Gun rights should not outweigh our right to life

In our heavily armed society, children and seniors are particularly vulnerable.

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Larry Neuman_MDW.jpg

Retired Chicago Police Officer Larry Neuman was fatally shot June 20 outside his West Garfield Park home.

Transportation Security Administration

I didn’t know retired Chicago Police Officer Larry Neuman personally but his murder — allegedly at the hands of two Black teens — opened a floodgate of emotions.

As a Vietnam vet, Neuman was in a parade of young Black men who were drafted or recruited to fight a war that a generation of Americans thought wasn’t worth fighting.

Some of those men didn’t make it back alive. Others suffered unbearable trauma when they returned home.

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Neuman came back home alive with skills needed to be one of the first Black bomb technicians with the Chicago Police Department.

Like millions of other seniors, after he retired, he continued to look for ways to keep busy. He joined the Transportation Security Administration as an explosives expert and became a recognizable volunteer in his community. The ex-Marine also was an ordained minister.

My faith teaches me that our lives are in God’s hands.

Still, it seems incredibly unfair that having survived the perils of life, having served his country with honor and having used his talents to save lives and souls, this 73-year-old husband, father and grandfather was cut down in front of his home in West Garfield Park allegedly by young people who are supposed to be our future.

I can’t help but ask, oh Lord, what are we supposed to learn from this terrible crime?

Larry Neuman sought to bring folks together and hoped to do more for young people. The retired police officer, Vietnam veteran and ordained minister ‘probably knew just about everybody in the neighborhood.’

One suspect, Lazarious Watt, 16, was accompanied by family members when he turned himself in to law enforcement after several witnesses identified him.

At the pretrial release hearing, several of Watt’s relatives showed up in hoodies and masks, obscuring their identities.

It would have been a comfort to the community had the adult relatives offered a grieving family condolences.

The teen also faces other charges for a carjacking.

Watt, charged as an adult, was on court-ordered home confinement at the time of the June 20 shooting and had violated his electronic monitoring agreement several times, according to court documents.

The teen seemed to be out of control.

Another teen, Marquan Jones, 17, was arrested Thursday in the case. Jones is being charged as an adult with first-degree murder, officials said.

Meanwhile, in a different neighborhood, another 16-year-old male was charged with firing the shots that killed 7-year-old Jai’Mani Amir Rivera. The boy, who was going to a neighbor’s house to return a cooking pot, was killed by a stray bullet.

Sadly, these types of killings happen so often that they have become part of the Chicago story, like corruption and segregation.

And we are not alone.

In this country, firearms kill more children and adolescents than any other cause, according to researchers.

Gun assaults accounted for 2 of 3 firearm deaths among children and adolescents in 2022, according to recent research by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But there was a time when a child being killed by a stray bullet was unheard of. Now, children are killed in their homes, in cars, on our streets.

The shooters are essentially armed bullies. They prey on the most vulnerable among us — seniors and children.

I marvel at the people in my neighborhood who are not hindered by flashing lights, wailing sirens and yellow tape that usually means another gunshot victim.

They bike, walk and jog like they are invincible.

But while I find comfort in my faith, I know the teens who commit these heinous acts don’t value their own lives. They certainly don’t value mine.

Frankly, if armed bullies can attack a man like Neuman in his front yard, and a boy like Jai’Mani can be struck down as he goes next door to a neighbor’s house, we are under siege no matter what the statistics say.

We have to get the deadly weapons out of the hands of children.

Neuman’s life mattered. So did Jai’Mani’s.

Our right to bear arms should not have overshadowed their right to live.

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