Monday, January 14, 2013

The Violence Of Hopelessness-- A Guest Post By Illinois Congressional Candidate Toi Hutchinson


There is no question that in America we have a problem with guns. The Newtown tragedy, the Aurora shooting, Columbine. These are places-- events-- that all of us will remember for the rest of our lives. And for me there is no question that there are certain kinds of weapons soldiers should have, and other kinds that civilians should be allowed to own.

As a State Senator I represent a district that straddles the landscape of South Suburban Chicago and the rural counties of Will and Kankakee. And if I win this race for Congress in the 2nd district, I will cover even more rural areas. I have a lot of constituents that are hunters. These people firmly believe that they should always be allowed to own guns that they need for recreation, and I’m with them. But I know, and they agree, that no one needs an AR-15 to bring down a deer. And no one needs a 100-round magazine on that semi-automatic for recreation or self-defense. So while I always will stand up for the hunters in my district, I also am a cosponsor on two bills in Illinois that would outlaw assault weapons and high capacity clips.

Unfortunately, that’s as far our national conversation on guns has gone so far. It’s not far enough. It’s easy for us to talk about banning military style weapons, closing the gun show loophole, instituting waiting periods. And those steps will hopefully help cut down the body count at mass shootings that happen too often in our country. But I’m a mother of three young children below the age of 16, and I worry about them and their friends all the time. I know that kids on the South Side of Chicago aren’t being shot by AR-15s. They’re being brought down by handguns being bought on the secondary market, not legally owned and registered guns that were purchased after a background check. On the South Side and in the South Suburbs, we’re losing a generation of young people, and the measures we’re talking about in Washington and in Springfield are just not enough.

We need to have a larger conversation about how our politics and our government are letting down poor communities that suffer every day under the yoke of violence. The source of crime and violence is hopelessness-- it is a generation of young people that doesn’t see a future, and view crime and gangs as the only path to supporting themselves. It is a generation of young men that can’t find work or a place to live, and crime becomes their only option. If we are to have any hope of lifting the plague of gun violence that led to over 500 murders in Chicago last year, we have to address this root cause-- hopelessness, a lack of direction, no sense of a better future. In an era where members of both parties seem to talk only about the fiscal deficit, everyone has forgotten that what we need to focus on is the opportunity deficit.

We need to get serious about programs that are proven to cut down on violence. Chicago Public Schools has an enrollment of over 400,000 students, but employs just 370 social workers. We need social workers to identify at-risk youth early, and provide the kind of intervention that can keep these kids on a path to success and prosperity. But right now, each CPS social worker is responsible for over 1000 students. That’s not at all practical and it means that the many kids we can help if we had the resources are being left to their own devices.

We have to invest in anti-violence programs and gang intervention initiatives. We need to support after school programs that keep kids safe and occupied between 3pm and 6pm, the most dangerous time of day. And we must invest in community colleges and vocational programs that help young people find work and opportunity, and give those released from prison the skills they need to get jobs that cut down on recidivism.

Too often as a country we talk about the quick fixes because the broader conversation is so much harder. Because in order to talk about the long-term solutions we have to admit that so many of the problems we face feel intractable and that in our zeal to cut taxes and spending, we cut lives too. Yes, we need to ban the kind of weapons that enable insane people to kill so many innocents in so little time. But we also can’t keep losing kids without standing up and fighting for them. I know that we can address our challenges, but we can only start when we talk for real about what those challenges are.

State Senator Toi Hutchinson
Candidate for Congress, IL-02


Establishment Democrats in DC would like to fill Jesse Jackson, Jr's old seat with a corporate shill, Debbie Halvorson, who describes herself as a "conservative Democrat." That would b a tragedy for the folks in the district. Please consider making a contribution to Toi's campaign here through Act Blue.

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