Columnists Opinion

THE X FACTOR: ‘I’m tired of going to babies’ funerals’

Since the start of the Trump administration, the debate on gun control has stayed on the minds of many Americans, and at the forefront of this country’s political discourse. But how will the gun control laws of today impact our communities and futures of tomorrow?

I recently interviewed state Assemblyman Mike Gipson – who represents such communities as Watts, Compton, South Los Angeles – to get his perspective on the impact of Trump’s gun control agenda on black America and what we can do to help change it.

SQ: What are your thoughts on Trump?

MG: I think that he is taking this country down a road that will be catastrophic. I think he has no direction. He is no leader. I think this is the worst president that I have ever had knowledge of.

SQ: In terms of black people, and the future of black America, how do you think he will impact us?

MG: I think he’s going to do everything he can to rid us from the face of the Earth.

SQ: Did you say rid us from the face of the Earth?

MG: I believe that. I think it’s a methodical plan for him to eradicate African Americans. If you look at what he did with the AIDS Council. He has just terminated everyone…[and] has also eliminated resources to combat and eradicate HIV and AIDS in the United States of America, right?

If you look at who is most affected by HIV and AIDS in America, it’s African Americans, then Latinos. So if you… do away with the funding, and you have no one advising you on this epidemic, [then] this is a methodical plan to eradicate.

SQ: You’re a Gen Xer like me, so how do we successfully strategize around him?

MG: I think we organize like we did in the ‘60s and the ‘50s. And we organize to allow our voices to be heard. We speak truth to power. We blend our voices with other leaders. … We [must] continue to push back as a people and as a country on some of the policies that he is certainly putting forth that divides and separates.

SQ: So what are your thoughts on gun control?

MG: When I was first elected in 2014 to the State Assembly, shortly thereafter, little Autumn Marie Johnson was in her crib in Compton. And a bullet came through the wall and took her life. Time and time again, gun violence [has] plagued my community in which I represent, unfortunately.

But it’s a story that we hear all too often in America. We have people who have access to guns, who should not have access to guns. We have individuals who have mental instability who have access to guns. California has led the way in terms of sensible gun control … [but] unfortunately, other states have not followed.

SQ: So with guns plaguing our communities, why don’t you think we have mass shootings in our urban schools?

MG: In California, we don’t have them because I think lawmakers prior to me fought and exercised their ideals to put forth for good, sensible gun legislation. … And we passed it. And governors have signed this into law.

That’s good for California, but what about the rest of the country? We need this to be blanketed across the country so that we can protect our babies.

Those parents [of the 14 students killed in a Florida school shooting last month] woke their children up, made sure they brushed their teeth and washed their faces. They put their backpacks on, left home and said “good-bye” to their mommy and daddy. And made mommy and daddy [think] they were going to come home.

We could not protect those children or those three adults [killed in that massacre]. That is a horrible feeling. To send your child to a safe space; presumably should be safe space, and it’s not safe. And we have to make sure, again, that when we do this, that we create safe spaces.

SQ: You seem very passionate about this issue.

MG: Yes, I’m passionate about this issue … because I represent a district [where] gun violence is prevalent. I’m tired of going to babies’ funerals. I had a 3-year-old whose life was just taken away three weeks ago. In the backseat of his guardian’s car, driving down the street, a bullet rung out [and] shot him in the head. That should not be happening. But it does. And it happens all too often.

I cannot get used to this. I cannot get immune to this. I don’t want to turn on the TV and watch the news, ‘Oh, that’s another person that got killed in my community.’ Seeing a baby, or a father or mother; in the wrong place, at the wrong time, life being taken away.

Those things hurt whether or not we share the same DNA. It makes no difference. That’s somebody’s child. That’s someone’s husband or mother. And we’re better than that as a society.

Starlett Quarles is a Gen X advocate, public speaker and host of the YouTube TV Talk Show, “The Dialogue with Starlett Quarles.” Her column runs the fourth Thursday of every month in The Wave. For more, visit www.TheDialogueLA.com.