By Seth Kinker, email@example.com
Washtenaw County law enforcement agencies and community partners held a press conference at the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Offices in Ann Arbor Monday, June 18 to proclaim Jun. 17 – 23 as Gun Safety Week in Washtenaw County.
Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry L. Clayton stressed the issue of responsible gun ownership and how seeing gun violence nationally and locally highlights the need to commit and recommit themselves to creating the best environment for the community.
Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Chair Andy LaBarre started out by saying he wished that they didn’t have to do this every year, but that it’s important. He went on to say the resolution is passed because it’s a critical issue and as policy makers they need to do everything they can to highlight the issues, the work men and women in law enforcement are doing and talking about it in a way that gets results.
LaBarre stated that the county is behind the movement and thanked the students speaking that day and law enforcement assembled.
Marquan Kane (Washtenaw County Young Citizen of the Year 2018), Max McNally (Washtenaw County Young Citizen of the Year Finalist 2018), and Zakiyyah and Sakinah Rahman (Joint Washtenaw County Young Citizens of the Year 2017) then stood and spoke about the issue of gun violence and how it had affected them.
Kane spoke about losing friends and family to gun violence and spoke about the system and overall problem of gun violence. He pointed out that although mental health is an important factor, that no one mentions poverty.
“It’s not as cut and dry as it seems, it isn’t just about politics, legislation and police accountability,” said Kane. “It’s about budgets. That’s something I don’t hear anyone talking about. I hear a lot of people talk about how they support the kids and how much they care for the kids. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you whether or not you do. My whole thing is we can ban bump stocks, enact background checks, as we should. But the question is will it really solve the problem or fix the issue? At a time when we invest more in our prisons than our education all I have to say is show me your budget and I’ll let you know if you care about the kids.”
“I want people to start talking about the generational cycle that were caught up in as opposed to the individual,” ended Kane.
McNally spoke about the effect it has on schools and how different his school year was with the amount of threats they had this year.
“From when that first threat happened (at school) to the end of the school year there wasn’t a single day I went to school and thought I was totally safe,” said McNally. “That’s always on your mind, on the back burner. And when I graduated I just thought ‘I don’t want anything to happen before I graduate, I just want to make it out.’ Because it could happen. I’m still worried about it because I have a little sister who is four starting at the elementary school next year and my little brother who just finished his first year of high school, they got a bomb threat (this year). It’s critical we have the conversations now.”
McNally mentioned the energy dropping off since the March 14 nationwide school walkout protesting gun violence, but that he was encouraged by seeing peers in attendance at that conference even with seniors being out of school.
Twin sisters Sakinah and Zakiyyah Rahman, who are African American and Muslim, were the last speakers, talking about how their personal experiences had shaped their attitudes and what could be done to help solve the issue.
“I think that a huge problem we have is education. I don’t think guns are necessarily the problem in every situation, but instead, the education,” said Zakiyyah. “When people aren’t educated it jeopardized everyone else in some many ways whether you have a gun or not.”
Sakiyyah echoed her sister’s thoughts talking about the evolution of gun violence.
“We’re only having conversations about this, just conversation,” said Sakiyyah. “In fact, it’s sad that it’s a regular conversation, but just a conversation. What actions are we taking? As Marquan mentioned when looking at the budget in regard to gun safety and specifically gun safety relating to our youth in our schools, what are we doing? For a problem that continues we need to look at the root, and the simplest root of this problem is mental illness, mental health and mental health awareness and mental education, ignorance and anger.”
“I don’t want you to leave this room just with this conversation and only hearing my voice, but to put an action to it,” said Sakiyyah. “Regardless of age, despite resources, you can do it by any means necessary. This issue isn’t just affecting me with my three vulnerable identities, or you with your vulnerable identity, its effecting us all. Our children. Our future children, our parents, our grandparents. We need to work together on this issue but stop having conversations and take action.”