The Orlando Sentinel on how we must mourn gun violence victims, then act to prevent more:
There are no words to describe the choking grief when the sharp impact of bullets ends young lives full of bright promise. That impact hits across communities, but it is felt most keenly by those who understood the potential that has suddenly been erased.
Bullets stole the potential of a young man who was known by his colleagues at Spectrum News as a dedicated, talented reporter who approached his work with drive and determination. Dylan Lyons, 24, was slain by gunfire last week as he reported on the shooting death earlier that day of Nathacha Augustin in Pine Hills, Florida; photojournalist Jesse Walden was also wounded. Soon thereafter, 9-year-old T’yonna Major — who dreamed of following in the steps of gymnast Gabby Douglas — was killed, and her mother Brandi wounded, in a nearby house. According to Orange County Sheriff John Mina, the same gunman was implicated in all five shootings.
Those who knew these young people will never really get over it. But somehow, again and again, the greater community forgets their searing grief. Life goes on. Until, for the next victim, it doesn’t.
This time, can things end differently? Can we look at last week’s rampage and say: We can no longer tolerate this bloody toll — not just as individuals, but as a community?
This time, answer that question with yes. And here’s where the changes should start.
Heal the neighborhoods that bear the brunt of violence. The residents of of these neighborhoods don’t need anyone to tell them what is wrong with their communities. They know.
There are too few opportunities. Too many families can’t afford to move to safer subdivisions, and often work two and three jobs or face long commutes just to survive. Too many children grow up seeing casual drug use and weapons brandished like toys, even if their own parents show them the value of love and hard work. Residents have too few options to come together, establish bonds and plan for better futures. Too many areas lack access to resources — medical care, youth-oriented activities, even amenities like banks and grocery stores. They’ve seen too many years of not-so-benign neglect by leaders who only come around when elections are nigh.
They deserve better . ... How can they get it? Understand the roots of violence. We still don’t know much about the 19-year-old man who police say is responsible for last week’s shootings. If he is guilty, we have little sympathy for him.
But dismissing young criminals as thugs and monsters, with no deeper examination of the realities that shaped them, only guarantees that innocent victims will continue to fall. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings has already said that he intends to reconvene his violent crime task force. He should expand his scope to include a deeper look at why and how lives go so badly astray, and how to heal the hopelessness and anger that fuels so many to turn to addiction, violence and crime . ...