Congress’ failure to do anything to prevent mass shootings of the kind that disproportionately take the lives of young people was all too predictable – and depressing.
After all, if Congress could not be moved to act after 1st-graders were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary, or students were killed in their classrooms at Columbine High, it is hard to imagine that any thing else — even the Orlando massacre — would trigger a rational response.
It makes me despair that anything will be done to stop the far more numerous but nearly invisible incidents of gun violence that take the lives of young people in communities across the United States every day.
Like the one that resulted in the death of 17-year-old Reggina Jefferies, a block from my office in downtown Oakland two days after the Orlando massacre.
It took place on a bright late afternoon a block from City Hall as some of my office mates were heading home from work. Three other young people were also shot, but survived.
Among other things, Reggina was a gifted dancer. She had just performed at the funeral for two friends who had drowned in an equally tragic incident in a lake in a rural part of California over Memorial Day weekend.
Her mother, Onika Wilson, had taken Reggina to a funeral for the boys at an East Oakland church, and then dropped her off at the Venue Club in downtown Oakland for a repass — a celebration after the funeral.
“I called my daughter at 5:25 and asked her if she was OK and she said yes,” Wilson told reporters. “I got a phone call that my daughter had been shot at 5:36.”
The reports on the incident are still vague as to what happened. Reggina and other celebrants left the club around 5:30 p.m. Apparently two men on the street who had nothing to do with them got into an argument and started shooting at each other.
Whatever happened is not especially relevant. Reggina was caught in the crossfire of random bullets. If there were fewer guns in circulation, she could well be alive today.
“If anyone out there knows anything out there, please let me know anything,” her mother pleaded.
That’s at least in part a result of too many guns flowing into our communities, affecting the most vulnerable communities first.
Although young people in their teens and 20s are disproportionately the victims, homicide rates have actually declined dramatically over the past two decades. Theories abound as to the cause, but rarely do fewer guns appear on the list of explanations.
Yet teenage homicides — almost all of which are gun inflicted — are still far too high. They are the second leading cause of death among all teenagers. Among black youth, they far outstrip other causes of death.
Each day over the past week I’ve walked past an elaborate memorial of flowers, photos, candles and tributes to Reggina in front of the parking garage where she died.
It will likely be there for a few more weeks, maybe months. A $25,000 reward has been posted for information about Reggina’s killers, so far without any apparent results. After two days of reporting on the killing, new coverage has been non-existent. In the meantime, the news media continue to explore every aspect of the Orlando killings, as they should.
But until lawmakers at the highest levels of government decide to do something about the cascade of guns on our streets, young lives like Reggina’s will be needlessly wasted. And communities like Oakland, and too many others across the United States, will continue to bleed.