What should the country do to combat armed violence?

For the past 23 years of my life, I have been on the streets of Indianapolis trying to end the cycle of senseless gun violence in our city. My family, like millions of families in America, has been touched by the scourge of senseless gun violence. I lost my 21 year old brother and my 23 year old nephew to gun violence. I am sickened by the daily gun violence on the streets of America, and heartbroken by the senseless mass shootings in schools, places of worship, grocery stores, and other public places across our country. Like all Americans, I want to see an end to this, but we have to be honest about the numbers. Nearly eight in 10 murders in the United States in 2020 – 19,384 out of 24,576 – involved a firearm.

People often ask me what can be done about the senseless violence in our country. I’m still hesitant to answer the question because of the complexity and multi-facetedness of the issue. We have street gun violence that is driven by drugs, gangs, social media strife, and criminal activity. We have mass shootings motivated by mental health issues, desperation and racial bigotry. We have domestic violence and the violence of interpersonal conflict. What saddens me is that the daily street violence does not receive the same attention from the national media and elected officials as the mass school shootings, even though hundreds of children and young people from color have been killed by urban violence every year for 50 years. years.

There are several things we need to do to significantly reduce the level of gun violence in our country. In my view, we need to address the easy access to assault rifles and illegal firearms by young people and criminals through the underground economy. This is what leads to much of the senseless gun violence we see in urban areas across the country. Second, we need to have stronger national gun control laws that prevent someone with mental health issues from buying an assault rifle or guns. Third, we need to develop partnerships between clergy, OGs (the “original gangsters” who have been on the streets) and law enforcement partnerships to put in place a strategy for intervention, prevention and application in urban areas to help reduce the high levels of gun violence that disproportionately impact young men of color.

Clergy, OGs and law enforcement must now also monitor social media sites, which young people use to engage in conflict. This will help us to stop future acts of violence. Fourth, we must fix our broken justice systems to prevent the capture and release of repeat violent offenders onto the streets without accountability. Too often, these violent repeat offenders become the next suspect or victim of a violent crime.

Finally, we must restore the moral compass of this nation. We must restore God and the faith. We need to rebuild families and the village to help raise our children. We need more fathers to be positive role models in the lives of their sons and daughters. We need fathers to teach their sons and daughters how to deal with their conflicts in healthy and non-violent ways. We need the community to help our youth see their worth and achieve their destiny and purpose in life.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There is always a time to do what is right. America, now is the time for us to put our differences aside, find common ground, and end this nightmare of senseless violence in our country.•


Harrison is the senior pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church and co-founder of the Indianapolis TenPoint Coalition. Send your comments to [email protected]

Click here for more Forefront columns.