Gun control alone can’t curb violence

— America may now have more guns than people. As President Barack Obama announces new executive action on gun control, United States gun manufacturing is a growth industry, almost doubling since the beginning of the Obama Administration (5.6 million in 2009; 10.9 million in 2013). From 2001 to 2013, according to a Centers of Disease Control and Prevention report, 406,496 Americans were killed with firearms on U.S. soil. In contrast, the number of U.S. citizens killed by terrorists at home or abroad over the same years number 3,380. Chicago suffered a spike in gun homicides in 2015 with 470 homicides and 2,939 shooting victims, the worst of all U.S. cities.

Studies show a clear correlation: the more guns, the more homicides and the more people shot. Cities are racked by gun violence, yet gun ownership is much more prevalent in rural areas, as vividly displayed by the Bundy bunch that occupied an Oregon wildlife refuge over the weekend.

According to a General Social Survey report, gun ownership is declining. About 35 percent of adults were estimated to live in a household with a firearm in 2014, down from over half in the early 1980s. As hunting has declined in the country, so has gun ownership. Gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks or Hispanics, higher among men than women. Gun ownership rises with income. It is higher among those earning more than $90,000 a year than among those earning less than $25,000. It is highest in the South Central U.S. and lowest in the Northeast and Pacific regions.

Now weapons designed for the purpose of mass killing in war are available for purchase at gun shows, online and at many gun stores. These weapons are powerful enough to stop trains or strafe planes that are landing or taking off. These are tools for terrorists, easily available for sale in America.

Obama has already delivered 15 national statements after shocking incidents of gun violence. Yet, no national reforms have been passed or even received much consideration. After the Charleston massacre, the Economist magazine compared mass shooting in the U.S. with the grotesque air pollution in China: a horrible health hazard which the country appears incapable of addressing.

Gun control doesn’t cost much. America has another abiding challenge— the explosive catastrophe of urban poverty— that also goes unmet. The City Observatory, an urban policy think tank in Portland, Oregon, reports that the number of high-poverty urban neighborhoods in the nation’s 51 largest cities tripled to 3,100 between 1970 and 2010. The number of poor persons living in those areas doubled over those years. The poor are more isolated and concentrated than ever. African-Americans and Hispanics suffer the highest rates of poverty and are the most isolated into separate and unequal neighborhoods. Twenty percent of U.S. children lived in poverty by end of 2013; poverty among African-American children was nearly twice that (38 percent).

To deal with our impoverished neighborhoods, it isn’t enough to get rid of the guns. The public squalor of our inner cities has to be addressed: schools modernized, affordable housing built, mass transit supplied, available jobs created. Dealing with entrenched poverty costs real money, but less than we spend on the police, jails, drugs, alcoholism, and chronic illness— the dysfunction that comes from poverty.

Today’s politicians don’t want to spend political capital on guns or fiscal capital on poverty. They would rather pay more on the back end from failing to act than risk the up-front political and economic costs of dealing with the problems. So the war on guns is lost; the war on poverty abandoned and the hopes of millions are dashed by that failure. In the circus of the current presidential campaign, these are two fundamental challenges that ought to be at the center of our debate.

Saddened by death of Julian Bond

— The news this weekend that Julian Bond passed away at 75 saddened me deeply. America has lost a true and vital champion for justice. President Obama, hailing Bond as a hero and a friend noted, “Julian Bond helped change this country for the better. And what better way to be remembered than that.”

At a very young age, Bond helped forge the emerging Civil Rights Movement, and was in many ways, a founding father of the New South that we now see still in formation. In 1957, as a student at Morehouse, son of a college president, varsity swimmer, head of the literary magazine, intern for Time magazine, he was on the path to success.

However the success he chose was to make history, not money. He was arrested after organizing some of the first student demonstrations to desegregate Atlanta’s lunch counters, parks and theaters. Realizing that young people could take risks too costly for adults with families, at 20, he helped found SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. He became its secretary and head of its communications in part because he was seen as organized, level headed and eloquent.

Julian was ahead of most in the movement for understanding the big picture. He realized that civil rights could not be achieved without economic rights, and that economic rights would not advance if America kept throwing resources and lives into war abroad. He became an early and outspoken critic of the Viet Nam war.

After the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Julian led voter registration drives. At the remarkable age of 25, he was elected to the Georgia State House. The sitting legislators demanded that he repudiate his opposition to the Vietnam War. When he refused, they refused to seat him. Three times his constituents reelected him and three times the House denied him his seat. Finally, the Supreme Court ruled their actions unconstitutional. In January 1967, Bond took his seat, and served in the House and Senate for the next two decades.

By that time he was a national hero for having stood on principle even at the cost of his political career. In the embittered 1968 Chicago Democratic Presidential Convention, Bond led an insurgent Georgia delegation and was stood to second the nomination of

Eugene McCarthy for president.

With the convention floor in bedlam and demonstrations raging outside the hall, Bond was nominated as vice president, a symbolic nomination (he was only 27 and the constitutionally required age is 35) “about the wave of the future.”

Bond served as legislator, scholar, teacher and leader. He was a founder and first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He taught at the University of Virginia and lectured widely, receiving more than 30 honorary degrees. He chaired the NAACP for 11 years.

He had experienced first hand the slight and shackles of segregation— and organized to end them. He knew first hand the suppression of the right to vote and helped build a movement to challenge that.

To his final years, his intelligence, clarity and passion continued to instruct. He understood that, as he put it, “America is race,” from the founders to the Civil War to the civil rights movement to Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown and Sandra Bland. He knew that Barack Obama’s election and re-election was a measure of the progress that had been made but “didn’t herald a post-civil rights America…It couldn’t eliminate structural inequity or racist attitudes,” he said, even suggesting Obama’s election fomented such attitudes: “Obama,” he said, “is to the tea party as the moon is to werewolves.”

To his final days, he urged people into motion, knowing that only when people mobilized and acted could anything change: “We look back and see giant leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King,” he taught, but the Civil Rights Movement was “a people’s movement. It produced leaders of its own; but it relied not on the noted but the nameless, not on the famous but the faceless. It didn’t wait for commands from afar to begin a campaign against injustice. It saw wrong and acted against it; it saw evil and brought it down”

Julian Bond was a leader of exceptional clarity and insight. He made a dramatic contribution with his life. He had a strong mind and courage to break strong chains, and he will be deeply missed.

Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. is founder and president of the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition. You can keep up with his work at