We need more jobs.
We need better schools.
We need fathers to act like fathers.
We need to throw away violent video games.
We need to give young people a place to go.
We need to save children who are abused at home.
We need to sit with that kid who sits all alone in the school cafeteria.
We need love.
That last one is the squishiest, don’t you think? Like the old Beatles song. All we need is love and we can end gun violence, keep kids safe and set the world right.
Spare us, right?
But when we asked, this is what you said.
In an editorial last Monday, in which we announced a campaign to push for saner gun laws — 31 bullets — we asked for your suggestions in the fight. Our campaign continues with this editorial, a series of gun violence-awareness posters that will run in our newspaper over the next month and ways you can take action by heading online to 31bullets.suntimes.com.
Our aim — along with our partner, the communications firm Ogilvy & Mather Chicago — is to engage everyone in this issue of gun violence, particularly young people who have become a larger voice in the debate.
By emails, you offered any number of specific ideas to regulate guns, such as a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, a requirement that gun holders carry liability insurance, higher age limits, and background checks on anybody who buys a gun.
We’re with you there. No argument.
But what really struck us was how often you looked past the gun to the person holding the gun — and how that person grew up, and the spiritual poverty that seeped into him, and the violent world that shaped him.
We asked you about guns, and you wrote about unemployment.
We asked you about guns, and you wrote about third-rate schools.
We asked you about guns, and you said, yeah, a civilized nation doesn’t sell combat guns at outlet malls. But you said it went deeper.
You wrote from the heart and from experience — as a parent or a teacher or a police officer.
You wrote as the mother of a young woman who was killed in a mass murder.
Here’s some of what you had to say:
From Bob Wirth, a west suburban police officer:
“My solutions are drastic, but I believe needed. Immediately ban the production and sale of ‘assault-style weapons’ and large capacity magazines for civilians. Those who currently own such firearms or magazines can keep them for a period of time — 8 or 10 years — after which they will be destroyed. Anyone possessing those items after that is subject to arrest and prosecution.
“Secondly, ban the production and sale of violent video games. They are too graphic and desensitizing. They are killing simulators.”
From Patti Pagni of Elmhurst:
“There’s a campaign called ‘Walk-Up’ in which instead of walking out of school, you encourage students to walk up to a fellow student who is sitting alone or isn’t invited to social happenings or included in fun conversations. I have been pushing that idea to my kids and their friends ever since I read about it.
“We sadly will always have mental illness and just plain evil, but many of the shooters we’ve seen have been troubled youth who were bullied or ignored. Many times they have come from broken homes.”
From Frances Lee of Ravenswood:
“We don’t need more guns. We need more love. More understanding. More trust. We need a mechanism, especially here in Chicago, to help children stay or get out of gangs. We need to find a way to let children know that if they are being abused at home, there is a place they can go where they will be safe and be helped. Yep, this is not as easy as throwing more guns into a grade school, but it is what we must do.”
From Toni Gilpin of Evanston:
“I could not watch the video [of teachers at a gun range] linked to your editorial last week unveiling your 31 bullets campaign. Why not? Because before the video played, I had to sit through an ad for a video game called ‘War Thunder’ that featured tanks destroying their targets, and airplanes engaged in dogfights and carpet-bombing buildings. Many more than 31 bullets were discharged in that 15-second spot.
“The countless rounds of ammunition fired in this game aptly reflect how we approach conflict resolution when it comes to other countries. Why shouldn’t individuals on Chicago’s streets feel the same way? One of the points you might make as your campaign continues is that our government’s long-standing bipartisan commitment to violence as our primary foreign policy helps foster our embrace of gun violence and gun use at home.”
Editor’s note: That video game ad is no longer linked to the 31 bullets video.
From Michael Stephenson of Portage, Indiana:
“Here are five ways to end gun violence in the Chicago area:
- Have a father in the home.
- For any gun or drug violation, a person must serve his full sentence, with no parole.
- Active policing, of the kind Rudy Giuliani used as mayor of New York.
- Make military training, even a career, more viable for young people. Create an Illinois National Guard cadet corps, for teens 14 years old and up.
- When a weapon is identified as having been used in a crime in Illinois, wherever the gun was purchased, that seller and prior sellers should have their license to do business in Illinois revoked for one year.”
Other ideas? Better solutions? We’d like to hear them.
In the meantime, Mary Kay Mace, whose daughter Ryanne was one of five students killed in by a deranged man at Northern Illinois University in 2008, will explain on Tuesday in the Sun-Times why families must be allowed to step in when they see a nightmare coming.
Send suggestions about how to curb gun violence to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About 31 bullets
There are an estimated 10 billion bullets sold in the U.S. every year. That’s 31 for every man, woman and child. At the Chicago Sun-Times, we’re tired of writing headlines about gun violence. So, in order to honor our commitment to being brutally honest, and unflinchingly brave, we’re addressing the issue head on — compiling gun violence solutions and arming people with a different kind of ammunition.
Knowledge. Education. Action.
31 bullets to counter the negative effect that these actual bullets create. We will be unveiling each of these bullet points through social media, articles, and print — informing and arming you, the reader. There isn’t one perfect answer or action to defeat gun violence in America. But by bringing together the most powerful solutions, we can arm people with the tools to combat the problem.