Commentary: The Black Community Is Overdue for Gun Control Action

Michael Nutter, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Cornel West offer their takes on gun control in America.

Posted: 12/26/2012 06:42 PM EST
Michael Nutter, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Cornel West

After this month’s tragic Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Connecticut, many Americans were rightly horrified. President Obama offered his condolences and support, and, after a few days of silence, the NRA finally gave its absurd and misguided — and obviously shell-shocked — thoughts on the matter.

But one group of people speaking out against the violence deserves some special recognition, particularly because of how deeply violence has impacted its community over the years: Black leaders.

Though they’ve been going about it in different ways, the prominent African-Americans who have come out to share their emotions about Sandy Hook are some of the biggest names in America.

In his traditional Christmas Day sermon at the Cook County Jail, Rev. Jesse Jackson implored his imprisoned audience to do their part to mitigate gun violence in America. “We’ve all been grieving about the violence in Newtown, Connecticut, the last few days,” he said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “Most of those here today ... have either shot somebody or been shot. We’re recruiting them to help us stop the flow of guns ... We need their awareness of the dangers of more guns and more drugs.”

For his part, after calling the NRA’s press conference “dumba--,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter also went after guns, saying, “We need to ban assault weapons. We need to ban the high-capacity clips and magazines. We need serious background information system upgrade.”

Elsewhere, on a radio program with pundit Tavis Smiley, controversial professor Cornel West attacked gun violence while also attacking President Obama and other politicians, whom he called “cowards.” West’s problem? That it appears Obama and company are only concerned about gun violence when it hurts white children.

“Not a peep not a mumblin’ word when the black folk getting shot,” said West. ”But now Newtown, vanilla side, low and behold we got a major conversation.”

West’s anger, while sometimes cartoonish of late, is somewhat justified in this case. Since 2007, 270 children, most of them Black, have been killed in Chicago by gun violence — and that’s just one city in America.

As is obvious by the statements above, Black leaders have known for a long time that it’s important to get guns off the streets because Black children have been the victims of this violence for far too long. It can obviously be painful to see the nation spring to action when dozens of white children are killed in one fell swoop in Newtown, Connecticut.

There’s the initial pain of watching the horror inflicted upon those Connecticut schoolchildren. And then there’s the aftermath that comes with the pain associated with wondering why we haven’t acted on gun control.

Of course, we should act now on ending gun violence. But we should also consider why those 270 dead kids in Chicago weren’t enough to get the ball rolling years ago.

The views here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photos from left: Jeff Fusco/Getty Images, Frazer Harrison/Getty Images, Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup)

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