Two children died on the streets of Chicago while the Congressional Black Caucus celebrated the removal of a historic relic in South Carolina.1 As reported by the Chicago Tribune [link expired],2 Dillan Harris was sitting in his stroller when he was run over by a car escaping a shooting. The other child, seven-year-old Amari Brown, was shot dead. That’s what being one of Chicago’s vulnerable children is all about. It doesn’t have anything to do with the window dressing we hear about in the news like flags or bad cops or failing schools. It has to do with getting killed with no end to the killing in sight despite endless words about stopping inner city violence.
Children die while politicians play with words and numbers
While using the “vulnerable children” label is popular in gun control circles, firearm laws won’t stop a speeding car. The hackneyed line about people killing people remains true, despite liberal efforts to separate offenders from the bad things they do.
Politicians like to talk about violence and children. Chicago provides plenty of fodder. Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth blamed a bullet for the death of a 14-year-old:
Starkesia Reed was a fourteen year old honor roll student who was killed by a stray bullet from an AK-47 near her home in Chicago.3
Someone fired that bullet, but Duckworth’s words echoed Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s charge blaming guns for killing children:
Thousands of children are killed by guns each year in the United States. Homicide by firearm is the second-leading cause of death for young people ages 1-19 in our country, and thousands more kids are killed or injured in unintentional shootings.4
RINOish Illinois Senator Mark Kirk also cited thousands of children killed when he blamed gun violence and illegal firearms trafficking for Amari Brown’s death, remarking:
In Amari’s memory, and the memory of thousands like him, I will continue working towards a day when not one more young life is claimed by gun violence.”5
The FBI might argue with Schakowsky’s and Kirk’s numbers. 2013 data shows 479 homicides by firearms for children under 18. 217 were killed by “personal weapons” including hands and fists,6 which are a lot harder to control than guns.
The death of a child is a tragedy, but the homicide numbers get a lot uglier as soon as childhood is left behind. When children grow up that’s when they are the most at risk if they are African American, but the race differences take a back seat to using firearm deaths in the circular argument over gun control that resists placing the blame on people.
A scary fact about children who die from guns
The scary fact is that when African American kids grow up, their chances of getting killed explode. Recent FBI figures show that for 17-19 year olds, 287 whites and 602 black or African Americans were murdered in 2013. The numbers go up in the 20-24 age group, with 756 whites and 1,438 black or African American homicide victims. 25-29-year-olds showed a declining number of killings, 617 for whites and 1,065 for blacks or African Americans.7
What is the take away message? Emotionally wrenching stories make the best headlines and press releases and people in one group, not guns, are intent on killing each other.
Will putting drug offenders back on the streets help?
Presidential commutations amidst streets rife with crime
The death of a child is not so heartbreaking that our president can’t excuse one of the causes of gang violence as part of his legacy of making America a better place.
On July 13, 2015 President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 more offenders his administration believes received unfair prison sentences. One of the chosen had been sentenced for:
Conspiracy to distribute cocaine (more than five kilograms) and cocaine base (more than 50 grams; distribution of cocaine base (two counts) (Middle District of Florida).8
5 kilos of cocaine is a lot. The federal “Project Wildfire” strike against gangs puts the quantity in perspective:
HSI special agents also seized 82 firearms, 5.2 kilograms of methamphetamine, 7.8 kilograms of marijuana, 5.6 kilograms of cocaine, 1.5 kilograms of heroin, $379,399 in U.S currency, counterfeit merchandise with a manufactures suggested retail price of $547,534 and five vehicles during Project Wildfire.9
976 offenders were arrested during Project Wildfire.10 Just one of the offenders Obama took pity on was convicted of conspiring to distribute nearly as much cocaine as was seized during this entire sweep.
A shrewd Barack Obama commuted the prison sentences the day before he visited Philadelphia to speak at the NAACP National Convention. A coincidence? Before he got to his discussion of excessive sentencing, he made this observation:
A growing body of research shows that people of color are more likely to be stopped, frisked, questioned, charged, detained. African Americans are more likely to be arrested. They are more likely to be sentenced to more time for the same crime.11
He also mentioned that “Around one in nine African American kids has a parent in prison.”12
That’s where Obama and too many politicians miss the mark. It isn’t the system’s fault, a bullet or gun’s fault, or the form in which a drug is sold that puts people in jail and worse, kills children. It’s the bad things people do. Telling them they have been unfairly punished won’t save lives any more than trying to convince the American people that non-violent drug offenders conspiring to distribute kilogram quantities of cocaine don’t help fuel violence in cities like Chicago. While the irresponsible rhetoric continues, kids like Dillan Harris and Amari Brown will suffer the consequences.
Vulnerable children die from gun violence, but they also die from words.