The silly season begins in earnest with too many deaths and too many guns

Time to fire up the blog again after a long break.  I’ve found the world just too depressing to write about with violence and war all over the world including police shooting civilians, civilians shooting police, and too many people just shooting each other,   Yes, the major incidents we hear about are racial, but there are just too many that are not.

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This Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon illustrates only too well what kind of society we seem to be rapidly moving toward.  The violence is numbing.  And our Congress seems unable to act.  We can only hope that there is not another arms race with law enforcement adding more tanks and military style equipment, but more emphasis on community policing.  Granted that Brattleboro is a small town, but our police chief started something he calls “Coffee with a Cop” several years ago.  Anyone can go to a local restaurant and talk to an officer.  Larger places can do something similar in precincts and districts.  More talk can lead to more trust.  OK.  Maybe not always, but there will never be trust if everyone is just shooting at each other.

This is the morning of the start of the Republican Convention.  The lead New York Times story begins

The attack on police officers in Baton Rouge, La., cast a grim mood over the opening of the Republican National Convention here, as Donald J. Trump responded to the killings with a stark warning that the country was falling apart.

A string of shootings targeting police officers, as well as the recent killings of two black men by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana, had already pushed gun violence and social unrest to the center of the presidential campaign. Mr. Trump has campaigned on the theme of “law and order” since the assassination this month of five police officers in Dallas, and he is likely to amplify that message in the coming days.
“Law and Order” unfortunately doesn’t remind me of the great television series, but of Richard Nixon and the 1960s and 1970s.  They were scary times to be a protester for civil rights or against the war in Vietnam.  Unfortunately, Trump’s message is going to resonate among those who feel threatened by the changes taking place.  Changes like more gay rights, the possibility of a woman becoming president (First a black man and now a woman!), and most of all the slow change from a predominately white country to one that is more diverse.
This election is going to be a scary one beginning with the Republican Convention in Cleveland beginning tonight.  The New York Times story goes on

Cleveland has assigned about 500 police officers specifically to handle the convention, and it has brought in thousands more officers to help, from departments as distant as California and Texas.

But some local officials have expressed concern about the possibility of violence owing to Ohio’s open-carry gun laws. Though demonstrators and others in the convention district have been barred from possessing a range of items, including gas masks, there was no prohibition on the brandishing of firearms.

On Sunday, the president of Cleveland’s police union called for additional measures to protect the security of the event, and urged Mr. Kasich to suspend open-carry gun rights. The governor’s office said Mr. Kasich did not have “the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws.”

Plus

And the convention was likely to begin with a trumpeting of support for police officers. Convention organizers said on Sunday that the theme of the first day, Monday, would be “Make America Safe Again.”

Jeff Larson, the convention’s chief executive, said in a news conference that a leading speaker would be Rudolph W. Giuliani, whom he described as “the law-and-order mayor of New York.”
Mr. Giuliani has been a forceful critic of the Black Lives Matter movementand has been outspoken in his defense of law enforcement practices over the last few weeks.
I worry that Democratic calls for unity are not good enough in face of Trump and Giuliani bombast.  NPR laid out the contrast nicely.
Following the shooting death of three law enforcement officers Sunday in Baton Rouge, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump blasted President Obama on Twitter and Facebook, saying he has “no clue” how to deal with a country that is a “divided crime scene.”
while Hillary Clinton issued a statement

Meanwhile, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton called the shooting “devastating” and “an assault on all of us.”

“There is no justification for violence, for hate, for attacks on men and women who put their lives on the line every day in service of our families and communities,” she said.

Clinton also called for unity:

“We must not turn our backs on each other. We must not be indifferent to each other. We must all stand together to reject violence and strengthen our communities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of the police officers who were killed and injured today.”

 

She will be speaking at the NAACP convention today and it will be interesting to hear what she has to say.

For me, the appropriate response is to begin with a ban on sales of large magazines and then move on to banning assault style weapons.  Both the Dallas and Baton Rouge shooters were trained in the military and the idea that they can easily get and use similar weapons after they are discharged is frightening.  We actually need more talk, not more guns.  Let us hope there is no violence in Cleveland.

 

 

 

Women, gun violence, and domestic violence

According to the op-ed by Nicolas Kristof in last Sunday’s New York Times Review,

Sometimes there’s a perception that domestic violence is insoluble, because it’s such a complex, messy problem with women who are culprits as well as victims. Yet, in fact, this is an area where the United States has seen enormous progress.

Based on victimization surveys, it seems that violence by men against their intimate partners has fallen by almost two-thirds since 1993. Attitudes have changed as well. In 1987, only half of Americans said that it was always wrong for a man to beat his wife with a belt or stick; a decade later, 86 percent said that it was always wrong.

A generation ago, police didn’t typically get involved. “We would say, ‘don’t make us come back, or you’re both going to jail,’ ” recalled Capt. Leonard Dreyer of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office. In contrast, sheriff’s officers now routinely arrest the aggressor.

I have to admit that I am skeptical, but hope that his numbers are correct.  Even Kristof opens his column with ” [w]hat strikes one American woman in four and claims a life in the United States every six hours?”  A high profile case such as that of Jared Remy who killed his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel in front of their young daughter confirms that at point at which a woman makes an effort to leave a relationship is the point at which she is most likely to be killed.  Kristof himself recounts this story

American women are twice as likely to suffer domestic violence as breast cancer, and the abuse is particularly shattering because it comes from those we have loved.

“He’s the only person I’ve ever loved,” Ta’Farian, 24, said of her husband, whom she met when she was an 18-year-old college student. He gradually became violent, she says, beating her, locking her up in a closet, and destroying property.

“My family was like, ‘He’s your husband. You can’t leave him. How would you support yourself?’ ”

Still, she says, it became too much, and she called 911. Police arrested him. But she says that the day before the trial, her husband called and threatened to kill her if she testified against him, so she says that out of a mix of fear and love she refused to repeat in court what had happened. Her husband was let off, and she was convicted of false reporting of a crime.

I was still thinking about the Kristof column this morning when I read this front page story in this morning’s Boston Globe on women who buy and hold guns for men.

…As law enforcement agencies and the administration of Mayor Martin J. Walsh ponder ways to get guns off the street, they are learning that targeting the men who historically have been the primary actors in violent crimes is not enough.

They must also disrupt networks of women who buy and hold weapons for men to use.

“We are seeing women with weapons who do not have a direct role in the city’s gun violence,’’ said Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley. “But they are turning up with firearms that are used in that violence.”

Debora Seifert, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol,  Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Boston, said that she has worked on cases in which women bought firearms for boyfriends who are drug dealers.

Police confiscated a shotgun and ammunition from Arianna Talbert’s Dorchester apartment last year.

“These women can go into a gun shop and buy these guns for a violent criminal,’’ said Seifert. “They can use these weapons to victimize someone in their communities.”

Jahmeilla Tresvant is facing gun charges in two cases. In one, police believe she was holding a gun for her brother

Jahmeilla Tresvant is facing gun charges in two cases. In one, police believe she was holding a gun for her brother

These guns are often hidden in apartments rented by the women and their discovery can result in eviction.

While research is scant on women’s involvement in the gun problem, studies have been clear about who is leading violence by firearms, said David Hemenway, a professor of public health at Harvard School of Public Health.

Men and teenage boys drive gun crime either as victims or perpetrators. If a woman buys a gun, Hemenway added, she is more likely to be buying it for someone who cannot legally buy a gun.

“These young females find themselves facing jail time for holding that gun,’’ said Evans [Boston Police Commissioner William Evans] in a statement.

The mindset that let Ta’Farian stay with her abusive husband is the same one that causes the young women to buy and hold guns.

In the war on illegal guns, Ruth Rollins has heard it all. She’s an advocate for women whose own son was shot and killed. Women have long been flying under radar in police sweeps for illegal guns, she said. And women have become easy prey for criminally-minded men, who are becoming savvy in avoiding arrest for gun possession by having female relatives, partners, or juveniles hold firearms for them.

Women have said they hold the guns for a variety of reasons: to get a few extra dollars, to get drugs, or simply to feel needed. The firearms are sometimes used as community guns stored in a central location, and anyone, from a wayward juvenile to a terrified young man, can have easy access to them.

“It’s no different from years ago when a woman would hold drugs for their men. They would do it for money. They would do it for love,’’ said Rollins. “Now they are holding these guns and they are doing it in the name of love.”

Kim Odom, who lost her 13-year-old son to violence, said some women feel a deep sense of commitment to their men, even the ones wrapped up in crime.

“They are of the mind-set that they are ‘ride-or-die chicks,’ ” Odom said. “These are young ladies who are willing to go all out for their boyfriends.”

This is just another kind of domestic violence.  Maybe more psychological than physical, but still domestic violence.  And like incidents of domestic violence which end either in death or injury to the woman or in which the woman ends up killing her abuser. [And yes, I do know that women can also be abuser, but men  still make up the vast majority.]

Over past year and a half Rollins and Odom have been training and educating women about the consequences of buying and stashing weapons. They urge women to make pledges to not hold or buy guns and warn them of the penalties if caught. For instance, a person who makes a straw purchase faces up to 10 years in prison under federal law, US authorities said.

Their effort, called Operation LIPSTICK, is run through Citizens for Safety, which has enlisted the help of local law enforcement and the mayor to press the issue. On Feb. 25, the group kicked off an ad campaign on the MBTA,  with placards on subway trains  declaring, “His Crime, Your Time — Holding His Gun Can Land You in Jail.”

Perhaps if we used some of the new technology that would prevent anyone but the gun purchaser from firing it, we would be able to cut down on some of the urban gun violence and some young women would be able to stay out of prison.  Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey has proposed a Smart Gun bill.  We should support it.

Photograph:  Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

Globe story:  Meghan E. Irons

Kids and guns

Yesterday a nine year old boy was shot by his fourteen year old brother.  It is an old story here in Boston as well as throughout the country.  After every death, officials, neighbors, clergy vow “Never again.”  But it does happen again.  And again. We don’t know exactly what happened in that apartment in Mattapan, but there are some things we need to look at and questions we need to answer.  The Boston Globe story has some of the details.

In what police described as a horrific tragedy, a 9-year-old boy was shot and killed in his family’s Mattapan apartment by his 14-year-old brother Friday morning, anguishing neighbors and prompting a plea from the city’s mayor for residents to surrender unwanted guns.

Just before noon on a school day, the older brother was playing with a gun when it fired, striking the younger boy in the chest, police said. The boy was rushed to Boston Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The older boy left his Morton Street home, but was apprehended nearby still carrying the weapon police said was used to shoot his brother.

Question one:  Why weren’t the kids in school?  At least one of the schools left a message that the child was not in school, but the mother evidently wasn’t home.

Police investigating the fatal shooting of a Mattapan boy outside the Morton Street home where he was shot.

Police investigating the fatal shooting of a Mattapan boy outside the Morton Street home where he was shot.

Authorities charged the 14-year-old with unlawful gun possession and involuntary manslaughter, saying that he was handling the gun recklessly when it fired.

There was no evidence that anyone else in the home knew he had the gun, they said.

Authorities were quick to call the shooting an apparent accident, but homicide detectives continued their investigation Friday.

But was it an accident?  I’m not so sure.

Last June, police responded to the same address for a domestic violence report in which the 14-year-old allegedly slapped his younger brother in the face and threw him to the ground. His older teenage sister told police that he then pushed his mother to the ground and threatened to kill her.

In a police report on that visit, the sister stated the brother had “been very aggressive toward the family lately and that this was not the first time the police were called to their residence.”

The mother also told police that it was “not the first time” she had problems with her 14-year-old, according to the report. The older brother was charged with assault in the June incident.

Neighbors and police also said that officers had been previously called to the three-decker on Morton Street because of loud parties and, in one case, a shooting.

Question two:  Why were there no places to which the police could refer the boy?  We know that the Massachusetts Department for Children and Families is under a lot of scrutiny right now but we also know that generally the social workers are underpaid and overworked.  I expect that the independent study of DCF will show this.  DCF has refused comment on this incident.

At the scene, Mayor Martin J. Walsh called the death a tragedy and urged residents to turn in guns to police.

“A 14-year-old should not have access to a gun,” he said. “There are far too many guns in our streets.”

“I’m calling for the community to step up to the plate and report these guns. Parents, siblings — we need to get these guns off the street,” he added.

Daniel Conley, the Suffolk district attorney, said investigators would work to determine how the boy acquired the weapon.

“In the meantime, I want to make something crystal clear: If you know about an illegal firearm in this city, help us prevent another tragedy like this one,” he said.

Even my own state representative, Gloria Fox, called for tighter gun control measures.  Massachusetts already has some of the stricter laws, but this doesn’t seem to have really dealt with the problem.

Question 3:  Mayor Walsh has talked about treatment for all victims of gun and street violence.  Why didn’t he use this opportunity to call for more programs instead of asking people to turn in their weapons?

Yes, guns are a problem, but what troubles me about this incident is that there were clear warning signs.  We don’t know yet if there was any attempt at intervention, but I wonder if a nine-year old really had to die.

Photograph:  David L Ryan/Globe Staff

Increased violence. Another consequence of global warming?

I read a lot of mystery stories.  Old ones, new ones, ones set in times past and ones set it the future.  A common thread is it is summer and a heat wave so crime is up.  You hear this every spring from the Boston Police and the Mayor – we need to prepare for the combination of hot weather and school being out.  So is this just an urban myth?  Maybe not.  A new study to be published in the journal, Science, was summarized in Sunday’s New York Times.

But researchers are now quantifying the causal relationship between extreme climate and human conflict. Whether their focus is on small-scale interpersonal aggression or large-scale political instability, low-income or high-income societies, the year 10,000 B.C. or the present day, the overall conclusion is the same: episodes of extreme climate make people more violent toward one another.

In a paper published this month in the journal Science, we [MARSHALL BURKE, SOLOMON HSIANG and EDWARD MIGUEL] assembled 60 of the best studies on this topic from fields as diverse as archaeology, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science and psychology. Typically, these were studies that compared, in a given population, levels of violence during periods of normal climate with levels of violence during periods of extreme climate. We then combined the results from those studies that concerned modern data in a “meta-analysis,” a powerful statistical procedure that allowed us to compare and aggregate findings across the individual studies.

We found that higher temperatures and extreme rainfall led to large increases in conflict: for each one standard deviation change in climate toward warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, the median effect was a 14 percent increase in conflict between groups, and a 4 percent increase in conflict between individuals.

Global mean surface temperature difference fro...

Global mean surface temperature difference from the average for 1880–2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The study went beyond the present day, back to the collapse of several civilizations:  The Maya, Angkor Wat and the Akkadian in Syria.  Climate appears to have played a role in the collapse of each.

Our findings held at very high levels of statistical confidence. To illustrate the consistency of the results: of the 27 quantitative studies we looked at that examined a link between temperatures and modern conflict, all of them found that higher temperatures were associated with more violence. This sort of pattern in the results was extremely unlikely to happen by chance. (Imagine trying to get 27 “heads” in a row when flipping a coin.)

What explains the strong link between climate and conflict? Different mechanisms are most likely operating in different settings, but the two most important factors appear to be aggression and scarcity. The aggression factor is intuitively easy to understand (again, recall summer in the city), and it probably underlies the finding that anomalously hot months have significantly higher crime rates in cities in the United States. As for scarcity, the logic is only slightly more complex. In low-income countries largely dependent on agriculture — like those in much of sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America — when the rains fail and temperatures scorch, crops wilt and die. This leaves many people dangerously close to the edge of survival, which can lead to social strife and even civil war.

So besides gearing up for more shootings, stabbings and homicides on the summer streets, what are the implications?  The study concludes

Our findings help us better understand both the past and the present, but they are particularly important for what they imply about the future. Many global climate models project global temperature increases of at least 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) over the next half century. Our results imply that if nothing changes, this rise in temperature could amplify the rate of group conflicts like civil wars by an astonishing 50 percent in many parts of the world — a frightening possibility for a planet already awash in conflict.

Decision makers must show an understanding that climate can fundamentally shape social interactions, that these effects are already observable in today’s world and that climate’s effects on violence are likely to grow in the absence of concerted action. Our leadership must call for new and creative policy reforms designed to tackle the challenge of adapting to the sorts of climate conditions that breed conflict — for instance, through the development of more drought- and heat-resistant agricultural technologies.

As we contemplate intervention in Syria and look at the increasing and never-ending violence in Africa, we also need to ask ourselves some questions about violence here at home.  Will global warming lead to increased domestic violence?  What do we do with this knowledge and all the guns on the streets?  And will anyone pay any attention?

If you have a gun…

If you decided to own a gun, you may be certain that you are someone who will store and use it safely, that it will not be used except for (hunting, self-defense, target shooting).  But we are realizing what has probably always been true:  If you own a gun, you really don’t have control over how or when it is used.

We can begin with Columbine.  The weapons used were in a locked gun cabinet broken into by the two teenaged shooters.  I’m sure that the grandfather thought they were safe.  I haven’t seen any stories yet about the Newtown shooter and how he and his mother stored their many guns.  I imagine that she thought they were safe until she was shot with one of them.  Reading the column in the New York Times yesterday by Joe Nocera and listening to the speeches at the NRA convention made me realize that there are parallel worlds here and maybe they will never meet.

Nocera writes about two incidents.  The first happened last year.

On the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2012, Greg Imhoff — a big, friendly 61-year-old construction superintendent from Madison, Wis., who had moved to Florida with his partner, Shari Telvick — went to check on the home of a neighbor.

The neighbor, Richard Detlor, was a friend, someone Imhoff had known back in Madison, where the Detlors still lived for part of the year. Whenever the Detlors went back to Wisconsin, Imhoff would look in on their house, something he did for many of his neighbors.

It is impossible to know whether, on that August afternoon, Imhoff ever saw the stranger in the house with the .22 caliber revolver; all we know for sure is that Imhoff was shot in the head. When Telvick and a friend found him that evening, he was lying in a pool of blood, dead.

The killer turned out to be a man named Billy Ray Retherford, who was on the lam after killing a woman two weeks earlier and was hiding in the Detlors’ empty home. The next day, Retherford was killed in a shootout with the police. He was using the same .22 handgun.

The gun, however, was not his. It belonged to Richard Detlor, who, according to the police report, had left it, loaded, in the nightstand by his bed before departing for Wisconsin several months earlier.

Gregory Imhoff (Photograph from online obituary)

Gregory Imhoff
(Photograph from online obituary)

OK.  So Detlor probably thought the gun was safe even though he didn’t unload it and lock it up.  I know the argument:  If the gun isn’t loaded then it really isn’t any good for self-defense in the case of a home invasion.  Same with trigger locks.  But what about the various technologies that could prevent anyone by Detlor from firing it?  How can one be opposed to that?  Want your wife to be able to use it if you aren’t around?  I don’t know for sure, but I imagine there is technology to allow that, too.  In Florida, safe storage laws apply only when there is a minor in the household so leaving a loaded, unsecured weapon in an empty house is not illegal.  But it is stupid.

And you have the two year old killed by her five year old brother.

Just the other day, in Burkesville, Ky., a 5-year-old boy shot and killed his 2-year-old sister with a small rifle that had been given to him as a present. Who gives a 5-year-old a gun? (The rifle is called a Crickett; incredibly, it is marketed specifically to children.) Who leaves the room where their children are playing without checking whether the rifle in the corner is loaded? For that matter, who puts a shotgun within such easy reach of a child?

Gary White, the county coroner, was quick to say that no charges would be brought because it was an accident — and, after all, “accidents happen.” But it was a completely preventable accident. When a passenger dies in a car accident that is the result of negligence, there are usually serious legal consequences for the driver. If we really want to reduce gun violence, there must be consequences for negligent gun owners, too. The entire culture of gun ownership has to begin emphasizing safety in a way it doesn’t now. It is as important as universal background checks, or limits on magazine rounds.

And her family says that it was an accident and that she is with God.  Gun deaths and hunting accidents may be part of rural life, but does that mean things can never be different?

We are clearly living in a parallel universe and I’m not sure what we can do to make the lines meet.  Perhaps beginning with changes in the laws relating to negligence would be a place to start.

The NRA shield for schools

I have to say that the NRA plan for school safety made my husband apoplectic.  He’s been asking loud questions ever since it was released.  Questions like:  How many schools are there in the country?  How many armed officers would you need?  Who is going to pay for this?

According to the New York Times, the answer to the last question is us taxpayers.

The task force panel called on the Departments of Homeland Security, Education and Justice to coordinate school safety efforts and provide grant money for schools to assess their ability to prevent and respond to attacks. It recommended that officers or employees who are armed take a 40- to 60-hour training course to be developed by the rifle association based on a model the task force has designed.

The group also called on states to require schools to develop security plans.

But how and whether the task force recommendations will be put into effect — and the cost — was unclear.

Maybe gun owners should pay a surtax when they purchase/register weapons and ammunition.

The only way to reduce the danger that weapons pose to schoolchildren, to shoppers at malls, to bystanders, to movie goers, to law enforcement officials is to enact stricter gun safety laws.

This chart was in an article published by Atlantic Cities and is from a study done by Boston Childrens Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Gun safety map The study found that states with the strictest gun control laws had lower rates of gun-related homicides and suicides, though it notes that these findings are limited to associations and could not determine precise cause-and-effect. Gun-related deaths were measured per 100,000 people for both homicides and suicides based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, controlling for other factors thought to be associated with gun deaths including age, sex, race and ethnicity, poverty, unemployment, college education, population density, other violence-related deaths, and firearm ownership.

This is contrary to what many gun rights activists believe.

I believe that we need fewer guns around, not more.  While I was writing this word came of a lock down on the University of Rhode Island campus because someone had evidently waved a gun at a lecture and then left the room.  If the NRA gets its way, we will have guns all around us and how will we be able to tell who is a lunatic wanting to kill everyone and who is just a lunatic?

Are you affected by gun violence?

I had never thought much about the impact of gun violence on my own life until I read Alex Kotlowitz’s piece in the New York Times Sunday Review.  The story is about Chicago right now the worst urban area for gun violence, but what he describes could apply to anyone, any place. We talk a lot about the post traumatic stress of  those who were in the movie theater in Aurora or the citizens of Newtown, but we don’t talk about the victims of the violence that happens every day one or two or three people at a time. And we certainly don’t talk about what happens to the rest of us.

I live in a neighborhood that is considered to be highly desirable.  Rents have increased as houses have been renovated.  Three families have been condoed.  There are stories in the paper about the sales price of homes.  But 20 years ago, there was a gang gun fight in front of our house.  The bullet hole is still in one of the vestibule windows.  A couple of years ago, a boy playing on one of the basketball courts, 4 or 5 blocks down the hill from us was shot and killed.  I have friends who have lost children to violence.  One can’t escape.  All of this is somewhere in the back of my mind when I walk or drive in our relatively safe, desirable neighborhood.  If I stop for a moment to think about violence, I think about my own neighborhood.  And if I am affected in a relatively minor way, what about the children?  This is the question that Kotlowitz asks.

EVERY year, the Chicago Police Department issues a report with the macabre title “Chicago Murder Analysis.” It’s a short but eye-opening document. Do the calculations and you realize that in the past 15 years, 8,083 people have been killed, most of them in a concentrated part of the city. There’s one particularly startling revelation that gets little notice: in 2011, more than four-fifths of all murders happened in a public place, a park, an alleyway, on the street, in a restaurant or at a gas station.

When Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old public school student and band majorette who just a week earlier had performed at President Obama’s inauguration, was killed on Jan. 29, she was standing under an awning in a park with a dozen friends. They all saw or heard it when she was shot in the back. One of them, in fact, was wounded by the gunfire. Which brings me to what’s not in the “Chicago Murder Analysis”: Over the past 15 years, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab, an estimated 36,000 people were shot and wounded. It’s a staggering number.

We report on the killers and the killed, but we ignore those who have been wounded or who have witnessed the shootings. What is the effect on individuals — especially kids — who have been privy to the violence in our cities’ streets?

The answer:  post traumatic stress.  Kotlowitz continues

I ask this somewhat rhetorically because in many ways we know the answer. We’ve seen what exposure to the brutality of war does to combat veterans. It can lead to outbursts of rage, an inability to sleep, flashbacks, a profound sense of being alone, a growing distrust of everyone around you, a heightened state of vigilance, a debilitating sense of guilt. In an interview I heard recently on the radio, the novelist and Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien talked about how the atrocities and nastiness of battle get in your bones. The same can be said for kids growing up in Hadiya’s neighborhood.

The ugliness and inexplicability of the violence in our cities comes to define you and everyone around you. With just one act of violence, the ground shifts beneath you, your knees buckle and all you can do is try the best you can to maintain your balance. But it’s hard.

In December, the Department of Justice released a little-noticed report that suggested that children exposed to community violence might turn to violence themselves as “a source of power, prestige, security, or even belongingness.” The report went on to recommend that these children should be treated by professionals. At Hadiya Pendleton’s school, the principal said that over the Christmas holidays two students were shot and injured. If their experiences were at all typical, they were undoubtedly treated at a hospital emergency room and then released without any referral for counseling.

In Philadelphia, there’s a remarkable, albeit small, program, Healing Hurt People, a collaboration of Drexel University’s College of Medicine and School of Public Health, which scours two emergency rooms in the city for young men and teens who have been shot and pulls them in for counseling. When the program’s founder, Ted Corbin, was an emergency room doctor in Washington, D.C., he saw how shooting victims were treated and then sent back out on the streets, where, if they didn’t do injury to themselves, they’d most likely injure someone else. “If you don’t peel back some of the layers,” Mr. Corbin told me, “you don’t know how to stop that recycling of people.”

When the NRA talks about increasing mental health services instead of measures which might begin to stem the flood of guns, legal and illegally owned, washing over us, I don’t think they mean poor inner city kids.  I don’t think they mean funding for more programs like Dr. Corbin’s.  If they do, now is the time to speak out.

The basketball court where Jaewan Martin died.

The basketball court where Jaewon Martin died.

The young boy who was shot on the basketball court down the hill from us was an honor student attending one of the best middle schools in Boston.  Jaewon Martin died in 2010.  According to the Boston Globe

A popular honor roll student, Martin would have graduated from the eighth grade at the James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury at the end of the school year.

Martin was well-liked and well-known by students and staff alike, and his family was very involved in the school, said Boston Public Schools spokesman Matthew Wilder.

“It’s a really tough day for the school community,” Wilder said.

Grief counselors will be on hand at the school to help students and faculty members cope with Martin’s death.

Was there any additional follow up after the initial counseling?  What has happened to the other students in Martin’s class at Timilty or to others who knew him?  Is there PTSD?  Do we care?

I think this is the point of Kotlowitz’s story.  We need to care.

As Tim O’Brien says, it gets in your bones. In the wake of Hadiya Pendleton’s shooting, we’ve talked about stiffer gun control laws, about better policing, about providing mentoring and after-school programs, all of which are essential. But missing from this conversation is any acknowledgment that the violence eats away at one’s soul — whether you’re a direct victim, a witness or, like Anita Stewart, simply a friend of the deceased. Most suffer silently. By themselves. Somewhere along the way, we need to focus on those left behind in our cities whose very character and sense of future have been altered by what they’ve experienced on the streets.

The answer to my title question is yes you are.  If you don’t live somewhere violence happens with regularity, you are still affected because your future will be in some measure determined by these victims of violence.