Commentary: The Message Behind the Death of Jonylah Watkins

The 6-month-old's death should compel the nation to reignite the discussion of adopting sensible gun-control measures.

Posted: 05/28/2013 02:07 PM EDT

If ever there were a case that symbolizes how far out of control the culture of gun violence has become, it is the recent death of 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins in Chicago. As the police department announced an arrest in the case, Chicago police said that the child was fatally shot over a dispute involving a stolen video game console.

It is another crime that has rocked a city that has become a tragic banner for the scourge of urban gun violence. Chicago has become a symbol of the toll that gun violence is taking in urban America, a city that was shocked by the 506 murders in 2012 and where there are fears that 2013 might somehow eclipse that level.

But the death of Jonylah Watkins in a dispute that had nothing whatsoever to do with the innocent child is far from an urban problem.

The incidents have become so incessant; the heinous nature of the crimes have become too commonplace. It’s as though the national outrage over gun violence never happened. Where are the lessons of Hadiya Pendleton and the Sandy Hook Elementary School? If anything, the indignation and fury over the American culture of gun violence seems to have abated, with the nation growing wear yet eerily nonchalant about the continued stories of deaths at the hands of guns.

Could there be a more senseless death than this one in the nation’s third-largest city?  Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy said that the motivation for the incident in which a baby was shot was burglary.

“You've got two gang members involved in a shooting, you naturally assume that it was gang-related. But sometimes it's over a girl; sometimes it's over narcotics. It could be over anything.” In this case, it was nothing more than a video game.

The level of gun violence has not abated since it drew national attention in the aftermath of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last December. That was when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members in a mass murder that ignited a national discussion about gun control.

In the months since then, a bill that included popular gun control measures was defeated in Congress to the dismay of President Obama and many other advocates. Since then, little to nothing has happened to address this national scandal.

It is time to reignite that discussion. Poll after poll has made clear that the very basic measures to address some of culture of gun violence remain highly popular with the American people. While it may not be seen as clever politics for President Obama and congressional Democrats to push again for similar legislation, it would be a welcomed development.

It’s time to revisit in earnest the discussion of all measure of gun control legislation, while not wilting to the National Rifle Association. It would be a fitting tribute to those, like Jonylah Watkins, who have lost lives senselessly, while taking steps to prevent future losses.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Family photo via WGN News)

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