How many different schemes are out there to end gun violence? Let’s see, we have the expanded background check scheme, the safe-storage scheme, the red flag scheme, the AWB scheme – you name it for ending gun violence, there’s a scheme being promoted by someone. But all of these schemes are aimed (pardon the pun) at reducing gun violence by focusing on the primary victims of gun violence, namely, people who either shoot or get shot with guns. Now a story out of Portland reminds us that, in fact, the impact of gun violence goes far beyond the individuals directly involved.
The story involves a young woman, Emmie Sperandeo, who’s asking her landlord to let her out of her lease without penalty because she spends more time hiding in a stairwell ducking bullets than she spends sitting in her living room watching tv. The reason she doesn’t sit in her living room is because the other night, a bullet flew through the living room, and it wasn’t the last time she heard gun fire coming from the alley next to where she lives.
So far, the management company has refused her demand probably because there’s nothing in the lease that says anything about whether they are responsible for keeping tenants from getting shot. But it occurs to me that if we are really serious about being a country founded on the concept of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ right now, Emmie is being deprived of all three. In addition to feeling that her life is threatened by the bullets flying around (strike one) she claims it is impossible to leave the building given guns going off in the street. If she can’t leave her apartment, obviously she’s lost her liberty and can’t pursue any happy activities at all (strikes two and thee.)
When we think about gun violence, we think about people who are killed or injured with guns. So the use of the gun is only depriving the shooter and his victim of life, liberty and happiness pursuits, and we have ways of responding to that. The shooter is arrested, the victim goes to the hospital, society compensates for what happens when a bullet hits a human form.
But what happens when, as in the case of Emmie Sperandeo, the violence represented by the gun isn’t directed specifically at her? The extent to which gun violence in a particular community impacts quality of life has received its share of concern. Here’s a summary from our friends at Everytown: “Children exposed to violence, crime, and abuse are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol; suffer from depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder; fail or have difficulties in school; and engage in criminal activity.”
So the evidence is clear that what I call ‘second-hand gun violence,’ has health effects similar to second-hand’ smoke. People who live in a home with a smoker don’t necessarily suffer the same degree of illness as the person who lights up. But they have a greater propensity to suffer the same degree of tobacco-related health issues than people who live in smoke-free homes. Even Rush Limbaugh, who can spot a liberal conspiracy before it even exists, has shut up about secondhand smoke.
So who should be responsible for dealing with second-hand gun violence, the kind of violence which doesn’t injure or kill anyone, but makes someone like Emmie Sperandeo afraid to go outside? In a recent survey, more than half the residents of Miami and Chicago said that gun violence was a serious issue. Would you like to live in a neighborhood where half your neighbors believed that there was a serious, quality-of-life problem which hadn’t been solved?
I think we need to define who is responsible for reducing secondhand gun violence. Would I sign on to a lawsuit against the Mayor of Springfield because the city in which I live has a gun-violence rate that is out of sight? I sure would.