assault weapons, the governor push through in days a law that impacted the use of automatic assault riffiles and high speed ammunitions, that law would not have had a direct effect on the problems that exists in our communities because in our communities we have a hand gun problem we don’t have an automatic weapon problem. And so the same level of urgency that the governor displayed in dealing with assault weapons that is a problem in other communities, he needs to deal with the hand gun issue that is a problem in our community.

Question: Is there a solution to this problem?

BP Eric Adams: We need stronger gun laws. There are many commonsense gun laws that we can implement to really make an impact on gun violence. The second is to educate parents. Some of you might remember a video that I put up and is still on line that shows parents how to go through their own homes and look for guns. We have to take an active role and make that our homes are gun free. Before guns get to the streets it is in somebody’s book bag, or under somebody’s mattress, and so we have to take responsibility. I tell my son all the time that there is no constitutional rights inside my house, I must protect him and all my other family members, and we must be active in that our children do not find themselves in harm’s way. Third, we have to find on the ground operation, non-profit groups, community based groups that are really doing an unbelievable job of volunteering their time, we need to give them at lease the minimum resources and they can do so much more and I believe that we can make a complete dent into the problem.

Anthony Butler. Executive Director, St John’s Bread & Life Feeding Program

Question: Can you share with us your thoughts on the prevailing issue of gun violence that is creating havoc in our communities?

Anthony Butler: I think the easy access to guns and not applying the rules and regulations that currently exists regarding the restrictions of guns is one of the primary problem to gun violence. Guns are accessible across state lines, accessible without background checks at the varying number of gun trade shows and this is a major problem. I think there is a moral problem too. We’ve become a country where we think the other person is an adversary so we have this need to defend ourselves, not by negotiating with the other person, but rather settle our differences and disputes by a high level of violence, what use to be settled by an argument is now settled by fatal violence.

Question: what can be done to at least curb the problem or bring about a complete elimination of illegal guns in our streets?

Anthony Butler: There needs to be stricter regulations of guns by way of greater licensing on how guns are obtained. We regulate automobile through licensing and all kinds of checks as to who can own vehicles, but when it comes to weapons we do not do that. Young people and all of us need to understand that violence is not the first response to things and that your respect of yourself does not come from other people, your respect must come from yourself and you must know that you are inherently valuable and no one can take that away from you, and so you don’t need to permanently disable the other person by killing them in order to create your own sense of self-worth. We live in a century of cultural violence which continues with gun violence, with abortion issues, it continues with poverty issues and things that a great deal of our communities do not see as worthwhile…we don’t value individual lives. Until we change that notion that people are inherently valuable, I don’t think anything will change.

Rev. Michael Walrond, Chair of Mayor de Blasio’s Clergy Advisory Council

Question: Gun violence seems to have taken center stage again in New York City, innocent by standers are severely at risk, in fact, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Aide was a victim of a stray bullet just this past Labor Day Weekend. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, what is your take on this negative societal problem?

Rev Walrond: There has for some time now has always been a rampant and pervasive presence of guns in our street. We’ve experienced times when gun violence has gone down, we’ve seen times when gun violence has escalated, but, I would say that no matter how much policies have been put forward in state legislature or the number of creative ideas we’ve put forward to minimize the presence of guns, it is just not the presence of guns that will minimize gun violence, it is a shift in cultural attitude, in cultural sensibilities about the value of human life. I think the reason for many people and particularly our young people in our city to use guns to settle issues or to recklessly take lives is because there is no value in a life. That conversation has to take place where we find creative ways to begin to undermine attempts that dehumanized the value of human beings in whatever way. And that happens by first helping people to see the inherent value of their own life, because if you don’t see no value in your life, then taking the life of another is always the first option in so many ways.  I think that one of the issues or criticism some of these creative programs will raise to reduce gun violence is because the issue on our streets is not because of legal guns but because of the use and exchange and the selling of illegal guns. Much of the policies we’ve heard, and much of the platforms that’s been established by various political candidates has talked about legalized guns, but there is still the issue of illegal guns on the street, and that is an issue right now, the way we think to deal with is through incarceration and rigid laws around gun possession and gun use, but, it has to be at the end of the day from a religious perspective a shift in attitude how we talk about people, how we talk about human life and we have to press that message to help people find another way instead of senselessly  taking the life of another person.

Question: Are you here alluding to systemic changes?

Rev Walrond: Systemic changes with regard to policy, with regard to engagements with communities, with regards to how we penalize those who use guns and who possess guns, there can be changes there, but again, I’m talking about cultural shifting and how we engage people and how we talk about it. That’s the work of the church in so many ways, that’s the role church can play. How we give language to the value of human lives, how we give dignity to human beings is the thing that we must talk about. We sometimes forget our moral perspective in the paradigm from which we operate and forget the mandate upon us with regards to valuing and talking about the values of human lives and then at the same time it takes a tremendous amount of prophetic courage, and I think that there are some of us who find it hard to engage some of these deep issues that impact communities because of the presence of fear. Fear is real. I live in Harlem and I see police towers lining Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, I hear of the random acts of violence and gun shootings, it creates a sense of terror and causes fear even in people of faith to engage many of these issues and so systemic change in terms of policy, systemic change in how we penalize or punish people because what we are doing now is creating a system …a waste land of persons who see no value in themselves. So that is one area, we have to see a change in the language we use from the pulpits and the ministries across the City, from religious leaders and to how we speak boldly to issues that impact human beings on a daily basis.

Question: What in your view, contributes to the problem of gun violence? 

Rev Walrond: There are many sociological problems that contribute to the problem, there is poverty, there is systemic oppression, I think there is structural oppression that takes place in this country and so there are many issues that go not confronted, when you think of the language of politics and how often it is taboo to talk about the poor and poverty, that says something, so definitely I think sociological issues impacts what we see in our streets. Then there are moral issues, and then morality can be manipulated by those in power.
Question: As a Religious Leader, is there a specific message you would like to share with the youths and others in society to desist from the use of weapons to solve their disagreements?

Rev Walrond: I would tell them that very often they resort to gun violence because they see no other options. I have learnt a long time ago that the contradictions of life are not final. There is always another way, there are always greater possibilities and what we have to do is present those possibilities to our young people and remind them how valuable they are, how worthy they are and that there is something hopeful for them in the future. We have stopped talking to our young people in hopeful tones. As chair of the Mayor’s Clergy Advisory Council, we are beginning to help religious leaders understand their role in engaging communities and transform their ways. We have to begin again and reclaim transcendent narratives that do not seek to polarize and divide, but to unify and no better place and no better persons to do that than people of faith in our communities.

Hakeem Jeffries, U.S. Representative for New York's 8th District

Question: There seems to be a continuous rise of gun violence across New York City, as an influential young man in this City and a US Congressman, what is your take on this epidemic and your suggestion to curb the deadly problem? 

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries: We have a gun violence epidemic in the City of New York and across of America as most recently brought to life again by the tragic shooting in Oregon. America has five percent of the world’s population, but fifty percent of the world’s guns, so half the guns that exists  in this world is in the United States of America. It is estimated that we have more than 285 million guns in circulation throughout this country. That’s why it is important for Congress to act and to make sure: 1.That we can do everything possible to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, those with criminal convictions as well as those with mental illness who are likely to do us harm. In the inner City we’ve got additional challenges here in Brownsville and throughout East New York and throughout communities in Brooklyn and New York City, because the guns that cause the havoc here aren’t being sold originally or manufactured in the City of New York, they are actually imported into the City from Southern States like North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, as well as the neighboring state of Pennsylvania.

One of the things that Congress woman Yvette Clarke and I have worked on is to try to secure funding for the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm known as the ATF that is the Federal Agency charged with enforcing our gun laws, and it has the responsibility to prevent guns from being traffic from other States into New York. We recently wrote to President Obama requesting an additional 60 million dollars for funding in the context of this year’s budget for the ATF, so we can fully fund the gun prevention effort. Lastly we’ve got to make sure that our young people have other opportunities for their natural intelligence and abilities to be brought to light so that those bad actors who would tempt them with destructive behavior aren’t pull them into a different way of life.

Question: What role can the Church play in helping to alleviate the problem?
Congressman Jeffries: One of the reason why it is so important for the church to be engaged as intimately as possible, is so that we can develop a culture of life as it relates to respecting one another and the godliness that has been put into all of us who has been created in God’s image. One of the problems that we have seen in the absence of respect for life, disputes that should have been worked out in different ways and perhaps in the past would have resulted in physical altercation and not the taking of one’s life are handle in ways that we see levels of violence that should concern us all. It should be noted of course, having grown up myself here in Central Brooklyn in Crown Heights and Bedford Styvason in the 1980 that gun violence and homicides have decline dramatically over the last 20 or 25 years. They are still too high, because it use to be some 2000 a year and now they are down to under 350 per year, that is still 350 too many and there is still lots of work to be done, but we need to look at how that progress was made with investment from community leaders, clergy and others and continue that so we can get it down to a point where not a single life is taken in our communities.

Question: Is there a particular message you want to send to those touting guns for the purpose of settling disputes?

Congressman Jeffries: Young people need to take a deep breath, pause and think before you act, because the consequences of a bad decision on one day could last not just for a week, a month or a year, but, can impact you for the rest of your life. So it is important to pause, to think and to seek out an elder, and to respond to conflict not with aggression, but in a calm and reasonable fashion that will allow that young person to live out their life and reach their full potential.