Ending Our Gun Violence Epidemic

Few things are more corrosive to the American Dream than pervasive crime. In a recent Op-Ed, I outlined strategies to reduce gun violence.

July 22, 2022

Last Friday, I went to Baisley Pond Park to watch the championship game of the Fathers Alive in the Hood basketball tournament. Around the same time the boys from Far Rockaway were celebrating their victory over Brooklyn, a young mother was hit by two bullets on Mott Avenue. The contrast was demoralizing.

But we cannot allow ourselves to become down or defeated. Too many young lives are at stake.

The policies of de Blasio, Cuomo and Hochul created this environment of lawlessness and violence. Their failed criminal justice “reforms” must end.  While I applaud Mayor Adams for bringing back the anti-gun unit to help stop the bleeding (literally and figuratively), if we truly want to stamp out our gun violence and crime epidemic, then all levels of government need to do more than just restore enforcement.

We need to give our youngsters hope, opportunity, and a strong moral compass. We need to keep illegal guns off our streets. We need to provide public school education that builds the foundation for a good life.  We need to prevent young people from going astray and give them a path back before their mistakes erode any chance to reach their God-given potential.  America is failing on each of these fronts.  Here are the steps I propose:

Give Kids a Better Foundation

A young person’s life does not go awry because a gun landed in his hand. Life went off the rails long before then.  Too many kids are told there is no American Dream for them. We need to give our at-risk youth the vision of a better life and a path for realizing their vision.  Groups like FAITH, Family of 5, and Crew4Life provide young men and women with the mentoring that will help them push past society’s bad influences and control their own destinies.  Let’s multiply the impact these groups are having.  Let’s also add innovation to public school education.  Gradual improvement is not enough when the system is failing so many students. We must give parents the tools they need to make sure each child can achieve her or his potential.

Take Guns Out of the Equation (as much as possible)

As Carolyn Dixon of Where Do We Go From Herepointed out, gun laws typically focus on preventing mass shooters from buying weapons legally. The guns in our neighborhoods are not purchased at gun stores; they are brought to New York illegally. The new bipartisan law to crack down on the straw purchases is great on paper but we also need much more coordinated enforcement to choke off the illegal “iron pipeline.”  Fewer guns on our streets means fewer young lives ruined on both ends of the barrel.

Get Kids Out of Gangs

Street gangs are criminal enterprises that pressure young boys and girls into joining. Law enforcement must break these enterprises, the same way they broke the Mafia. But we also need to create avenues of escape for young people who want to transition back to a normal life. Homeboy Industries has created successful programs like this in Los Angeles. We can do the same here.

Restore Police Relations

The NYPD is the best police department in America. The past few years we have asked officers (and prosecutors) to do their jobs with one arm tied behind their backs. It is vital to restore effective crime prevention but we must also restore trust and mutual respect. More community policing and interaction is a good start. We must also finally have an honest discussion about race and use of force. When self-serving, dishonest extremists control the conversation, we neither heal relations nor take steps to prevent a future Breonna Taylor or Eric Garner tragedy.  The people who profit from division hurt everyone.  Kids (and parents) need to know the police are on their side.

So many community organizations in Rockaway and SE Queens are doing hard work on the front lines to reduce gun violence by engaging youth and helping them find and stay on a good path. Government must step up by giving children a better foundation for their American Dream, by helping those who go astray get back on a productive path, by aggressively keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, and by restoring effective and fair police protection/crime prevention.

The time for symbolic actions and statements of outrage is over. There is no silver bullet from the far left or the far right. We must take action together to save the future for our children.

Published in The Wave.