Opinion: We must save our children from guns

March 31, 2013


Jonylah Watkins died on a Tuesday.

She was with her father, who was sitting in a minivan in Chicago on the night of March 11 when someone opened fire. Doctors worked 17 hours trying to repair what a bullet had done to her body, but to no avail. She died the next morning. Her funeral was about two weeks ago. She was 6 months old.

Antonio Santiago was 7 months older when his mother put him in a stroller and took him for a walk in their Brunswick, Ga., neighborhood. Sherry West says they were accosted by two teenagers demanding money. She told them she didn’t have any. West says they shot Antonio in the face and killed him. This happened two days after Jonylah’s funeral.

An Associated Press reporter was on hand a day later as the boy’s father tried to comfort his child’s mother. “He’s all right” Luis Santiago told her, smiling for her benefit. “He’s potty training upstairs in heaven.”

Which is, of course, the very foundation of faith, the belief that even tragedy will work ultimately for the good, that in the end, the bitterest tears transmute to the greatest joy. That is, in essence, what is commemorated this Easter week. It marks the morning when, we Christians believe, a carpenter turned itinerant rabbi, overcame death itself, rolled a stone aside and walked out of his own tomb.

In the King James Bible, in the book of Matthew, the rabbi — Jesus — is quoted as saying, “Suffer little children and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

When I was a kid, that always confused me. I wondered why children were commanded to suffer. But, as later translations confirm, the word was used in its old English sense, meaning: to permit or allow. Let the children come to me, He is saying, for they are the essence of grace. Love the children.

Two thousand years later, a singer named Marvin Gaye turned that command into a stark plea: Save the children.

As a nation, as a people, we have failed at both.

Nearly 100,000 people will be shot this year according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Seventeen thousand will be younger than 19. So almost 5,000 kids have been shot since the Newtown massacre in December, the one that was supposed make us finally get serious about gun violence.

That toll speaks unflattering volumes about our seriousness. As does a Politico report that support is softening for laws that would expand background checks and impose other common-sense restrictions on gun ownership. A Florida state legislative panel just voted to support a bill allowing teachers to bring guns to school. Once again, the nation endorses the Orwellian logic which would “solve” the problem of too many guns by adding more guns.

How do you suppose we would explain that to Jonylah or Antonio? Which of the gun lobby’s inane platitudes would we use to justify our failure to keep them safe? Jonylah, guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Antonio, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun ...


This year as every year, foes of abortion publicly mourn the loss of babies who could have been. But they — we — remain silent on the loss of babies who actually were, who died because we could not get our act together, because ours is a nation that does not simply enable private gun ownership, but that worships and fetishizes it to the point where sensible restriction — even sensible conversation — seems impossible.

As a result, we are a nation where what happened to Jonylah and Antonio has become grimly, sadly ... routine. That fact alone starkly illustrates the insanity to which we have devolved, and the challenge that faces faith this Easter week.

We keep crying the bitter tears. We are still waiting for the joy.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.


Michael LoBurgio 5 years ago

LarryNative larry the democrats aren't coming for your guns! The republicans are coming for your social security checks

rtwngr 5 years ago

More disinformation from a low information voter.

Liberty275 5 years ago

"TSA checking grandma for an IED before boarding"

It is dumb to check grandma or little Sally, but you have to keep in mind that they have to check a random sample or everyone (or nobody) because checking people based on what they look like is unconstitutional.

Liberty275 5 years ago

Good luck getting your amendment passed.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

Where did you get this idea? Background checks would take guns out of the hands of people? Are you worried that you couldn't pass a psych evaluation? Many street thugs have no problems buying guns legally. I personally wouldn't mind if all my guns were registered with the local police. I also wouldn't mind if I started acting unbalanced, if they came and took my guns away, until I got a psych evaluation. Several people could have been saved with a law like that. In my present sane state have no problems with someone taking my guns if I become suicidal or homicidal.

Would you have approved the police taking away the guns of the guy who kidnapped that boy and killed the bus driver in Alabama? There were lots of indications that he was losing it. If the police had confiscated his guns until he was proven sane, then the incident might not have happened. Yes, he might have gone out and bought some guns illegally, but maybe not. Maybe he would have gone to a shrink and realized he had a problem. But I guess the dead bus driver and the traumatized boy are just collateral damage to you. After all you aren't the one dead, so why should you care?

Liberty275 5 years ago

"Are you worried that you couldn't pass a psych evaluation? "

Are you worried you couldn't pass a psych evaluation before saying something? You can no more require a psychiatric evaluation before owning a gun than you could before painting a picture. Rights are immune from tests, you know, like voting.

voevoda 5 years ago

If you, Liberty275, could kill people with your words or by painting a picture or casting a vote, yes, you should pass a psych evaluation before speaking, painting, or voting. Guns are like property, and if you endanger other people with your property--for example, maintaining a health hazard from pollution or unfenced swimming pool--then your property rights are restricted. My right to life trumps your right to own a gun, if your gun ownership endangers me.

Liberty275 5 years ago

Guns aren't like property, they are property. The right to keep said property is a right plain and simple, There is no test for constitutional rights. If the police charge a person with a crime, then you can be scared of them and have due process take their guns. If a judge rules them a danger to themselves or society you can take their guns. A background for such situations is appropriate.

As for you right to life (lol, as if you have one, go look it up), I think the Ben Franklin quote say's it best.

voevoda 5 years ago

In order to exercise the other rights guaranteed in the Constitution, one must be alive, so implicitly there is a right to life. If you don't think that's the case, Liberty 275, maybe you'd be fine if the law limited gun ownership to dead persons.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

So you think anyone should be able to own a gun, suicidal, homicidal, gang banger, whatever? I hope your children aren't the next to die from a nutcase with a legally purchased gun. Oh sure, I'm sure your kid is armed and ready to kill the guy. Right.

Liberty275 5 years ago

We get it mr pitts. You like the constitution when it serves your purpose and would burn it when it doesn't.

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

Take a long hard look at the families of the shooters. More than anything, you will find dysfunction heaped upon dysfunction. Dysfunctional families existing in dysfunctional communities within a society too PC to say to them to stop contributing to the gene pool.

And oh, yes, our gun laws are broken too.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

"Dysfunctional families existing in dysfunctional communities within a society too PC to say to them to stop contributing to the gene pool."

Eugenics, anyone?

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

There has to be a middle ground between eugenics and simply sticking your head in the sand an ignoring the obvious.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

So you'd do that by sticking your head in the bedrooms of "those people?"

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

It's no more appropriate for me to stick my head in their bedroom than it is for them to stick their hand in my wallet.

Liberty275 5 years ago

"Eugenics, anyone?"

By abortion?

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years ago

Eugenics, much like gun confiscation, has historically been a "progressive" cause. May I assume that you, as a faux-progressive, believe in the utility of eugenics?

tomatogrower 5 years ago

And you conservatives are against providing birth control and getting abortions, so who can stop contributing to the gene pool. Oh yeah, you aren't suppose to have sex unless it's to create children. I'm sure glad my husband doesn't believe that, since I'm past any child bearing days. Here's an idea. Why not help out with child care, so a mother and/or father can work, instead of live off welfare. That's what stops a lot of them. Why not tell employers like Hobby Lobby that taking or not taking contraceptives is their employees business, not theirs, and that if insurance will pay for Viagra, they should pay for contraceptives too. Why not provide the funding and guidance to give parenting classes to those who are young and undereducated. Why not fix the dysfunction problem instead? Is it because you would prefer not to deal with "those people" at all? Why not volunteer in a school or any community center trying to help people become functional?

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

I assume that since you mentioned "gene pool", your comment is in reply to mine. Just for the record, I don't really consider myself a conservative and I doubt conservatives would consider me one of them. I'm generally pro-choice. I'm not sure it's the public's responsibility to provide birth control, but I'm not that opposed to it either. If a majority of people want to spend our tax money in that way, fine. The same with providing child care. I'm not sure it's my responsibility to pay for someone else's child care, but I'm not that opposed to it either and again, if that's how a majority of taxpayers want to spend that money, fine.

I did spend several years working in social services. What I saw was demoralizing, to say the least. What I saw was despite the best efforts of many well meaning professionals, few seized the opportunity to change from dysfunction to becoming productive members of society. At some point in time, you have to conclude that the dysfunction is so deep that it cannot be fixed or that the individual is simply choosing the dysfunction. In either case, my efforts or lack thereof, will have no effect. The same is true for society's efforts, or lack thereof.

IreneAdler84 5 years ago

My next door neighbors, middle class grandparents, were shot dead in their beds by two misfits that wanted to steal stuff. So, how would you like to blame the victims in this scenario? Is it harder to discount the suffering when the victims were not poor, or when the crime occurred on the "good" side of town?

IreneAdler84 5 years ago

Oh heck. I just realized you were talking about the shooters, not the victims.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years ago

You have a few minutes to retract your words after you've posted them, by hitting the "Edit" button that will appear after you've hit "Return".

Armstrong 5 years ago

This piece makes as much sense as getting mad at the car that got in an accident. Common theme here ? Operator error. Hold the operators accountable for their actions stop putting the blame on inanimate objects. Great job of missing the obvious Len.

Liberty275 5 years ago

What if a wheel came off and the car careens into oncoming traffic? That's the car's fault. All means of transport other than bare feet must be banned! Won't we do this for the innocent children? How many children must we lose before these wheeled wielders of sudden death are banned once and for all for the protection of one and all?

tomatogrower 5 years ago

If the wheel came off numerous times, and it turned out that the manufacturer was to blame, then we would go after the manufacturer, and they would have to change. Quite frankly, I find it awful that we give people licenses who have not completed a driver's ed course. We started requiring seat belts and infant car seats to protect us from "operator error". If you would listen to someone other than FOX and the NRA, you would know that the laws that people want are about the "operator". Background checks, psych evaluations, registration have nothing to do with the gun, and everything to do with the "operator". And it's a flawed analogy anyway. The vast majority of gun deaths weren't caused by "operator error".

Liberty275 5 years ago

Which amendment gives you the RIGHT (right), also called a "right", to drive a car?

Americans have the right to keep and bear arms. If you'd pull your head out of huffington post, democrat underground and out of keith olbermann's assorted shows, maybe you would think long enough for yourself to discover the difference between a RIGHT (right) and a privilege. You don't take a test, any test, to have a right in America.

Your opinion is operator error.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

The purpose of cars is transportation, but sometimes accidents happen, and people get killed or injured.

The purpose of guns is to kill. So it's not usually operator error when they are used to kill or injure someone.

Liberty275 5 years ago

"The purpose of guns is to kill."

The purpose of a gun is to fire a bullet.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

And kill. Either to kill an animal, as hunters use them, or for killing the enemy as a soldier use them, or for killing children and others as nut cases use them.

Jeff Rice 5 years ago

I own several guns. None of them are used to kill anything. I don't hunt therefore I don't kill animals. I don't Kill people either. The purpose of my guns are to put little holes into pieces of paper at long distances. I take pleasure in that. No one has the right to deprive me of my life's pleasures because some Thug in Chicago, or wherever, uses his gun for evil..

Liberty275 5 years ago

Killing animals not in self defense or for food is against my philosophy and therefore not a good reason for owning any weapon. Cans and paper targets are fair game though.

That you think guns are only for killing makes me think you have latent violent tendencies and should see a therapist.

repaste 5 years ago

Liberal257, the argument now is not banning all guns, there has to be a line somewhere over type of weapon people can own, and who may own them. Now matter how strident your beliefs, there is a line. You must know or have heard of someone you don't think should own a gun, mentally ill, murderous, etc. Are grenade launchers legal, but not hand held Anti-aircraft? There is a line.

greatgatsby 5 years ago

Where is that line? Why is it there and not a few degrees to the left or right? Who gets to make it? Why does that person get to decide? Who's rights or liberties, or what ever you want to call them, will they verge on infringing and is that ok? This subject is not black and white. Not in the least. To me it's a lighter shade of gray to those against it it's a darker shade. I try to see both sides as I've felt I needed a gun to keep myself safe when my home was broken into and I've felt the stabbing pain of someone I know and love being murdered with one. There is no line.

ChuckFInster 5 years ago

Wow, when was the last time you saw a NASCAR drive down the street? I never have. Also, the general public does not have access to fully automatic weapons (they can be converted however). Your analogies are weak at best

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years ago

They can be converted? Really? How? Your information is weak at best.

weeslicket 5 years ago

i get it now! you folks support regulating "damaged people and families". thanks.

Armstrong 5 years ago

If regulate means hold accountable, then yes

50YearResident 5 years ago

Niether of the incidents mentioned in this story could have been prevented by baning the "Gun". The criminals involved would simply find another weapon. Their 2nd choice may be a knife or a club. Guns are only tools. If a tool is unavailable, a different tool will be used. To end violence, find a way to get to the source of the violence. That source would be the unsupervised, uneducated teenagers walking the streets today. Find a way to make them self respecting again and to respect existing laws. Then crime will go down.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

I don't disagree with you. I do think we need to address the underlying social problems, but most of the people who are NRA brainwashed, also support cutting funding to social programs that try to help teenagers. Are you willing to go to Topeka and demand the governor quit cutting school funding? Are you willing to volunteer in youth programs? Wouldn't you be willing to make sure that people are sane and trained on guns, before allowing them to own guns? Or do you really think anyone should be able to own them?

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

"I do think we need to address the underlying social problems ... "

That would be called the War On Poverty, and it's been going on now for a long, long time. If, as a result of all those billions spent, we've made progress, it's been too little bang for the buck. (No pun intended). The problem isn't that we haven't tried to address the underlying social problems. The problem is that we are yet to admit that we haven't a clue as to how to address those problems. We could probably continue to spend billions and see negligible gains or we could spend more and see the same results or we could spend less and see the same results.

voevoda 5 years ago

While it is true that criminals by definition don't respect laws, including gun laws, in fact most of them obtain their guns legally. The best estimate is that only about 15% of the guns used in crimes were stolen. All the rest were obtained legally. Criminals take advantage of lax gun laws, buying them in jurisdictions and venues that don't require background checks or licensing. They get other people to buy guns for them. Or they get them as gifts or exchanges. Or they qualified to own firearms (no violent felony convictions) up until the moment they commit a crime with them. If we enacted nation-wide stricter standards for the purchase and ownership of firearms and ammunition, making the owner criminally and civilly responsible for the misuse of the weapon, criminals would have many fewer opportunities to get hold of guns. It wouldn't be 100% effective, but even a 50% drop in the number of crimes committed with guns would be a great improvement.

People who oppose background checks and licensing are merely preserving the rights of criminals and irresponsible people to own firearms. Unless they fit into those groups, they aren't preserving their own rights.

50YearResident 5 years ago

" The best estimate is that only about 15% of the guns used in crimes were stolen. All the rest were obtained legally.

Can you produce the facts to back up this comment? Post a link, if you have one.

voevoda 5 years ago

Sure, 50YearResident; here's an authoritative source:


Some sources give the opposite figure, of 85% of crimes are committed with "stolen" guns, but that number improperly subsumes under "stolen" all guns that are unlicensed (including those for which no license is required in that locality), all guns that cannot be traced to a specific owner, and all guns that are not in the hands of the licensed user, even though that user might have given/sold/traded the gun to the criminal.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years ago

I'm so sick of this pandering to fear and imagining that taking guns away from our law abiding neighbors will reduce the insanity of the society that we have allowed to arise and thrive, due to our trust and foolishness.

Violence will be increasing in the future. It will not be reduced until social problems are reduced and I see little serious action being taken to reduce the imbalance of wealth and social equality. Those in power (the elite and monied) will continue to push their underlings towards a condition that very closely resembles slavery. Power and money will be taken from us and reside in their hands. The more we fear our own power, the more of our power will be given away. We will be left with very little. We will be left to vote for Plutocrat B over Plutocrat A. If you cannot see that this has already begun, then you are a bit blind.

Do not be cowed into believing that guns are more important than water, clean air, social mobility, actual competition, protection from ignorance or a dream of freedom that might sprout in a caring society.

Our environment is being destroyed by the "golden calf". Our living is being destroyed by the "golden calf". Our lives are being destroyed by the "golden calf". Our dreams are being usurped by lustrous visions of the "golden calf". We are destroying our water systems. We are destroying our soil. We are destroying the air we breath. We are destroying our children's education and future.

We will not be able to eat images, social media and other forms of indoctrination and control. We will not be cared for by a government and society that cannot afford its own existence.

I'm sick of the party line. There is no party. There will be no party. The revolution will not be tweeted. We will not be able to "Like" the revolution. We will not receive our daily bread or social media. We will be starved and controlled. Enjoy.

Go green, get guns and don't skimp on the ammunition! :)

I really hope that I'm kidding but we do not appear (to me) to exist in a stable environment. It is our fault. I don't know if we can correct our failure to act or the actions of those who now control our lives. I don't know how generous they will be when our resources are so depleted that there is insurrection, or when their resources are depleted, but I can guess.

Obviously, I am under the impression that hope is a four letter word leading to other four letter words. Obviously, I don't believe that the government is here to, or able to, protect us.

Obviously, you will believe what you believe and I will continue to wonder why.

basic101101 5 years ago

Blaming a firearm for a death is just like blaming a fork for you being fat....Operator Headspace...

Bruce Bertsch 5 years ago

Some here need t take a long look in the mirror and realize that they are what they accuse the writer of...racist. If you think that thorough background checks for all gun purchases, including gun shows won't reduce crime committed with guns you are nucking futs. Nearly every weapon used in a crime in NYC, which has some very restrictive gun laws, came from one of two places, Virginia or Florida where they were legally purchased and then resold to criminals. There are perfunctory background checks in those states, but no waiting period for results. Maybe some of you ought to go out and purchase the late Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin On" album and listen to the lyrics. What you would realize is that 40 years after it was written and produced, much of what he sings about still haunts the US. Ironically Marvin Gaye was killed with a gun owned and operated by his father.

greatgatsby 5 years ago

I agree that background checks should be done for those looking to purchase firearms. I have gone through multiple including the KBI, FBI, and local criminal for my guns and CCH and have passed with flying colors. But doesn't what you said about NYC just prove that criminals find ways around them. They have someone buy it then sell it to them. If you're saying we need background checks for private/personal sales ok, but why would they fill out the paperwork anyway? I mean there's not a cop in every back alley or living room just to make sure firearms don't exchange hands. It will ultimately just be the same thing happening whether the checks are increased or not

greatgatsby 5 years ago

No I'm not saying that if it could get 50, 60, 70, 80, or hopefully upwards of 90 or 100 it wouldn't be worth it. I just don't believe it would even make it nearly that high. Sure Uncle Joe handing down his old rifle to his nephew would make the sale/trade/gift legal but would it really change anything in regards to criminals? I don't think so, I think you'd be lucky to get any percentage who'd comply because that would just be another way for them to get caught.

greatgatsby 5 years ago

Any part of the body could prove fatal. Hit the main artery in the leg and you'll be lucky to make it to the hospital. Bullet goes through the arm and into the chest cavity could do a lot of damage. Mr. Lama should know that. If he does, he's still saying it's ok to defend yourself but if not, is he really as wise as everyone thinks? Also, no instructor teaches to shoot for the head. Center of mass is the correct choice.

Armored_One 5 years ago

I notice a theme...

A theme that doesn't refute the claim from Mr. Pitts that guns are worshipped and/or fetishized in this nation.

UneasyRider 5 years ago

No child dies from an abortion. To become a child, you must be "BORN"

UneasyRider 5 years ago

Yes, I have my beliefs, as do you. I thinks yours are wrong, but I don't laugh about them, I simply pity you.

Liberty275 5 years ago

Can you claim a fetus as a tax deduction? LOL?

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years ago

Does consumerouno believe "liberals" are some new subspecies of the genus Homo, which arose 55, or so, years ago and needs to die out?

Homo liberalis... Hmmm... Catchy name!

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