Gun violence has had a highly negative impact in America, and has had an even greater impact on cities, communities, and individuals. The rising violent actions with guns have caused an increase of fear and deaths nationwide. My research shows the effects that gun violence has on the community and the people. One does not have to be older in years to be affected by the violence around them nor to detect it. Teens all around California answer the questions: Should stricter gun laws be put into place? Have you or anyone you know every been affected by gun violence? Do you know what steps to take to put stricter gun laws into place?, and had a consensus throughout all of the questions. Gun violence is created when people commit crimes with a use of gun and hurt others. There appears to be a variety of steps one can take for the diminishment of gun violence.
Keywords: guns, violence, shots, death, injuries, California, Salinas, America
In Salinas, California, USA, and all around the world, gun violence has taken a toll on the daily lives of everyday people. Nobody is safe, no matter where he or she goes because gun violence can follow people into the most unsuspecting places. Even in dangerous neighborhoods, schools are thought to be one of the safest places for a person to be, especially during school hours. Every hour on school grounds there seems to be more than 2,000 confrontations that once ended with scratches and bruises that are now resulting in gunshot wounds and even death (Farrington, 1998). Gun violence can lead to drastic changes for individuals and even whole cities at any given time. It can ruin the reputation of some cities; to give an example, in Salinas, many people think the farther one goes into Salinas the higher the chances are for one to get shot (Goode. 2012).
The National Steinbeck Center, John Steinbeck’s House, Natividad Creek Park, and Bankers Casino are some places in Salinas that are a must see, but many people do not get to visit them due to fear of the city’s reputation. Economic development can also decrease when a city’s reputation is all about violence. Gun violence can lead to the loss of lives resembling jail time or death. A man named Brad Azcona is losing the ability to live his life to a life sentence in prison because he tried to end the life of four people, in which he succeeded in two of those attempts (Ruben, 2018). Gun violence leads to the loss of opportunity, life, money and so much more. It can affect a whole city as much as it can affect one person.
Discussion of Research
The rapid growth of gun violence leaves drastic numbers that show the negative outcome it leads to. Thousands are killed yearly, be it intentional or not, and this has a grand effect on mental health issues, money problems, and the feeling of safety disappearing in homes and communities. Gun violence can change the way individuals feel and think, and these individuals can make up a community with integrated fears and unnecessary measures that have to be taken to feel somewhat safe. The gun to citizen ratio is also on the rise and the United States has a higher level of personal gun ownership when compared to other developed countries worldwide (Webster, pg. 5). Salinas is a prime example of a city in the need and want for help. The teens in Salinas have grown up with gun violence and want to take actions towards ending it because it has affected them at some point in their lives or they just do not want it to affect them or someone they know.
Death Due to Gun Violence Gun violence is one of the top contributors for teen and child injuries and deaths in the United States. The statistics show that this type of violence rarely diminishes, instead it seems to be increasing drastically over the last few years due to guns being used in an unsafe and unethical way. An average of 124,760 people in America are shot in one year, but out of those 124,760 people, only around 89,620 of them survive. Around 17,207 children, aged from zero to 19 years old, are shot in the United States more than half survive and less than a 5th of the children have fatal injuries. Gun violence results in a loss of many lives daily and even greater one yearly in America. These rising stats also show an average of 7 out of 39 children are shot and die daily in the U.S. and the average amount of people shot in one day is around 340 (Brady Campaign, n.d.). Not all gun-related deaths are intentional, to give an example, Azahel Cruz, 6, was getting ready for bed when he was shot and killed by a stray bullet that entered his East Salinas home in March 2015 (Goode, 2012). Many gun-related deaths are intentional and usually results of gang and domestic violence, suicides, and mental and emotional instabilities. These intentional deaths and injuries can be prevented and lessened if people took appropriate action and preventive measures to stop the deadly firearms from getting into the wrong hands.
Effects on Students
Many young adults and teens from 8th grade to college from the Monterey Bay county feel that gun violence has affected their lives or the lives of someone they know. In a self-administered survey of 76 teenagers and young adults in California showed that around 40% of the survey takers had experienced or knew someone that experienced gun violence (Appendix A). Almost 90% of the teens and young adults also believe those who want to own a gun should go through more procedures to gain that ability (Appendix B). Many of the teens and young adults want there to be more procedures for becoming a gun owner, but only around 60% of the teens know what steps are needed to make it harder to obtain a gun (Appendix C).
There seems to be a various amount of reasons why stricter gun laws are not in place, and according to our survey takers “People rather turn a blind eye to it and pretend like it doesn’t affect them or doesn’t even exist” (Appendix D). A poll of 2,000 teens showed 1 in 8 teens have carried a gun for protection, 1 in 9 have cut classes or stayed at home due to fear of gun violence, 1 in 5 change their friendships to find safer ones, and almost half of them said they had made a change in their daily lives to avoid crime or violence. The teens rather avoid certain places, take different routes, change their friends, and go out of their way to avoid being caught in harm’s way (Farrington, 1998).
Effects on Communities
Communities can have culture, exciting sights to see, and anything one can imagine, but none of that matters if the community is feared by people for having a negative fame brought upon it with guns, deaths, and injuries. In 2009, Salinas had 29 homicides and 151 shootings, in 2010, there were 15 homicides, and in 2011 there were 12 homicides and 50 shootings which were an all-time low form the last decade. This lowering stats were a product of the city of Salinas’ plan to reduce violence in the whole country. The cutting of funds led to this program being cut, but new programs, that were more cost-efficient, were being created to try and reduce violence with the lower budget given (Goode, 2012). Once gun violence has become a daily, people start to lose the fear they once had of it and become desensitized to all of the police sirens and gunshots they hear. Violence, death, and injuries become a norm in the citizens’ daily lives and once this happens they forget their community ever had a problem.
Salinas is a place where violence can appear as a reoccurring issue for the city. This is why, it has so many bloody landmarks like the memorial of Enrique Sosa, Carlos Robles, and Moises Sanchez (Goode, 2012). The first homicide victim of this year was named, Enrique Sosa, also known as “Kiki”, who was a freshman at Everett Alvarez High School. He was shot by the inhabitants of a dark SUV on 7 January 2018, around 6:30 pm. The system ShotSpotter that detects gunshots led SPD to the crime scene where the paramedics later arrived and took Sosa to Natividad Medical Center. His gunshot wounds were fatal and he passed later that day in the hospital (Rubin, 2018). In the year of 2015, a 25-year-old man named Brad Azcona murdered two victims with fatal gunshot wounds in the month of September. Azcona shot at a man, who received injuries to his arm, 13 times in which the neighbors’ houses were struck with the bullets. Later, on 8 September 2015, Azcona shot Moises Sanchez, 18, who was the driver of the vehicle, in the head and Carlos Robles, 16, who was the passenger and left them both with deadly gunshot wounds.
Around two weeks after the deaths of Sanchez and Robles, Azcona was caught by surveillance footage trying to steal a man’s tablet and pistol-whipping him after refusing to give him the tablet. Azcona was caught on 8 October 2015, after a twelve-hour standoff in a Salinas home against the SPD: He was charged with two counts of 1st degree murder, two counts of attempted murder, assault with a firearm, attempted robbery, negligent discharge of a firearm, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The jury also found true a special circumstance that Azcona committed multiple murders (Wright, Par 2, 2018). Azcona was sentenced to many life sentences without the possibility of parole, 28 years, and four months in prison. (Wright, 2018)
This topic caught my interest because even though I have never seen a gun up close in real life, I lost a long time family friend to gun violence. My friend’s name was Enrique Sosa and his life was taken away by force with the fatal gunshot wounds given to him at the beginning of this year. Salinas is my hometown, and I grew up in a relatively safe and quiet part of Salinas. There appears to be many places in Salinas that are more dangerous than others, and I wanted to hear the opinion other Salinas residents my age had. My survey revealed that we all had similar opinions and thoughts because we want our hometown to be safe and welcoming unlike it is now. Salinas is known as one of the most dangerous cities in the Monterey Bay Area and its climbing crime rates are no help. Gun violence is a big issue in Salinas just like gang violence is.
Gangs use other forms of weapons, but one of the top choices are guns. Many innocent lives are lost yearly and daily due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Drive-bys kill many innocent people a year and injure many more. I wanted to research more on this subject to better understand my community and why we have so many issues. The research has opened my eyes to see everything from a different viewpoint. Before my friend’s death, I had never experienced gun violence, and I thought it was because I lived in a “safe” part of Salinas, when in reality anything can happen to anyone, no matter who or where you are. Implications for Future This issue has no easy fix, but there are steps one can take to help and put a start to the end of gun violence. There appears to be many precautions schools, businesses, and homeowners can take to prevent it from happening in their own building.
Schools and businesses can have metal detectors at the entrances when entering the schools to ensure no weapons enter school grounds, and if a student or staff member shows certain signs such as isolation, family problems, having no ethics, weapon obsessions, standoffish manner, and showing no remorse, then they should be reported and dealt with right away to avoid people getting injured. Homeowners can also take many actions to avoid gun violence. To give an example, they can choose to not own a gun and if they do own a gun make sure everyone in the house knows how and when to appropriately use it and that everyone is mentally and emotionally stable. If there appears to be guns in the house make sure they are secured and not easily accessed by just anyone. Everyone and every place should have security cameras and always have at least two people looking at them to ensure nothing dangerous is going to happen or is happening. In Salinas, we can call our local representatives and tell them to pass legislation in Congress to ban assault weapons from getting onto our streets and we can vote for leaders that support gun regulations.
This research has helped me understand my community in a more profound way. Gun violence affects my whole city, Salinas, and more people than just myself believe more gun laws should be created to keep us safer. I should have focused more on the aspect of solving the issues, the way people feel and think about gun violence, and avoided going down the path of the past stories. The past stories are a place to learn on how to put a stop to gun violence and to see how the community and people were affected, but not everyone related to the stories of the communities because it may have not affected them at all or they might have not even known about them. I also should have learned more in the aspects of creating awareness about gun violence. There are marches, speeches, and posters, but there seems to not be enough rallies about gun violence with intriguing activities for all ages. I should have found a solution to involve all people of all ages and genders, and just because it is a “guy thing” to talk and deal with guns, it does not mean the women in the communities should not take a stand nor the young adults and teens because they are looked at as “unwise”.
Humans are made to look out for danger, from a young age one can detect where the danger is and where it is coming from. Survey I also surveyed students from 8th grade through college in California, and we all had similar viewpoints towards gun violence in our communities. I should have created another survey in which I sent out the question “Would you like to get involved in taking a stand against gun violence?” in which I later would send them an email on the laws they should vote on and a great way to get involved with their community and assist in the minimization of gun violence in their communities. The survey was a great success in seeing the opinions of other my age, and even though we are considered young, our communities still profoundly impact our lives and we want and need a say on what happens around us, our friends, and family. Dead-Ends The dead-end paths I went down where focusing on what gun violence is and how many it affected instead of what is causing it. I should have broadened my research to answer “What are some solutions everyday people can take to get involved in to minimize the amount of gun violence in their neighborhoods?”. I focused more on bring peoples’ attention to events that have already happened where I should have been talking about future events, so they could get involved and interact with their community and make it a safer one. It is good to hear the past stories to learn from history, but we need to see towards the future to find ways to change the negatives and take action with slow but steady steps.