This week in Chicago, Il , a six-year old was able to grab a loaded pistol from on top of a refrigerator and accidentally shot his three-year old brother in the face who died. The boys were playing " cops and robbers " and they needed a pistol. The tragedy began when the father, Michael Santiago, a former gang member, decided to procure a pistol from one of his former gang associates for protection. The father knew that he was in danger because he had served as a witness in a murder trial against another gang member.
Here is another example of senseless gun violence on top of the previous recent incidents that we have witnessed ( i.e. Umpqua, Chattanooga, etc. ). The District Attorney for Cook County intends to prosecute the killing of the three- year old boy. The father, the alleged assailant, will be looking at two to ten years in prison.
This sad story continues to be replayed across our country. There is still no movement on proceeding with a multipronged approach regarding dealing with gun violence. There are those who will say that background checks for weapons have their limitations.
Others will say that we need more effective Mental Health programs in this country. I certainly would agree with that observation. There are others who will note that many weapons are being sold legally to people who probably shouldn't be buying them.
Regarding the incident in Chicago, the alleged assailant testified for the prosecution for the Cook County ( Chicago ) District Attorney's Office against this other gang member. Why didn't the DA's office or the Chicago police offer to provide better protection for this man? I 'm sure the testimony of Mr. Santiago was crucial for the prosecution in getting a conviction; why didn't anyone bother to provide better protection for the witness?
The father was desperate and he wanted to provide protection for his wife and family, but he went about doing it in the wrong way. Thus we have this tragedy, of Greek portions, being played out now with the upcoming trial. What will happen now with the six- year old boy and with the spouse? What mental health support will be provided and afforded to them?
There is also the issue of safety locks on guns. Would that have helped in this instance ? Probably not as this weapon was bought off the street and was made available by another gang member. Here gun locks would not be given a high priority.
What needs to have high priority, however, is the safety of children in their homes. Too many children are either being killed or maimed or severely injured due to negligence and, in some cases crass, indifference on the part of parents or other caretakers. Local and State Child Protective Services (CPS) can make a difference, but they are hampered in their effectiveness by limited resources, high caseloads and rapid turnover of case worker staff, many of whom are not trained at a Masters Of Social Work (MSW) educational level.
There is also the challenge of limited medical resources for children. Here in Texas, the legislature has voted to cut Medicaid funding for disabled children. The question becomes should kids really lose therapy services to help pay for property tax relief?
It's ironic given that October is National Domestic Violence Prevention month, that the Texas Legislature would want to set this precedent. This does not speak well for the protection of children and families in this state and really gives the message that they are expendable. Property owners have more clout and, therefore, will get more attention as opposed to children and families.
This doesn't have to be an either/or proposition. We can work to reduce senseless violence and the injuries and deaths sustained by children and families and still provide property tax relief for homeowners . It will take a multipronged approach in order to see progress. It will also take state and federal legislators to enact sound policy and guaranteed funding to ensure that gun violence with families can be reduced.
You can't say you're pro family and reduce funding for services including mental health care and think that will be justifiable or defendable.
We can do much better to care for our children and families.
Let's make it happen.