Killed, halfway home.

I live in a lovely, upper-middle-class suburb of Chicago known for its trees, its schools, and its diversity. We’re also known for the safety of our streets, but we live at the edge of chaos, on the literal border of one of the city’s poorest, roughest neighborhoods. Literally: On one side of my town’s eastern border you’ll find our tony little arugula enclave; on the other, abandoned buildings and schools with no libraries.

We are safe here, but occasionally the chaos leaks out and across the street. Over the course of 15 years, I can think of five murders that took place within a few blocks of my home or my regular haunts, all of them Chicago’s violence spread west. These events don’t frighten me, because they don’t belong to me. Someone ran, someone followed. They’re not my story, however heartbreaking they may be.

But last night the chaos leaked out and took the life of a 14 year old boy.

Damani Henard’s family had moved from that rougher, tougher neighborhood to my town, so that he could go to high school here. He had ridden his bike into the city to visit friends and was, according to the Chicago Tribune, “about halfway home” when he was shot in the head and killed, apparently instantly.

That family lives blocks from my home. That boy was enrolled in our high school, would have ridden his bike down the same streets that my boy will walk come fall. His family had done what they could to make him safe, and they probably figured that a 15 minute bike ride down a well-lit, major thoroughfare was safe, too.

But they were wrong. Someone else — also a teenager, a 19 year old young woman named Ashley Hardmon — was shot and killed less than an hour earlier, not far from where Damani was killed. His mom figures her boy was collateral damage. “He coincidentally had on black,” she told reporters — as if, in a functional world, that would in any way consign a boy to death. But the world we live in is not functional.

This is not my story. This was Chicago’s violence. It spilled over again, through the tiny hole of a woman and a family trying to get away. Damani Henard was not my son.

But this is my story. This is my violence. That woman ran to my town to keep her boy alive, and the world in which we both live reached out and snatched him from her. Damani was my boy, just as much as every child in the streets of Chicago and across this grieving nation are my children, the children of all the adults who fail them again and again, unto death. This is what a nation awash with guns looks like: Dead children.

I’ve written before that white privilege is sending your son out into the world without the fear that he will not return — at the time I was referring to state-mandated violence, but race lies deep within the heart of this story, too. Who are Chicago’s poor? What neighborhoods go under-protected by Chicago’s police? What color are the families doing the fleeing? My black neighbors — the upper middle class ones, the professional ones, the ones who dress like me and talk like me and who send their boys to private schools because our high school, the school to which Damani was coming for shelter, doesn’t always serve its black boys well — they know far better than me that class and geography don’t always suffice. Their boys don’t have to be poor, don’t have to be surrounded by gangs, to be in danger. They just have to live inside their skins.

I made my son a cheese sandwich for lunch today. I held him as tight as I could without making him suspicious, without weeping. Damani’s mother will never hold him again.

Senate vote Wednesday afternoon on gun purchase background checks – CALL YOUR SENATORS.

Moment Of Truth: Senate To Vote On Background Checks

It’s a moment of truth for the centerpiece of Congress’s efforts to curb gun violence — the first major effort in nearly two decades. Defeat would be a huge blow to the cause and to the families of the Newtown, Conn. shooting victims who have urged Washington to act.

Call them, call them, call them – and if you’ve already done this once, please do it again, even if your Senators are Republicans and you know they’re opposed. They need to hear from us over and over – nearly 3,500 Americans have been fatally shot since the Newtown massacre on December 14.

  • The US Senate: 202-224-3121. If you’re not sure who your Senators are, find them by clicking here (if you’d rather send an email, you’ll find that information here, too).
  • The White House: 202-456-1111 Let President Obama know that  you support his efforts, and encourage him to continue to fight the fight.

Sample scripts/letters:

  1. When speaking with a Senator who’s opposed to the bill: “Hi, I’m calling from [location], and though I know that the Senator doesn’t plan to vote in favor of background checks, I wanted to make sure s/he knows that I support the bill currently being considered in the Senate. Background checks are nothing more than basic common sense, and having them in place could have saved some of the nearly 3,500 Americans who have been fatally shot since Newtown. I very much hope that the Senator will reconsider his/her position.”
  2. When speaking with a Senator who supports the bill or may be on the fence: ”Hi, I’m calling from [location], and I just wanted to make sure that the Senator knows that I support the White House gun control initiative. I think the President’s plan, in particular the idea of background checks, is simple common sense, and I very much hope that the Senator will vote for the Senate bill in question.”

h/t TPM

“GOP Opposition Mounts To Background Checks”; “Democrats Scramble To Keep Gun Control Bill Alive”

Democrats Scramble To Keep Gun Control Bill Alive:

Senate Democrats were desperately working Tuesday to keep alive the modest bipartisan legislation to expand mandatory background checks to some gun sales, claiming momentum in public and offering new concessions to skeptical senators in private.

GOP Opposition Mounts To Background Checks:

Republican opposition is growing to a bipartisan Senate plan for expanding background checks for firearms buyers, enough to put the proposal’s fate in jeopardy. But the measure may change as both sides compete for support in one of the pivotal fights in the battle over curbing guns.

The Senate was continuing debate Tuesday on a wide-ranging gun control bill, with the focus on a background check compromise struck last week between Sens. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Manchin said the vote on that amendment was likely to be delayed from midweek to late in the week, a move that would give both sides more time to win over supporters.

Call them, call them, call them – and if you’ve already done this once, please do it again, even if your Senators are Republicans and you know they’re opposed. They need to hear from us over and over – nearly 3,500 Americans have been fatally shot since the Newtown massacre on December 14.

  • The US Senate: 202-224-3121. If you’re not sure who your Senators are, find them by clicking here (if you’d rather send an email, you’ll find that information here, too).
  • The White House: 202-456-1111 Let President Obama know that  you support his efforts, and encourage him to continue to fight the fight.

Sample scripts/letters:

  1. When speaking with a Senator who’s opposed to the bill: “Hi, I’m calling from [location], and though I know that the Senator doesn’t plan to vote in favor of background checks, I wanted to make sure s/he knows that I support the bill currently being considered in the Senate. Background checks are nothing more than basic common sense, and having them in place could have saved some of the nearly 3,500 Americans who have been fatally shot since Newtown. I very much hope that the Senator will reconsider his/her position.”
  2. When speaking with a Senator who supports the bill or may be on the fence: “Hi, I’m calling from [location], and I just wanted to make sure that the Senator knows that I support the White House gun control initiative. I think the President’s plan, in particular the idea of background checks, is simple common sense, and I very much hope that the Senator will vote for the Senate bill in question.”

h/t TPM

Reid: Senate could vote on gun measures as soon as Thursday.

It’s looking like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may bring new gun measures to a vote in the Senate as early as Thursday:

Reid said that he would move to cut off debate on a gun control law on Tuesday evening with hopes of beginning votes as soon as Thursday on existing Democratic legislation passed out of committee last month….

The Nevada senator’s position has been strengthen[ed] as a series of Republican senators – in the face of mounting pressure from President Barack Obama – have said they would not join with their more conservative colleagues to force Reid to produce a filibuster-proof 60 or more votes to move forward with debate on gun legislation.

Speaking on the Senate floor this morning, Reid invoked his own father’s suicide as he pressed for background checks:

“Sometimes people in a fit of passion will purchase the handgun to do bad things with it… even as my dad did, kill themselves. Waiting a few days helps. Requiring a simple background check every time a gun is sold is common sense.”

As of this day, Tuesday April 9, at least 3,346 Americans have been fatally shot since the Newtown massacre.

If you want to support the President and Senator Reid as they push for new gun measures, here are some simple ways to do that (and if you’ve already done this once, please do it again — they need to hear from us over and over):

  • Call the US Senate: 202-224-3121. If you’re not sure who your Senators are, find them by clicking here (if you’d rather send an email, you’ll find that information here, too).
  • Call the US House: 202-224-3121. If you’re not sure who your member of Congress is, find him or her by clicking here (if you’d rather send an email, you’ll find that information here, too).
  • Call the White House : 202-456-1111 Let President Obama know that  you support his efforts, and encourage him to continue to fight the fight.

Sample script/letter:

Hi, I’m calling from [location], and I just wanted to make sure that the President/Senator/Representative knows that I support the White House gun control initiative. I think the President’s plan, in particular the idea of background checks, is simple common sense, and I very much hope that the Senator/Representative will support/not block upcoming legislation.

Obama: “Tears aren’t enough.”

Update: As of Tuesday, April 2, the number of Americans fatally shot since the Newtown massacre has risen to 3,292; that’s 239 additional deaths since the President spoke on the issue last week [see below], and it includes 4 year old  Rahquel Carr, shot in Miami-Dade in a parked car. For details on those statistics, please go to Slate; for Rahquel’s story, please go here.

***************

This morning, the President spoke about gun violence and the need for new laws:

I ask every American to find out where your member of Congress stands on these ideas. If they’re not part of that 90% who agree that we should make it harder for a criminal or somebody with severe mental illness to buy a gun, then you should ask them why not. Why are you part of the 10%?

There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t get this done. But the reason we’re talking about it here today is because it’s not done until it’s done. And there are some powerful voices on the other side that are interested in running out the clock, or changing the subject, or drowning out the majority of the American people to prevent any of these reforms from happening at all. They’re doing everything they can to make all of our progress collapse under the weight of fear and frustration, their assumption is that people will just forget about it.

…I want to make sure every American is listening today. Less than 100 days ago, [Newtown] happened. And the entire country was shocked. And the entire country pledged that we would do something about it and this time it would be different. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten. I haven’t forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.

There’s one thing that I’ve said consistently since I first ran for this office: Nothing is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change.

*

I watch this man speak a lot. Every time he speaks on this issue, he is alight with righteous anger — and he is not backing down. I am so grateful.

In the [fewer than] 100 days since the Newtown massacre, 3084 Americans have been fatally shot. Yesterday, it was 3,053. That’s what we’re looking at: about 30 new gun deaths every single day.

If we want to make an effective change in those kinds of numbers, we have to let Congress know, because as he keeps reminding us, the President cannot do it alone.

Here’s what you can do (and if you’ve already done it once, please do it again):

  • Call the US House: 202-224-3121. If you’re not sure who your member of Congress is, find him or her by clicking here (if you’d rather send an email, you’ll find that information here, too).
  • Call the US Senate: 202-224-3121. If you’re not sure who your Senators are, find them by clicking here (if you’d rather send an email, you’ll find that information here, too).
  • Call the White House : 202-456-1111 Let President Obama know that  you support his efforts, and encourage him to continue to fight the fight.

Sample script/letter:

Hi, I’m calling from [location], and I just wanted to make sure that President Obama/Senator XXXXX/Representative XXXXX knows that I support the White House gun control initiative. I think that things like background checks, limits on magazine capacity, and a ban on assault weapons are common sense, and I think it’s so important to also work with inner city communities to address their particular needs — less than 1% of urban populations are responsible for about 70% of all shootings in cities, and it’s tragic that so many people are held hostage to that violence.

Useful resources:

Please call. The President’s righteous anger and dedication is not enough — this is our job. Please call.

h/t Steve Benen at Maddow Blog.

Ahead of the State of the Union address – call Congress about gun violence.

Update, 2/12/13: As of 9:14 CST this morning, the tally stands at 1,771 dead.

Update: As of 3:52 pm CST, the tally stands at 1,747 dead.

When I first glanced at Slate’s gun death tally this morning [Monday], about two hours before typing these words, 1,686 Americans had been fatally shot since Newtown; two hours later, that number stands at 1,695.

The President is bound to talk, possibly at length, about gun violence during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. If you haven’t called/emailed Congress and the White House yet about good gun laws and good policies, please please — do so.

Click here for all the phone numbers, links, and a sample script.

1,600 Americans fatally shot since Newtown.

More than 1,600, actually. In 55 days.

That averages out to 29 people a day. On Christmas, 30 Americans were killed by guns. On New Year’s Day, it was 58. On Martin Luther King Day, 28. Last Thursday was a good day — only 13 Americans were shot to death that day.

Click here to see Slate’s utterly breath-taking graphic of the gun-death tally since December 14, the date of the Newtown massacre.

  • Call Congress: 202-224-3121
  • Call the White House: 202-456-1111
  • Find your Senators by clicking here (if you’d rather send an email, you’ll find that information here, too).
  • Find your US Representative by clicking here (if you’d rather send an email, you’ll find that information here, too).

Sample script:

Hi, I’m calling from [location], and I just wanted to make sure that President Obama/Senator XXXXX/Representative XXXXX knows that I support the White House gun control initiative. I think that things like background checks, limits on magazine capacity, and a ban on assault weapons are common sense, and I think it’s so important to also work with inner city communities to address their particular needs — less than 1% of urban populations are responsible for about 70% of all shootings in cities, and it’s tragic that so many people are held hostage to that violence.

As Gabby Giffords told Congress: “We must do something. It will be hard but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous.”

“You must act. Be bold. Be courageous.” – Gabby Giffords on gun violence.

Update: Chicago high school student Hadiya Pendleton, a 15 year old who performed at last week’s inauguration events and was planning to go to Paris, was fatally shot in the back on Tuesday, Jan 29 , while hanging out with friends in a park. Please call Congress.

*****

The Senate Judiciary Hearing on gun control was held this morning on January 30; Gabby Giffords opened the hearing, saying:

Thank you for inviting me here today. This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Thank you.

The video is below, and it’s incredibly moving – when Gabby Giffords tells you that you have to be courageous, it carries quite a punch.

Here’s what we can do, now, today, to help protect boys and girls, men and women in all of our communities: We can call our elected representatives and tell them that we support the President and Vice President in their efforts.

In a democracy, that’s our job, our sacred duty. And if Gabby Giffords can go to the Senate, we can damn sure call Congress.

Sample script:

Hi, I’m calling from [location], and I just wanted to make sure that President Obama/Senator XXXXX/Representative XXXXX knows that I support the White House gun control initiative.I think that things like background checks, limits on magazine capacity, and a ban on assault weapons are common sense tools to help us protect each other, and I hope that efforts will also be made to work with inner city communities to address their particular needs — I know that less than 1% of urban populations are responsible for about 70% of all shootings in cities, and it’s tragic that so many people are held hostage to that violence.

Phone numbers:

  • The Senate: 202-224-3121
  • The House of Representatives: 202-224-3121
  • The White House: 202-456-1111

Find your Senators and Representatives:

Many people don’t know or can’t remember the names of their elected officials – no shame! If you’re not sure who yours are, go to these directories:

And if you’ve called them all already – call them again, or send an email. Ask your friends and family to do the same. If you have some money to spare, you can give some to The Brady Campaign — there are floods of money behind the gun lobby, and that’s why it’s so powerful. We have to counter with everything we have.

And the first thing we have is our voice.

“Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important…. We must do something. It will be hard but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous.”

A few quick thoughts on the Newtown shooting & violence in cities.

Updated with phone numbers to call, below.

The news is still unfolding, the horror and the numbers still unclear, but this much we know: Some 27 people, 18 of them children 28 people, 20 of them children, have been killed in an elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT.

Before we go deeper into the day and our grief, I want to quickly say something about the coverage of violent events in America.

It is true – it is unavoidably, abundantly, obviously true – that the violent deaths of white people get much more play than those of brown people in the American media. A few blocks from where I sit, the African-American and Latino residents of Chicago face an ebb and flow of violence that scars the city afresh on a nearly daily basis, many of the victims children who got in the way or young people just trying to get to school or get back home. These are Americans who live with fear, who shape their days and are in turn shaped by fear, Americans who we, more often than not, ignore.

We ignore this violence because the people who die are poor, or we suspect they might have been involved in the violence themselves, or we just don’t care very much about the lives of people who don’t look like us, and racism can warp our own shared humanity, and we also ignore it to no small degree because it has become a daily drip — not news, far from news, just a depressing, daily reality to which most American consumers of news can’t relate. Much as we’ve learned to ignore the daily drip-drip-drip of traffic deaths, we ignore the daily violence among the disadvantaged.

When the malaise reaches the majority and touches our lives, that’s when we notice. Heroin is only a problem, they say, when it reaches the suburbs.

But it is also true that even though far more people die in traffic accidents annually, we become obsessed with plane crashes and their death tolls. All of these terrifying deaths in one place at the same time draws the eye and the heartbreak — and in this case, it was a school. An elementary school. An elementary school covering grades K-4. Not just a large number of deaths at one time, not just all in one place, not even just at a school, for God’s sake — but at a school for really, really little kids.

All of our kids need and deserve to be able to walk to and from school in safety. All of our kids need and deserve to be able to take a seat in social studies or reading and know that they will emerge unscathed. All of them: Black, white, brown, poor, rich, city, country, all.of.them.

The lives of high schoolers just hoping to live to graduation on Chicago’s West Side are intimately bound up with the lives of second graders in Newtown, CT. They all need our attention, and they all need our protection.

And they need real, workable gun laws. It’s far from all they need, but it’s a damn good place to start. Because all of their lives matter, and none of them should live in fear.

America’s adults owe at least that to our children — all of them.

********************

UPDATE:  Here are the phone numbers that we need to call – today – to tell our representatives that we need sane gun laws.

White House: 202-456-1111

US Representatives & Senators: 202-224-3121

I’ve gotten through to everyone, and was just told by the staffer of my conservative Republican Senator (Mark Kirk) that they’ve gotten “a lot of calls on this today.”

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