WASHINGTON — He liked to dance. He liked to run; a newfound joy used in chasing the family dog. He had a smile that could grab a heart. The smile of the well-loved. He was happy, full of bright potential. All of this, taken away in a moment of pointless violence, and once again, a shattered family, a community, is left to piece themselves back together.
The mending began Saturday evening as hundreds of mourners gathered in his memory, Carmelo Duncan, the youngest victim of gun violence in D.C. this year. Over 300 hundred strong, they came together armed with poster-sized pictures of that smiling face, and balloons, which they released into the night sky.
They also gathered themselves around a question that has yet to be answered; How does this happen to a child of 15 months? An innocent.
If you remember, a similar question was asked by another heartbroken community here just a few short months ago. That child, 11 years old.
Some would have you believe it’s “those people” themselves who are to blame. That "they" are somehow prone to this type of violence and uncaring about the loss of life. This of course ignores all the voices we hear crying out for an end to these shootings. Voices raised at rallies, in churches, schools, barbershops, and street corners. This also ignores the fact that no community in this country is spared this heartache. This pain, uniquely American, envelops the nation.
A reward has been established, an incentive to help find and bring little Melo’s assailant to justice. But what do we do about the future? What incentive will help bring us to face our collective failings on this issue? Because, the death of our children, our babies, don’t seem to be it.
In the aftermath of these incidents, we often hear talk of services that should be offered to address the root causes, mental health and trauma counseling, employment programs, and the like. We may also hear talk of increasing punishments for offenders, as a deterrent. What we never hear from our leaders is serious talk of gun control legislation. Controls and restrictions that large majorities of the public support. Instead, we’re given thoughts and prayers and talks of rights and freedoms.
It’s going to take far more than this. It's going to take commitment. A dedication to taming the gun violence that stalks us all. Unless and until we’re willing to make this commitment, there will be another family torn apart, and another community will be left to gather in the street. It takes a village to raise a child. And it takes the failings of one to take one away.