Monday, February 1, 2010

Gun Violence: It's OUR problem to fix...

Gun violence:

It’s our problem to fix…

Back in November I wrote a blog for CNN’s AC360 about gun violence in the Bronx titled, “The Bronx is a warzone: Four decades of gunplay with no end in sight.

While I was happy that the blog received an overwhelmingly positive response from non-profits across the city that deal with everyday gun violence, I was equally as bothered by a few email responses I received from other community activists.

One in particular said I was, “Opening the floodgates of criticism,” in regards to what is otherwise a wonderful borough to be a part of and that my article would give the NYPD reason to come into these communities and over-police us.

I’m assuming this activist isn’t in the South Bronx very often

where we’re already over-policed on a daily basis regardless of whom you are, what you do professionally or what right you have to be in a certain area at a certain time of night.

I myself have been a victim of police harassment more times than I care to mention in this blog over the last year… and I’m a college educated professional who’s authored two books.

So my response to said activist was simple… we don’t need over-policing. What we need is community policing. What we need is respected professionals and elders in the community who actually care about stopping senseless gun violence before it occurs. What we need is a respected partnership between the community police and the community itself that identifies the highest risk situations and stops them before they become deadly situations.

Do you ever wonder why only urban communities are left in a state of intimidation and fear at the hands of their own youth?

In my humble opinion it’s because WE allow the problems that plague us to remain just that… our problems.

After all these are the places that WE call home. And if we have no intentions of cleaning up our own homes, then why are we expecting someone else to come in and clean them up for us?

And over the past 40-years while we’ve stood idly by waiting for the state and government to come in and clean house, we’ve lost more people to gun violence in our communities than all the wars we’ve fought combined since World War I.

So you tell me we’re not our own worst enemies… and I’ll call you a liar!

You may be wondering why I even care to address this topic repeatedly knowing I’ll be attacked for it later.

Well the answer is simple.

I care because I was that teenager sitting on a greyhound bus headed back from Virginia Beach towards my hometown of the Bronx; New York back in the early 90’s transporting guns illegally.

I care because I wasn’t coming back a vacationer; I was coming back a killer.

I care because by the time the bus pulled into the Port Authority, I was not only a full-fledged gunrunner; I was a murderer of my community… and of my own people.

And I care bec

ause sometimes when you destroy something… it becomes your responsibility and your duty to rebuild it.

I can offer words of apology for my past indiscretions, but what good do those words do anyone if my actions don’t reflect my remorse?

I was rewarded handsomely for becoming a gunrunner.

I was gifted with seeing my brother go off to jail while witnessing my mother’s heartbreak over her sons becoming criminals.

Blessed with watching my friends lifeless bodies lay in coffins, all of their potential stripped out of their bodies, much like their blood as it spilt onto the sidewalks of New York… all rewards for bringing guns into the neighborhood.

What wonderful memories to have of a short-lived career on the other side of the law.

These days I take a special interest in trying to combat teenagers beliefs that living by the gun and dying by the gun is as romantic a notion as every other Hip Hop video makes it out to be.

And I closely monitor politicians, such as Ruben Diaz Jr. proclaim the success of a recent gun buyback program that removed almost 1,200 guns off the streets of the Bronx.

But I wonder aloud how much of a success these programs really are.

Sure, you can dress it up and say each gun represents a saved life… But do they really?

I can’t help but wonder if the teens on the corners carrying guns to protect their “businesses” are involved in turning in their thousand dollar submachine guns for a $200 bank card.

Can’t help but wonder if any of those corner kids decided to simply turn in a gun just because they simply didn’t want to live the life anymore.

I listen to the Hot 97 Morning show in which a caller proclaims to have turned in a gun because of a broken clip… and I think to myself that this can’t be the only thing we’re doing to combat guns on the streets of New York.

Especially when the caller proudly proclaims that he still owns more weapons.

It’s a problem that continues to destroy our society’s morality and decency, in addition to the financial toll it’s taken on us.

According to the Violence Prevention Institute it costs us $100 billion annually to deal with gun violence, including the medical costs, the deaths, the investigations, incarcerations and everything else that plays into this never-ending pandemic.

I can’t tell you how much I’d love to witness a day when that money is geared towards the creation of jobs, strengthening the educational system, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and on and on…

Sorry, I just got lost in a dream that’ll never manifest itself… It was nice while it lasted.

But damn, $100 billion dollars – with that kind of money even Obama’s change could manage to be realized – I think.

Until then, I’ll do my part to apologize for destroying my community with my action to change them for the better, before we lose another 40-years and another $4 trillion dollars.

Before I lose myself again… It’s our problem. And it’s time we realize that we need to fix it ourselves.

~ Ivan Sanchez

Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos.


  1. It is great to see someone who is taking responsibility for his actions and finding a way to turn it into something positive!!

    Liza Marie

  2. Ivan..reading this reminds me of Justin and William, who we lost a year ago - right around the time of Obama's inauguration. I wrote this haiku and it's along the same lines as your piece.

    Murder in the Obama Years

    Ninety miles of hope
    Can’t stop bullets in the Bronx
    Gotta put in work for peace

    Keep reaching! I will too.


  3. Your blog hits home. I live in the Bronx & work @ the #1 Trauma Center in the Nation (Lincoln Hospital) We see more gunshot wound victims in our Emergency Room than we want to see!!! Enough said. Your honesty is valiant and honorable. You are to be respected for the person you have become. Keep the Faith!!!