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Good News for Hartford Board of Education


Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra recently announced his support to have a new leader at the helm of Hartford’s Board of Education on Feb. 18: Richard Wareing.

This is good news.

Wareing, an attorney and a mayoral appointee to the board since 2012, is seemingly passionate about putting the welfare of students first. Most importantly, he is able to rise above the malaise that sometimes grips Hartford when it comes to making substantive changes for the greater good.

Yeah. We know. Wareing is a lawyer and a Republican who champions “school choice.” And he’s been active in city politics for decades, having served on the Metropolitan District Commission since he was 19. But he has also demonstrated this much: he cares. He constantly champions parental input. And he stresses that parents should be well-informed about proposals in the district.

editorialbannerthumb When parents were upset about a proposed closing of Clark Elementary School and then a move to convert it into a magnet school, Wareing passionately and eloquently detailed the rational for turning Clark into a magnet school, unveiling previously withheld facts that later helped parents arrive at an informed decision about the proposed changes.

It was clear to some onlookers that he buried his ego and used common sense to assess what would truly be best for students. In this particular case, what was best for Clark was the money the state would funnel into the school. What Clark school needed was more resources to continue its progress. And under the Sheff  v. O’Neill school desegregation lawsuit agreement, converting it into a magnet/charter school would help direct resources to it. Clark is now among the Commissioner’s Network of Schools, which will allow it to get the necessary resources needed to make drastic improvements.

Another good news is that Rev. Dr. Shelley Best will join the Hartford Board of Education to ensure that students continue to rise above mediocrity and offend those who have low expectations of them. Best, a gifted orator and community leader, is the president and CEO of the Conference of Churches and is seemingly committed to servant leadership. Best would replace Cherita McIntye, another mayoral appointee who resigned in December.

The recent appointment, in addition to the recently elected board members with a history of civic engagement, has Hartford schools poised for great progress well into 2014. However, it’s odd that no West Indians have been appointed in the long history of the board of education,  given the large number of them in the city and its schools. We hope city administrators will rectify this egregious error soon.

In any case, there are good reasons to celebrate Hartford’s progress, which is to come for our long-neglected public schools.

Yeah!

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What Do Republicans and Democrats Look Like?


By Glenn Mollette

I’ve heard a lot of discussion about political profiles in recent days.

The Republicans supposedly are the corporate greedy CEOs and the Democrats supposedly are all those standing in the government entitlement lines. Not true.

My father was a Republican. For thirty years of his life he drove an older model truck

glen mollettAlmost two hours one-way to Holden, W.Va. where he worked in an underground coal mine. He worked eight to ten hours a day and then came home to farm two to three hours before crashing into bed. We worked a small garden, cared for ten to twenty cows, had some hogs, raised a large corn patch and you get the idea. My father was always exhausted during the workweek.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionMy mother was a Democrat. For several years she worked in the school system. She raised five children, washed clothes with a ringer washer in the early years and when there was not enough rainwater we carried water from the creek. She made breakfast and had supper on the table every evening and kept the house immaculately clean. She worked with my dad in the garden, milked cows, tended her flowers and like my dad was usually exhausted.

On Sundays they got dressed up and went to church. They sang in the church choir and often sang in a quartet in other churches.  Life was not always easy and as with many families there were those times when we wondered if we would make it.

Looking back I can say my father was a hard working Christian Republican. My mother was a hard working Christian Democrat. Together, they built a house, raised five kids, entertained family and friends and both lived to be 85. They were not wealthy in retirement but with a thirty-year miner’s pension, Social Security and a balanced lifestyle they did fine.

If only all Republicans and Democrats today could be as blessed. Imagine what our states and nation might accomplish if we worked together? These are tough times. We have to make some unpopular decisions in this country. People are hurting, stressed to the max and even in the streets hungry.

We cannot go on with the “Us against them” syndrome. If we do we are only going to lose more jobs, incur more national debt, lose more corporations to other countries, increase taxes and watch our communities drown in drugs, violence and poverty.

Abraham Lincoln was quoting the Bible when he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Glenn Mollette is an American columnist read in all fifty states. Contact him at GMollette@aol.com  Like his facebook page at www.facebook.com/glennmollette. He is the author of American Issues,  Hear him each Sunday night at 8 EST on XM Radio 131.

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Is the Room at the Top of Civil Rights Organizations for Men Only?


By Earl Ofari Hutchinson New America Media

In a petition circulated online, Change.org minces no words–“NAACP: Hire the First Woman President in the NAACP’s 104 year History.”

Seventy percent of the respondents agreed it is time that NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) elect the first permanent woman president in its history.

The petition and the clamor for a woman to lead the organization came almost within moments after current NAACP President Ben Jealous announced he was stepping down at the end of the year. This is hardly the first time there’s been a clamor and an even louder criticism of the dearth of female leaders at the top of the nation’s major civil rights organizations.

earl-hutchinsonTwo things have marked the litany of civil rights organizations past and present. One is that throughout the history of the best-known major civil rights groups–the Urban League, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and of course the NAACP–no woman has occupied the top spot any of them.

The sole exception was in 2009, when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which in its declining years finally elected the first woman head, Bernice King, Dr. Martin Luther King’s daughter. But that breakthrough was short-lived when King the-hartford-guardian-Opinioncould not reach agreement with the SCLC’s male-dominated board regarding the terms of her presidency.

The second major earmark of civil rights organizations has been the number of prominent women who played pivotal roles in the fight for justice and equality. They are well-known: Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Gloria Richardson, Dorothy Cotton, Septima Clark, Dorothy Height, to name a few.
These women had to wage two fights. One was for civil rights and one was against the blatant sexism and male dominance among the rank and file and leadership in the civil rights organizations.

The men frequently denigrated and minimized women’s role and importance, or they pigeon holed them into so called women’s roles—typists, phone answerers, general gofers, and just plain flunkies for the men. In some cases, they sexually exploited and abused women.

The most blatant example of this was Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver’s frequent admonition that the only place for women in the movement was “prone.” This ignited a firestorm of criticism and condemnation from female Panther members and among women activists in various other civil rights organizations. Although Cleaver took much deserved heat for his insulting and outlandish digs at women, he reflected the quiet sentiment of far too many men that, aside from their views of women, their positions were some of the most advanced, forward thinking and progressive in their social concepts and activism.

The Achilles’ Heel of the civil rights organizations remained the quiet and destructive sexism within their ranks. This history burst into public in the run-up to the 50th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington this past August. A number of women took dead aim at the march’s 1963 organizers for what they considered the deliberate exclusion of women from a major role in the planning, organizing and deliverance of any of the keynote speeches at the historic event.

Those women didn’t stop with a nostalgic glancing, over-the-shoulder critique of the events 50 years ago. Instead, they openly wondered how much had really changed within the major civil rights organizations today.

Apart from the towering roles that women played in past civil rights battles as activists and organizers, radical women, such as Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis and Hamer showed by their courage and example that they could more than hold their own and even surpass most men, including men who were considered the movement leaders, in terms of vision, passion, energy and steel-like dedication to the fight for economic and social justice.

Yet despite the power of their leadership and example, they still had to struggle against marginalization by male leaders. In spite of their prominence and name recognition, they constantly bumped up against the intrinsic and galling reality that when it came to leadership and decision-making in organizations, the hard edge of traditional and ingrained male domination and female marginalization continued to be the order of the day.

While many applauded an Angela Davis and rallied to her defense, she was still seen by many men as a woman first, second and often last, and not as a black leader. Yet, just as in the past, there were powerful examples of women as activists and leaders in the civil rights movement, there are even more women today who are fully capable of being not only the visible face of a major civil rights organization, but one of its leading decision and policy makers as well.

NAACP has legions of women in local decision- and policy-making roles in their various chapters. Any one of them could step into the top presidential spot. There are also prominent women outside the organization that BlackAmericaweb.com named, who could assume the president’s mantle.

Among them are Stefanie James Brown, former NAACP youth and college director; Aisha Moodie-Mills, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress; Sherrilyn Ifill, president and counsel-director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Appointing any one of them to head the organization would signal that the NAACP has shattered the glass ceiling. It would send a powerful message that the organization regards the fight for gender equality and against sexism as being equally potent and compelling as the historic and continuing fight for racial justice and equality.

NAACP has a golden opportunity to open the door of its male-only room at the top to women. It’s an opportunity that it and no other civil rights organization purporting to call itself a champion of civil rights should blow.

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Hartford Board of Education and City Need Immigrant Representation


Four party-endorsed candidates are vying for four seats in the Hartford’s Board of Education election on Nov. 5. Voters could have had other choices had the political parties feverishly engage city residents, many of whom are immigrants and children of immigrants.

See voting ballots online here.

Hartford is set to hire a school superintendent, continue its controversial reform efforts and manage millions of grants and donations it attracted from the federal government, Bill Gates and “corporate reformers,” who are set to close schools in the North End of Hartford. Moreover, the Hartford Public School district, like other districts across the nation, is implementing common core state standards, new teacher evaluation methods and curriculum for 21st century students.

Therefore, all eyes should be on the 2013 reshuffling, even if there are only four party-endorsed candidates. The Democratic Party candidates include Michael Brescia, 79,  a former Buckley High School teacher; Beth Parker, 35, a research scientist at Hartford Hospital and a faculty member in health sciences at the University of Hartford; Craig Stallings, 40,  a self-employed tax specialist. Working Families Party incumbent Robert Cotto Jr., 32, is a senior fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children.  There are no Republican candidates.

Joe Gonzalez, a 39-year-old warehouse manager and a Democrat, is a write-in candidate. Originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico, Gonzalez said he wants to represent the Hispanic immigrant. Though not an immigrant, Gonzalez’s desire to represent immigrants highlights a larger issue. In a city of immigrants, very few immigrants find their way into the Hartford’s political arena, much less the inner circles.

The Hartford Guardian is not seeing enough evidence that Hartford is integrating its immigrant population.

editorialbannerthumbWith nativism on the rise, new arrivals to the city are experiencing a higher rate of discrimination and exclusion. This is unfortunate because in other cities, such as Philadelphia and Baltimore, the immigrant population has spurred economic growth and vitality. The same can be done for Hartford’s 124,893 residents if more effort is put into integrating these immigrants into all aspects of the city, including commissions, boards and the city council—fostering a sense of belonging. And it can start with the school board, seen by ambitious politicos as a sure and steady pathway to higher office.

Of the total population in 2011, more than 22 percent are foreign born. And 26 percent, or 31,474, of the entire population are school-age children below 18. More than half the school’s students are migrants, immigrants or children of immigrants, according to recent estimates by school officials. Moreover, Hartford school boasts a diverse student population from more than 24 countries and who speak more than 70 languages. In fact, about two thirds of the city’s population is from the Caribbean region. Understanding these sub-cultures in the city will be crucial to “turning around” schools. We don’t see meaningful reform happening any other way. And the record of slow and misguided growth in the school district confirms this.

The current board in no way represents the city’s population, especially the immigrant population—the most vulnerable residents in the city. Consequently, the board has failed to attend to the need of most immigrant families and their children who find it difficult to navigate the school system and who are wrongly treated as “foreigners who don’t vote.”   Board members seemingly don’t understand the nuances of navigating a new country with a different accent. Or think about it during meetings.

Additionally, the Hartford Democratic Town Committee, which is primarily responsible for recruiting possible candidates for elected office, does a poor job of engaging new Americans. Members do not advertise their meetings, or do outreach, in these communities. For example, the HDTC does not update their website,  another way of keeping information from the public’s purview.

In fact, when the HDTC held a recent meeting to select its slate, it failed to inform the immigrant papers, online news sources, or community organizations. Some critics say it was done deliberately to exclude these groups and to engineer a carefully handpicked board. As for the Hartford Republican Party, it seemingly wants nothing to do with immigrants at this time. The Working Families Party already has its candidate.

This circumscribed life for new Americans in Hartford is unacceptable. Most of these citizens are Democrats. They should not be excluded from any part of the democratic process, or only told to show up and vote.

City officials, including the town committees, can correct this decade-old problem by appointing first-generation immigrants and their children to the board so that they too have a voice in what kind of education their children receive. Instead of erecting barriers to an already messy and complicated democratic process, officials should ensure these residents feel a sense of belonging so the city can reap the benefits of an engaged and caring community.

Public relations strategies that “support immigrants” are not enough. Real support is having new Americans seated at the table.

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Letter: Tea Party Wasted America’s Time


Dear Editor:

Finally the nation and the world can take a breath of relief; the Senate and the House came up with a compromise for the President to sign off on.

As result of a Speaker caving in to the extreme members of his party, America and the world suffered physical and psychological damage. The nation and the world were put on hold because of inexperienced lawmakers’ attempts to demonize and defund the Affordable Care Act.

letterstohartfordguardianJohn Boehner, the Speaker of the House, should be fired for putting this nation through this type of stretch of uncertainty. It is my notion, many among the Tea Party members would probably fair better if they were on meds to help in their thought processes; they held the nation and the world financial reliance system hostage because of their bitterness against the Affordable Care Act.

They did not listen to the seniors in their party; and they went out on a limb that had to be pulled in. Consequently, the effort to defund Obamacare was in vain. It was a waste of time, and lot of people suffered. This will not be forgotten in the 2014 elections.

 –Alfred Waddell

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Health Care Reform in Slow Gear for Hartford


Healthcare reform is coming to Connecticut on Oct. 1.

And with less than a month to go, Connecticut’s congressional delegation was scheduled to meet on Wenesday to help ramp up an awareness campaign in the city of Hartford and the state, hoping to convey the import of this major reform spawn by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Access Health CT, charged with the gargantuan task of setting up an online marketplace to help enroll people, have been traversing the state with informational meetings, sending out press releases to mainstream media, particular ethnic circulars and local gate keepers who traditionally disseminate information to their family and friends network. Access also attended community fairs, concerts and festivals. They are, indeed, aggressively getting the word out about Access Health CT. Last Wednesday, officials said they were ready for the Oct. 1 rollout.

But what it all means for Hartford residents, especially people of color, has yet to be told.

editorialbannerthumbCase in point: at an Aug. 6 block party in the Blue Hills neighborhood, a twenty-something white man approached a black woman sitting at a table. He mumbled something about insurance and was shooed away. When asked about the nature of the man’s spiel, she said she didn’t hear most of what he said, “just something about insurance.”

The Hartford Guardian was present and found it interesting that Access sent a white male into an all-black community to promote the Affordable Care Act. Why not hire someone from the neighborhood?

This health care program, also known as Obamacare, are for people without insurance, who cannot get insurance because of preconditions and a whole host of categories. Most likely, it is for people who are unemployed and underemployed, many of whom are black and Latino.

A recent phone conference with the ethnic press conveyed the importance of the Affordable Care Act and its impact on communities of color and the poor. Several callers wanted to know about resources for community outreach, or for doing substantive stories about the program.  That’s because implementation of Obamacare, as its sometimes called, is a $5 billion industry; and many companies will be cashing in. As usual, not many small and minority businesses have been in that loop during the early stages.

Additionally, many ethnic papers would like to go beyond referring people to a website and instead disseminate substantive information through a cultural lens. And it was evident in the recent conversation, which also illustrated the knowledge gap that will certainly have a ripple effect in communities of color, if not mitigated soon.

With less than 30 days to go, ethnic communities will have to play catch on mountains of information that have accumulated since January. But many also want to make one thing very plain. They are not interested in just being consumers of the health insurance marketplace. They want more.

On the heels of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, people of color are asking for not just civil rights but also economic justice.

How the state spends millions of dollars to implement this major healthcare reform will be a significant indicator on the question of equity and whether we will have to march on the Washington Mall again in another 50 years.

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Hartford Unveils Journalism and Media Academy, But for Whose Benefit?


At a time when newspapers are folding, or going digital and local, Hartford Public Schools on Tuesday kicked off the 2013-2014 academic year by unveiling three renovated school buildings, including a state-of-the-art Journalism and Media Academy.

Officials said the Academy offers courses such as social media, sports journalism, television production, radio broadcasting, graphic arts, and mobile app design. The Academy has partnered with the Connecticut Public Broadcast Network and its brand new $3.5 million Learning Lab at the CPBN offices on Asylum Avenue, which also houses WNPR radio and CTMirror.org, mostly all-white media entities.

The renovated Academy building on Tower Avenue has “smart” classrooms, large MAC computers, top-shelf sound booths, TV and radio studios and a green room.  All this is in a building much bigger than the former WFSB Channel 3 studio in downtown Hartford. Attracting only 53 students to its incoming freshman class and retaining about 140 students from the Journalism Media Academy in Weaver High School, many classrooms were empty on Tuesday.

No surprise there.

editorialbannerthumbBuilding magnet schools to attract white suburban bodies to Hartford’s 95 percent minority school district is arguably a laudable goal under the Sheff v. O’Neill school integration plan. However, a journalism academy focusing on skill sets that mature on a solid academic foundation will unlikely benefit most high school students in Hartford—if they are thinking of going to college and beyond. Summer journalism programs, yes. But eight years of high school and college journalism courses is nonsensical and impractical, especially for black students.

The irony was evident when Mayor Pedro Segarra stepped in a class with seven black students and a white male teacher. Inside the room, Segarra introduced two white Hispanic communication professionals as the future of journalism. He got it wrong. It’s not the future; it is the current state of journalism, especially in the city of Hartford.

That classroom scene also reflects the issue of newsroom diversity espoused by the Kerner Commission following the 1967 Watts Riots. To those not privy to the historical perspective on the media diversity question, the mayor’s antics unwittingly revealed the same societal problem that existed before the Kerner report and the Civil Rights Movement.

A black journalist is an anomaly at city hall and elsewhere in Hartford. And Segarra reinforced that notion of disappearing black news professionals.

Consider this: The number of black journalists in the news business has been dramatically and systematically decreased in the last decade. According to the 2013 American Society of News Editors (ASNE)’s annual diversity survey, the number of black journalists in newsroom  remained steady in 2013. That’s after ASNE’s previous report showed a decrease from 4.68 percent in 2011 to 4.65 percent in 2012.

ASNE’s goal is to have the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms to reflect the percentage of minorities in the nation’s population by 2025.  Currently minorities comprise 37.02 percent of the U.S. population. By 2025, it’s expected to be 42.39 percent.

The implications for the lack of news coverage by black journalists in a “minority-majority” city has been articulated in the Kerner Report, which makes the case for a sincere commitment to racial and ethnic diversity because “the media media failed to report adequately on the causes of and consequences of civil riots and race relations.”

In Hartford alone, there are no full-time black journalists covering city hall or the school district. And since his election to a full term, the mayor has infused cash into the Hispanic media market and has seemingly made it a bargaining chip when doling out opportunities to corporate and nonprofit media.

Most recently, the city of Hartford awarded a grant to one local Hispanic publisher for her new enterprise, the Latino Way. Additionally, the largest newspaper in the state has selectively highlighted the work of other Hispanic media outlets, and WNPR devoted an entire radio show to a new Hispanic online media organization. But they have done very little for black and women-owned media organizations such as The Hartford Guardian.

Additionally, CPBN/WNPR in partnership with Segarra’s administration, received $1 million from the state’s bond commission to build a studio that is expected to  “train students” in the field of communications.

CPBN  is an affiliate of WNPR, which has a 4 percent minority listenership. It buys programming from NPR, a national public radio station. But is not owned by, or beholden to, NPR’s diversity policies, according to an NPR spokesperson.

From our vantage point at The Hartford Guardian, the mayor and his administration’s partnerships with these media organizations to benefit the Latino and white community should be of concern to most city residents. And should be investigated further.

Having a journalism and media academy will not attract smart students to Hartford. It has, and will further, strengthen an incumbent mayor’s alliances with corporate entities,  improve CPBN/WNPR’s outreach to the Hispanic listeners, and serve as a playground for media professionals who like shiny toys.

The $37.45 million renovated Academy will benefit Hartford’s children the least, especially those who crave rigorous curricula for a diverse and global society. Given the state of  media diversity in Connecticut today, to argue otherwise is a farce.

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African and Caribbean Immigrants are Often Forgotten in the Debate in Washington.


By Janelle Ross (The Root) – Lowell Hawthorne’s immigrant tale isn’t exactly a secret.

immigration_reform_320In 2003 Black Enterprise magazine named Hawthorne’s Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill Inc. one of the top 100 black-owned companies in the United States. And when Hawthorne, Golden Krust’s CEO, published a book late last year about his journey from new American to embodiment of the proverbial American dream, newspapers large and small published stories outlining his business struggles and triumphs.

He hasn’t exactly lived in the shadows.

But the same can’t be said for the other 3.5 million immigrants of African or Caribbean descent in the U.S. In many cases these immigrants are invisible, since they aren’t likely to be the first people who come to mind when most Americans think about the conversation going on in Washington, D.C., about immigration reform.

Read More on The Root.com

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Marcia Gillespie Urges A Move Toward Real Change


HARTFORD – Marcia Ann Gillespie knows what’s really important in the long Civil Rights Movement toward full citizenship for oppressed groups.

At  Women’s Day at the Capitol  hosted by  Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), the 79-year-old writer and educator reminded the privileged few that we have –for too long–emphasized individual success. Gillespie is a former editor in chief of Essence and Ms. magazines and has been an advocate for examining the complexity confined to the intersection of race and gender. She was the keynote speaker for the annual event and spoke on the theme: “A Reflection of 40 Years of the Women’s Movement.”

marcia-gillespie-hartford,ct

Photo Courtesy of PCSW

Using her lens as a highly visible women’s right advocate in the 1970s, Gillespie articulated the need for women to “kinda get sick and tired” of the struggle that seems reminiscent of  struggles in the 1970s. She added that there was nothing wrong with looking at the ceiling. It gives us inspiration. But it behooves those who are “comfortable” to look for change among the masses.

That’s because “real change is what happens among the least of us,” Gillespie said, “not for those who are at the top.”

This was especially apt for many of us in Connecticut as we celebrated black history month and women’s history month in the first quarter of 2013. The PCSW was among several organizations that reflected on the improved status of many blacks and white women in Connecticut. But there is a strong tendency for too many organizations to exclude and marginalize other groups while they advocate for justice and social equality.

Nowhere was that more poignant than at Women’s Day at the Capitol. Of course, it goes without saying that the PCSW has done important work in its 40 years of existence and will continue to do so.

However, Gillespie reminded about 250 attendees that they should also be compassionate and strong advocates for ALL women, especially immigrant women who are among the most vulnerable.

Perhaps on Immigrant Rights Day at the Old State House we’ll see these women on April 10. Maybe then their message about the state of sisterhood in Connecticut will not be so hollow.

Watch:

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Newtown Shooting Brings Another 9/11 Moment


Dear letterstohartfordguardianEditor:

Perhaps because the victims were mostly children, perhaps because it came on the heels of three other record-setting mass shootings, but whatever the reason, America is ready to replace sympathy and condolences with action.

For the first time in our history, we’re ready to tell the gun lobby that we’ve had enough.

When NRA spokesmen hit the talk shows this week, pleading, “Let’s not get too hasty,” this time, we’re ready to do just that, act quickly and hastily before the next round of shooters can claim anymore victims.

This time, when NRA spokesmen hide behind the Second Amendment, we’ll reach behind it, grab them and hold them accountable.

When they sit smugly on the talk shows and claim, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” we’ll respond no sir, actually, guns kill people.

It is now time for a ban on automatic weapons, increased waiting periods and background checks for gun purchases, or whatever measure it takes so that the next would-be mass murderer won’t have such an easy time getting a weapon.

B. Stephens,

Rolling Meadows, Illinois

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