The following is an op-ed piece by Sophie Leff, a junior at Northside College Prep. Sophie did Or Tzedek’s Activism and Community Organizing summer program in 2011 and Advanced Activism in 2012. She was a part of the leadership team who planned Or Tzedek’s first Winter Leadership Retreat in 2011. Sophie is currently the Social Action Vice President of Beth Emet Synagogue Senior Youth. In this op-ed, she writes, “There are times when I have to wonder how many young people my age will actually live to be the age where they can say they were born and raised here in Chicago.”
Guns are not toys. This, I think, we can all agree on. I would venture a guess that even those who don’t believe in stricter gun control laws accept that guns can be dangerous and should be used with care, and most importantly kept away from children.
Imagine my surprise when, the other night, I stopped in my local Mexican restaurant to pick up a burrito and was met with a 50 cent machine dispensing very realistic-looking, if less than life-size, “Guns n’ Grenades” key chains. For the low price of half a dollar, you too, can arm your son or daughter with a training weapon.
One of the reasons I was so shocked was that it seems so obvious. Giving a child a toy gun will not teach them how serious and dangerous such weapons are. It will not teach them to avoid guns for their own safety. It will not teach them to approach guns, if they ever must, with a strong sense of responsibility.
It will, instead, teach them that guns are fun toy to play with. It will teach them that it’s fun to pretend to shoot guns at your friends. It will teach them that guns can be carried around in your pocket all day, forgotten about and put through the wash on accident.
In the same way that giving children candy cigarettes will teach them that it is okay, fun even, to smoke later in life, it should be clear that accustoming children to violence and weapons when they are young is no way to ensure a safe future for them.
The US Senate, in turn, has not been doing its part to make this country safe from gun violence. It is a disappointment that gun control legislation, which is so painfully relevant in this day and age, could not make it passed the senate this week.
I live in one of the most violent cities in the country, which also happens to be one of the most segregated cities and have one of the worst public education systems. There are times when I have to wonder how many young people my age will actually live to be the age where they can say they were born and raised here in Chicago.
My generation is being decimated and the US Senate, the gun lobby, and the private sector are not only standing by and letting it happen, they are pushing gun toys into the hands of young children.
It is unacceptable to perpetuate this kind of cavalier attitude towards guns and violence for a profit, especially when the consequences will include thousands of young lives.