As a retired Police Officer with the South Bend Police Department, and now a trauma liaison for a local hospital system, I’ve had the opportunity to witness countless acts of senseless gun violence in our community. Over the years I’ve seen victims come to the hospital on a regular basis for treatment due to acts of gun violence. I have seen everything from graze wounds, to very serious injuries, to tragic fatalities. Some of these were accidental or self-inflicted, while others were outright intentional acts of violence, with the goal of harming or killing someone.
It is said that guns don’t kill people. Tell that to the thousands of family members, not only in our community but across the country, that have watched a loved one suffer or have buried a loved one as a result of gun violence. And the worst part is, the ripple effect goes on and on. No one wins.
Sometimes, death is not the most challenging result of gun violence. For instance, a teenager who suffers a serious gunshot wound could end up paralyzed for life. They can’t walk or move from the waist or chest down. This means that someone, usually a family member, has to help take care of them for the rest of their life. Gun violence doesn’t just affect the victim. No one wins.
On the other side, in my experience, the suspect or perpetrator is often a 16- to 20-year-old male. If convicted of murder, he could be sentenced to more than sixty years in prison. His family is with him in court as the judge announces the sentence. From that moment on, he has to abide by whatever the judicial system says. As the police walk him away in cuffs, he can’t embrace his family to say goodbye. The pain and hurt his family feels is unlike any other, not knowing what he will experience behind those bars. Life will never be the same. No one wins.
How can we address this national problem? Who is responsible and what do we need to do to fix it? The real truth is that we all share some responsibility. Government–including law enforcement and the court system–educational institutions, the entertainment industry, parents, and society as a whole all play vital roles. If we could provide equal opportunities to communities on issues such as housing, education, medical and mental health treatment, we could see a major change.
We must recognize that violence at all levels is the end result of other issues, such as racism, bigotry, divisiveness, hatred, drug and alcohol addiction, and mental health issues. These issues lead to further inequities, including illiteracy, homelessness, economic disparities, and lack of self-worth, which in turn leads to violence of all kinds, including gun violence.
We must intentionally care for and respect one another while recognizing the disparities due to race, gender, sexual orientation, social economics, education, religious persuasion, and politics. When we begin to live and promote peace and love among all members of the human race we will fix many issues, including gun violence. We must all work together. Let’s turn it around!
Written by Lynn Coleman, founder of Let’s Turn It Around, a group in South Bend, Ind., dedicated to promoting public awareness of the need for Peace and Love among all members of the human race.