I was 12 years old the first and only time I saw a handgun that wasn’t in the possession of a police officer. My friend’s cousin pulled it from the front pocket of what was probably a Starter coat and pretended to be a character from Menace to Society, a fictional movie that brought kids from Connecticut suburbs closer to the hood than we had ever been.
The moment had after-school special written all over it. A white kid who did well in school shot and killed by a teenager who stole his father’s gun. But that never happened.
I simply got scared and went home.
My memories from that experience are pretty blurry and were almost forgotten completely until I read about Jamiel Andre Shaw Jr., the Los Angeles High running back who was shot and killed by a gang banger on March 2.
Shaw was on his way home when he was approached by two men in a car who wanted to know what gang he was with. When he didn’t reply, he was shot twice, dying on the spot. Unlike me, he was given no chance to just walk away.
The two situations are hardly comparable, but there is one constant. The same one that is obvious in all cases like these, from the high profile Sean Taylor-type murders to the accidental shootings that occur every single day.
Of course I’m talking about the gun.
It’s unfortunate that it takes the murder of an athlete with a bright future for sports fans and the sports media to start thinking about real-life issues like gun control, but maybe it can be a blessing in disguise. Maybe the aftermath of someone like Shaw’s murder will help everyone realize that it’s easy to obtain a gun legally and even easier to do it illegally and something needs to be done.
Hopefully Shaw’s murder will inspire leaders from Los Angeles and around the country to step up efforts to curb the amount of weapons flowing into all of our neighborhoods, from Compton to Greenwich. Maybe, just maybe, Shaw can have a greater impact on all of us in death than he would have had as a college running back or as a sports agent, which was his dream.
This is not the time for any of us to get scared and just walk away.