Opinion: Build villages, not arsenals, to prevent violence
Free Press Opinion Columnist
With a high school senior and freshman, my family has experienced all sorts of firsts and lasts this year. Our heads have been filled with excitement about graduation and plans for college. I just sent my son and his girlfriend to senior prom. They were beautiful and happy, dressed in ivory, and looking enough like a wedding couple to make parents panic.
The baggy “gangster” shorts my son often wears and the hoodies with logos of college and sports teams, which he shares with his girlfriend, were nowhere in sight on prom night. After snapping countless photos of the pair, my mind wandered to thoughts of families who were missing important first and lasts with their children.
Trayvon Martin would have attended his senior prom and high school graduation last year had he not been murdered two years ago when he passed through an unfamiliar neighborhood run by a self-appointed security guard. Like Trayvon, my son appreciates Skittles and makes frequent candy runs to the grocery store, oftentimes wearing a hoodie.
Before Trayvon, there was Abbey Blagg. She and her mom disappeared here in Grand Junction when Abbey was six and my son was five. The mummified body of Abbey’s mom was found in the Mesa County Landfill, but Abbey remains missing. Recently released age progression photos have Abbey looking a lot like the other girls who would have been her classmates and graduated with my son.
And now there’s Maren Sanchez. Maren was stabbed to death a few days ago by a longtime friend when she declined his invitation to prom. With her death occurring just a day before prom, school officials postponed the dance.
Advocates of reduced or defunct government argue that we have a constitutional responsibility to arm ourselves with guns. They insist that unarmed crime victims had it coming and that our primary responsibility should be self-protection. Try as I might, I cannot imagine more guns saving any of the murdered children who remind me of my own family.
There is logic in an armed populace only if we accept parks, sidewalks, streets, grocery stores, schools, and homes as war zones. Even then, violence only ends when one side outguns the other.
Jennifer and Michael Blagg were married and raising their child together.
If Jennifer had slept with a gun under her pillow and lived with the intention of killing her life partner at a moment’s notice, some would argue that she could have prevented her own violent death and saved her daughter.
It could be argued, too, that Maren and Trayvon may have survived their attacks if they’d been armed or if at the very least, all the adults around them had.
If the arguments of gun extremists are correct, then we could have world peace if every woman and child would accept responsibility for the violence perpetuated against us and strap guns to our bodies.
Realistically, if we want strong, healthy communities, we must stop blaming victims and figure out real solutions to ending violence. It starts with looking out for our neighbors and recognizing that not everyone has the same privileges and opportunities.
Our minds don’t work as well when we’re hungry, consuming toxic food and water, or being abused. We function better when we have opportunities and challenges which encourage us to reach our potentials.
We cannot possibly be prepared for every “what-if” we may face any more than we can adequately meet the needs of our families and neighbors all on our own. Hillary Clinton is correct that it takes a village to raise a child.
Successful villages work together to create the best laws, methods of law enforcement, schools, and support for neighbors with special needs. An active and informed citizenry can have tremendous influence upon its government. It’s when we stop paying attention and participating in our communities that systems become corrupt and guns begin to feel like a solution.
This is not a movie or a video game. This is real life. Horrible things happen all the time, and all the guns in the world cannot stop it. It’s time for real solutions.
A fourth generation Coloradan, GJ Free Press columnist Robyn Parker is the former host of the progressive community radio show, Grand Valley Live. She is a stay-at-home mom, active community volunteer and board member for local environmental and social justice organizations. Robyn may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Five candidates are running for three seats on the Garfield Re-2 school board this year.