GARY | City and county officials, law enforcement officers and clergy demanded laws requiring background checks for gun purchases and a total ban on assault weapons as well as more parental responsibility during Thursday’s National Day to Demand Action news conference at City Hall.
“This is a day to join with others across the country to demand action to reduce gun violence,” said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, referring to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns movement that sponsored press conferences throughout the nation Thursday afternoon.
“We are not against the Second Amendment. We’re not talking about banning all guns,” she said. “But even constitutional rights should have regulations.”
Freeman-Wilson said every day 33 Americans are murdered by those using guns. She also quoted an often-cited statistic that 6 million guns are sold at gun shows with no background checks on those purchasing them, a practice that will require federal legislation to change.
Assault weapons and the magazines that allow dozens of bullets to be shot with one trigger pull also need to be banned completely, participants said.
Gun violence, especially among urban African-American youth, has led to “young men and young women dying on the streets of Gary. They won’t have the opportunity to see their children grow or walk down the aisle,” Freeman-Wilson said.
Shalonda Ham, the mother of two brothers recently killed during a botched robbery, brought home that message. On Monday, Ham buried her two sons, Shaqwone Ham, 19, and Charles Wood, 18, who were gunned down the afternoon of March 17.
“When youth are apprehended and charged, the adults responsible for providing the guns must be held accountable,” Shalonda Ham said before she was overcome by sobs.
Afterward, she said Shaqwone and Charles were “very good boys. Shaqwone wanted to go to school to be an architect. He was a senior at West Side High. Charles was at Lighthouse Charter School and he just wanted to teach.”
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said current laws need to be enforced, that those who are arrested for using guns need to go to jail and that parents must be held responsible when their children use guns.
“Parents can do more than the police. We want families to stand up. In the African-American community, we really need to understand that we can control a lot of this ourselves,” Carter said. “These children are not afraid to die — that’s a dangerous child.”
Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram also stressed that it takes families, the churches and all residents working together to turn the situation around.
Ingram pointed out how costly gun violence is to society. It costs $40,000 in medical care for each person treated for gunshot wounds, he said.
“Guns are an issue in our community. We will be churches not just on Sunday. Monday to Monday, 365 days a week, we must be the churches and must declare war on war,” said Bishop Norman Hairston Jr. of Zion Progressive Cathedral International in Gary.