Stopping Gun Violence; Urging Strong Support for Safe, Sane & Sensible Gun Violence Prevention Laws
STOPPING GUN VIOLENCE;
URGING STRONG SUPPORT FOR SAFE, SANE & SENSIBLE GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION LAWS, POLICIES AND PROGRAMS
All-too easy access to guns and the resulting gun violence are a major problem in the United States today. In addition to the very high profile and horrific incidents in the towns of Newtown, Columbine, Aurora and Blacksburg, this is especially true in urban and distressed communities and communities of color. The leading cause of death among African American teens ages 15 to 19 in 2008 and 2009 was gun related homicide. African American children and teens accounted for 45 percent of all child and teen gun deaths in 2008 and 2009 but were only 15 percent of the total child population. Black males ages 15-19 were eight times as likely as White males of the same age and two-and-a-half times as likely as their Hispanic peers to be killed in a gun related homicides in 2009. Current estimates are that there are 270 million guns held by civilians in the United States today. That means there are almost 90 firearms for every 100 men, women and children in the U.S. today.
Given these figures, as well as the disproportionate damage gun violence is having on communities of color, the NAACP has advocated for a number of sane, sensible gun laws which will do a lot to eliminate the damage caused by gun violence. Specifically, we are calling for a permanent, nation-wide ban on the sale, transfer, importation, and manufacturing of all high-powered military style semi automatic assault rifles and pistols (assault weapons) and the ammunition clips; a federal law requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases; and that the federal government do more to require states and federal agencies to submit information about disqualified individuals, including mentally ill and other dangerous people for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
The NAACP is also opposed to proposals which have the potential to increase gun violence or may unnecessarily, disproportionately criminalize African American youth or other youth of color. Specifically, we have asked for an increase in federal resources for more comprehensive security measures and technology in areas surrounding schools and for counselors in schools to help stop all types of violence, rather than some proposals which have called for police officers or armed security personnel to be placed in schools across the country or to arm teachers or administrators. There exists a body of literature that argues that police in schools, sometimes referred to as Resource Officers, has the result of criminalizing non-violent student behavior such as class skipping and other acts of defiance and pipelining kids into the juvenile justice system rather than in-school counseling and discipline. Rather than criminalizing children or adding more guns into the school environment, our nation should focus on providing resources so that more counselors and mental health professionals can be hired and placed in public schools to help assist, monitor and prevent these types of tragedies.
The NAACP also remains opposed to enhanced sentencing provisions which might include more mandatory minimum sentences or the expanded use of the death penalty. We know all too well that mandatory minimum sentences, and the death penalty, are too often applied disproportionately and that racial and ethnic minorities, specifically African Americans, are too often disparately incarcerated much more often.
Lastly, the NAACP has consistently opposed various pieces of legislation which will result in the proliferation of guns and gun violence. Specifically, we have opposed and continue to work against legislation which would restrict states’ ability to control who may and may not carry a concealed weapon within their borders, undermine the ability of police to verify the validity of gun permits, and allow gun traffickers to more easily bring illegal guns into their respective states.