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Commentary: Gun violence devastates so many lives. Act now to stop it

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Sharmaine Brown

Sharmaine Brown

A wave of violence has gripped our country and our state. Across the nation, shootings surged over the Fourth of July weekend, and gun violence in Chicago and New York is well above where it was a year ago. Here in South Carolina, we had deadly shootings recently in Myrtle Beach and in Charleston. In one tragic event, Briawna Nabors, 23, was killed by a stray bullet as two men fought outside the North Charleston Waffle House where she worked.

These shootings hit close to home for me. Five years ago, my son Jared was killed by a stray bullet two weeks before his 24th birthday. How many more young people will be killed needlessly across the nation before we realize that we need to take meaningful action on guns?

America has a gun problem. We have more guns per person than any other country. While we have some safeguards in place to keep them out of the hands of criminals, there are loopholes that allow criminals to get firearms, like the one that allowed the killer of nine members of Emanuel AME Church to acquire a new gun before his horrific act.

Ninety percent of Americans — including most gun owners and majorities of both parties — agree that we need action to reduce gun violence, but our political leaders have been slow to act.

After Jared’s death, I founded Jared’s Heart of Success, an organization that conducts a variety of programming around nonviolence and character development. I did this in Atlanta, where I live most of the year now, and in Georgetown, my hometown and where Jared is buried. My organization and others like it are important parts of reducing gun violence in our country, but common-sense regulations are another important part — one that is too often ignored by our political leaders.

That’s why I also have worked with Everytown for Gun Safety, and recently joined an interfaith partnership with people of diverse faiths to help promote Everytown’s initiatives. The faith community has seen firsthand the devastating effects of gun violence in places of worship. In addition to Mother Emanuel, Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and so many more have been affected firsthand by gun violence.

Sharing my experience in my own church helped me see just how many lives had also been devastated by gun violence. My faith has kept me grounded, strengthened and filled with hope that continued prayer and action will let us end our nation’s gun violence crisis. I know that the conversation about gun violence is not an easy one to have, especially within faith communities, but it’s one that we have to have.

In addition to initiatives like Be SMART, which promotes safe storage of firearms, Everytown and the interfaith partnership are working to elect leaders who will do something about the scourge of gun violence in our communities. In 2020, we are going all in to elect a pro-gun-safety president, gun-sense majorities in Congress and state legislatures, and gun-sense candidates up and down the ballot.

We deserve to live free from gun violence in our homes, in our schools, in our houses of worship, in our workplaces and in our communities. This recent violence should make it clear that we can no longer stay silent on this issue. We must work to elect leaders who will make our city, state and country safe for us all.

Sharmaine Brown is the founder of Jared’s Heart of Success Inc., a nonprofit that provides mentoring, leadership skills, scholarships and prevention awareness programs. Her son, Jared, was killed by a stray bullet in 2015.

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