A week after performing in her high school band at President Obama's inauguration, 15-year-old honor student Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed.
H adiya's story captured the attention of media and politicians finally focused, post-Newtown, on gun violence and the toll it takes on our communities. Yet she is only one of the hundreds of children killed each year with firearms - hundreds of victims, nameless and faceless to the media but mourned by parents, sisters, brothers and friends.
T hat is why I'm co-sponsoring a state-level ban on further sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. I also support universal background checks on would-be gun purchasers: a policy even 74 percent of National Rifle Association members favor. And I believe guns should be registered like cars. It's time - no, it's past time - for common sense gun legislation in response to the reality that children are dying because deadly weapons are so readily available.
I support common sense gun control not only as a legislator, but as a citizen. I've been involved with this issue for the last 10 years since I marched with Rev. Michael Pfleger around Chuck's Gun Shop. I've also worked with Purpose Over Pain, an organization of parents who have lost sons and daughters to violence. I know from my 10 years of engagement that we must stand united across geographic and partisan lines if we are to protect our children from wanton violence.
W e live in a war zone. Nationwide, 95,000 Americans have been murdered with guns since the Afghan War began in 2001 in contrast to the 6,500 American soldiers who have died in both the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts. In 2012 in Chicago, of the 505 mostly black and Latino murder victims, 108 were youths under 20 years of age.
T he time for action is now. President Obama has made curtailing gun violence a top priority on his legislative agenda. Mass shootings such as the one in Newtown, though rare compared to the countless attacks that claim lives one or two at a time, have focused national attention on the shameful fact that in this land of freedom and plenty, we still live in fear for ourselves and our children. We must act, and I hope this time we will.
Jacqueline Y. Collins
State Senator, 16th District