Guns, outrage, and Bill Cosby
The following is a work of opinion submitted by the author.
On January 16, 1997, two families mourned the sudden deaths of their children. Loretta Thomas-Davis learned that her 17-year-old daughter Corie Williams had been shot and killed on her way home from school — a victim of gang violence in Compton. Meanwhile, Ennis Cosby, the son of entertainer Bill Cosby, was killed in an attempted robbery while he was changing the tire of his car on the side of a Los Angeles freeway.
Cosby reached out to Thomas-Davis to offer his condolences the same day their children were slain. Despite the senselessness of both murders, Cosby, a famous comedian and former star of the Emmy-winning The Cosby Show, knew that his being in the public eye didn't make the death of his son any more important than that of another family's child. Both were killed with guns, and the incidents should have generated outrage over gun laws in the United States.
In 2012, 15 years after Ennis and Corie were murdered, gun control continues to be a hotly debated topic in Philadelphia and the rest of the nation. As the country mourns the death of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Ct., very little attention is paid to the never-ending cycle of gun violence in Philadelphia neighborhoods. Women are shot in the head by stray bullets as they lie asleep, the victims of drug deals gone bad on their block. Teens use guns to settle their disagreements, firing into crowded subway cars on the SEPTA El line.
Here are some statistics:
• Police are reporting 321 homicides for 2012 as of last week.
• 2,390 aggrevated assaults with guns had ben reported through Dec. 9.
• Last year, 324 people were murdered in Philadelphia, and 265 of them were killed with firearms, according to District Attorney Seth Williams, at his state of crime lecture at Penn Law in October.
Says Jim MacMillian, of Philly-based GunCrisis.org, "2012 is looking much like 2011."
Many took to Facebook and Twitter this weekend to declare that Now is the time to have the conversation about gun control. The conversation is one that should have taken place every time a person in our city has died needlessly from a bullet (or many).
I hoped Mayor Nutter's plea for responsibility among parents and their children back in January, following the murder of three teens by the gun-wielding parent of their rival, would be heeded.
"The first way to stop this kind of stuff is for young people to be home, where they're supposed to be home," Nutter told reporters, "and for adults not to act like idiots and assholes."
Sadly, more news outlets picked up on Nutter's colorful metaphor than the message itself.
Cosby may have been onto something when he reached out to Thomas-Davis in 1997. He used his celebrity status to draw attention to the murder of an innocent young woman, three months shy of her high school graduation. Cosby, a tremendous supporter of education, saw Williams' death not only as a loss for her family, but a loss of an intelligent mind for higher education and the American workforce.
Even in his own grief, he saw the true cost of gun violence. In the years since, he has been a vocal advocate of gun control.
"In the wrong hands, the wrong mind, [a gun] is death," Cosby said during an interview on CNN in April this year, as the Trayvon Martin murder case garnered national outrage.
The first step toward preventing violence of any kind is to understand the responsibility that comes with it. "When you pull the trigger, you can't call it back," Cosby said in the same interview, referring to the advice a police officer gave him when he made the decision to get a gun for protection.
Answering the question "What happens next?" should involve more than "Get rid of the guns!" or "Lock the crazy people away!" — two sentiments that have been widely circulating the Twitterverse. Guns are not the only weapons used in violent crimes. And, of the millions of Americans living with mental illness, a fraction of them have been linked to mass murders.
The first step towards gun control is teaching individuals the true weight of bullets, and that one life is too much to spare for a society that needs all the smart, hardworking members of the workforce it can get.