Tuesday, February 12, 2013

CLT VIEWS: Gun Violence In My Life

At a time when we should of been celebrating, we were grieving. Instead of bringing in a new year filled with joy and laughter, we were crying. At a time when we should of been welcoming things anew, we were saying goodbye to an angel.

On December 29th, 2013, Aleya Thompson Criswell was riding in a van with six other occupants in an urban neighborhood when gunshots rang out. Approximately 3 to 5 bullets struck the rear of the van penetrating the van's paneling. One struck Aleya in her lower back and as her eyes began to roll up in her head, she said that she had been shot.

The driver of the van, the mother of one of the occupants, immediately sped to the emergency entrance of the nearest hospital, approximately 5 minutes away, but by the time Aleya was removed from the vehicle, it was too late. Her body was lifeless and growing cold.

One of the billets had struck her in her lower back, and exited through her heart. Emergency physicians and technicians did everything in their power to save her, but they could not close the large hole the bullet left in her heart.

Aleya was just one month away from her twenty-second birthday. A beautiful woman aspiring to be a model and/or singer. She was not the gunman's target, just an innocent bystander at the wrong place, at the wrong time. I could recite to you all of the rumors that were tingling in about why the gunman, a 23 year-old Afro-American, felt that he should fire his weapon at the van she was riding in, but that does not matter or make a difference. Aleya Thompson Criswell was deceased at the young age of 21.

This happened in the wake of one of the worst tragedies the United States have had to suffer the last two decades. Twenty-two people were killed at an Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut by a lone gunman's who began his killing spree by shooting his mother in the face.

Since that tragic date, more than 1000 incidence of gun violence have taken place in the United States. Parents have lost children as young as 3 years of age; sibling has shot sibling; friend has shot friend; and innocents have been killed by criminals. More than 100 death in approximately 2 months. God has to be watching.

Is this what the future holds for our nation? Our young being killed by our young? Most importantly, is there anything that our government or we as Americans can do to stop or curb this senseless violence? Will it take a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights to bear arms to protect our future?

Personally, I do not believe that there is a remedy at the government level of our society that will rectify gun violence. The problem of illegal gun trafficking has been a part of the United States dark history ever since the invention of the gun. Most prominent, perhaps, is during the days of the cowboy when guns were trafficked to the Indians.

Organized crime has never had a shortage of instruments of death, and gangs always seem to obtain weapons that are considered military (automatic) or weapons of war to thrive on the ills of society. Where do they get these weapons from? How can we take these weapons out of their hands and make our society safer and secure a future for our children? How can we determine who should or shouldn't be able to own a gun?

Guns have been a part of my life ever since the age of 17 when I joined the United States Army Infantry. The Army trained me on many different weapons ranging from handguns to a cannon; however, it was emphasized that our training was defensive, and only offensive when there is no other way to protect our nation's interest.

Is this the type of training that needs to be necessitated in order to protect the citizens, especially the children, of this nation? Would it be constitutional? What about licensed concealed weapon owners? Legal gun owners? Gun shows? Will psyche evaluations actually help to deter crimes like the one in New Town, or the ones against people like Aleya Thompson Criswell?

A strong question is: how do we get the guns out of the hands of felons? How many crimes are actually committed by felons illegally possessing guns? How many guns have been purchased for felons by a person legally able to buy a gun? Or unknowingly sold to a felon?

This is an age-old problem that has faced authorities for years, and it seems that it will continue to perplex them as they seek a solution. I hope that this blog is coherent enough for you to understand my concerns. If not, hopefully it presented you with some of the problems our leaders face when they try to decide how to protect the people of this nation without violating or destroying our constitutional rights.

If you can perceive this Aleya, my beautiful niece, may you rest in peace knowing that your death was not in vain. Lord knows that we would rather have you here with us, loving you, but maybe your story will help to save someone's life. We miss you.

Uncle Chuck.

Note: Gun violence is occurring too often in our lives. In the mid-1990s, my wife lost her 15 year-old nephew when he was shot with a 22 caliber by his best friend. They were playing with the gun. No one knows where they obtained it. His friend was arrested and served time.

In February 2003, my best friend that was more than a brother to me, shot and killed his estranged wife, and her male friend before turning it on himself. Just as I am, he was an Army veteran, someone that I had put my life into his hands many times. I never saw this coming.

In 1995, while delivering pizzas, I was robbed at gunpoint and pepper sprayed by 2 males. They were never caught.

In 1998, my wife's cousin boyfriend busted in our front door approximately 4 o'clock in the morning, high on drugs and maybe alcohol. He departed and returned with a handgun which he put in my wife's face. I was down the street on the phone with 9-1-1 when he returned. He had his toddler in the vehicle with him. The police arrived and placed him under arrest.

December 29, 2012, my niece was shot and killed. She was not the alleged gunman's target, just an innocent bystander. The alleged gunman is in jail. His accomplice has not been charged as of date, and we are awaiting trial.

Even with the above tragedies, I still believe in private gun ownership, but with weapons legally obtained, safely stored, and with the proper training. It is the gun owners' responsibility to insure that their guns stay safely out of children's reach, safely stored and accounted for at all times (from thieves).

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