Sunday, June 16, 2013

In My Eyes

I treat my eyes as if windowpanes allowing me to see a perfect view of life. My perspective is all I have.

I finally found the equally important time and energy to express this perspective as it relates to the cataclysm between LAPD and the students of the University of Southern California, as well as the following Dr. Dre aftermath (pun intended).

The evening of May 3rd, to me, was a celebration deeper than just the last day of classes. It was the culmination of literal blood, sweat, and tears over the course of last 5 years. Nearly three of those years were spent at other colleges building up my academic portfolio so that I could transfer to USC. And my next 2 years as a USC student were either spent recovering from a gunshot wound that almost took my life, dedicating my time to community service projects that included creating a mentorship program for Foster Care youth and at-risk teens in the LAUSD system, or various artistic projects. I was celebrating the fact I proved the Romans 8:31 Bible verse, “If God is for us, who can be against us,” correct.  I should probably read the book more often because I got a variation of that specific verse tattooed on my chest in 2008, substituting the word “us” for “me” (vain act, or premonition, decide for yourself).  Long story shorter, this was my time to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

 Before the party on 23rd St, I was at a banquet on a yacht in recognition of all the hard work the Directors and Assistant Directors of Program Board accomplished over the course the year. I was the AD for the Black Student Assembly so I wanted to share in the final moments with my classmates who all helped provide the school with remarkable events and concerts in the 2012-13 academic school year.

I wiped the elated smile off my face along with the mucus that sprayed from the mouth of an officer yelling, “disperse” about an hour later. The most interesting view from my windowpane eyes as I helped move the crowd down the street were a few classmates of mine from the yacht banquet tucked safely across the street at an identical party on 23rd St. I worked just as hard as them. I produced just as many events of substantial quality. And moreover, I was celebrating my accomplishments with friends in a peaceful manner. Why wasn’t their party being handled with the same intensity? Was there a difference?

I understood that difference when an officer nonchalantly stated that “if it had been 20 years ago, [they] could’ve beaten [me] to a bloody pulp, left [me] in the street, and there would’ve been nothing [I] could do about it.” Clearly a USC education wasn’t necessary to calculate the rough 20-year mark of the televised Rodney King beating.

A couple points resonated with me about this comment. One was that his statement reaffirmed my thinking that the actions of LAPD that night were indeed race based and that in his mind, 79 police officers in riot gear and a helicopter was an example of letting us off easy. The second point I realized is that no matter what I do in life, as a black male I will be constantly scrutinized with an innate skepticism that seems to be burned into the minds of my society. The fact that it was 20-years after the Rodney King beating and he felt comfortable saying what he said to me is a testament to how far we, as a society, have to go.

As I was walking away to refuge after the ordeal had subsided, I stopped to speak to 3 students to gauge how much media attention the 79 LAPD officers and helicopter on Hoover was getting. The group consisted of two girls and one guy, all of Asian decent. They were still pretty drunk and were waiting on a friend to come let them into the front lobby of an apartment complex. They had no idea what I was referring to so I calmly explained to them the situation expecting their jaws to drop at any given moment. Instead it was my jaw that dropped at what I heard next. In her tired, slightly slurred words she said, “Well you guys shot the guy on Halloween and you guys murdered the two Asian students so I think you deserve it. That’s what LAPD should do.” Baffled I told her, “well you know that neither of those incidents were USC students so by “you guys”…you mean?” She gives me the most irritated look in the world and her friend, who was equally irritated by my presence said to her, “Ugh! Just let him leave!” Literally sick to my stomach, I continued my night’s walk to avoid any more drama. I was more heart broken than infuriated because through her uninhibited tone I could tell that her opinion was likely to be shared by other USC students. She just needed the liquid courage to tell me to my face.

The following two weeks were the most stressful of my life, or at least equivalent to a couple nights in the hospital with a hole in my chest. On top of the finals and trying to figure out where to begin my life legacy, I now had the burden of helping orchestrate a movement that had an essence of what was seen in the 60’s, but was unique to our generation’s ability to mobilize using social media as a catalyst. My body and stress do not mix. I lost 15lbs in that time because my body began rejecting food. I remember vomiting in the hallway trash can moments before accepting the “Survivor Award” from the Center of Black Culture and Student Affairs office with a humble smile.

Stress is different than anger. I wasn’t angry because although I was in the epicenter of the storm, nothing that happened to me was the direct result of my own actions. Instead it was the result of how others felt of my complexion. Therefore the only personal responsibility that I took on was the weight of the voiceless minorities in my city that were looking to us to remain strong and endure so that we could all share in victory.

I was angered however when I sat down and fully read Walter M. Kimbrough’s “Why USC and not a black college, Dr. Dre?” article in the LA Times. As I said earlier, I am only sharing my own life perspective. And through my windowpane eyes a black male physically shot me down over a pair of Dre Beat headphones when I first got to USC, and in my last week at USC another black male verbally shot me down over Dr. Dre again. I do not have a Bible verse embedded in my skin fit for an ironic circumstance such as this, but it does make me reconsider omens.

I worked, in lack of a better term, “my ass” off to overcome more obstacles at the age of 23 than most 40 year olds in order to rise to the ranks I currently hold today, and in the midst of our movement against social injustice this man had the audacity to tell me and classmates we are not worthy of such an endowment?

In his article, Mr. Kimbrough quoted that “ [a] new report on black male athletes and racial inequities shows that only 2.2% of USC undergrads are black men, compared with 56% of its football and basketball teams, one of the largest disparities in the nation.” And though this is not a backed up fact, I’d say roughly only 30% of that 2.2% of black, Trojan men are non-athletes. This leaves less than 1% of the student population at the University of Southern California to those that are similar to me. For those that reside on the west coast, specifically in LA and Compton cherish USC as a prize within our community. In Dr. Dre’s childhood, the opportunities to attend USC for young black kids were even slimmer than they are now. Most of the kids from my generation only experience life at USC vicariously through the fictional lives of the LA natives Quincy and Monica in the movie Love & Basketball by Gina Prince Bythewood, which was released in the year 2000. With that being said, our 1% is more like Dr. Dre than anyone else. We are rare breeds of men that succeeded in spite of our environments. The misconception that because we are at USC, we were born with silver spoons in our mouth could not be farther from the truth. I chose USC over Howard because I wanted to attend the best university from my given options, and not just the best university for blacks. More importantly, it was cheaper for me to attend USC than a HBU because they can afford better financial packages. That is called being economically savvy, not selling out.

Without Dr. Dre and other black males who I witnessed rise to greatness, I may have never had the heart to fight for my life or the courage to thrive in an environment that is historically inconsistent with substantial black success. I can understand fear and hatred from those outside of my race. That fear stems in ignorance and is perpetuated by the daily stereotypes they consume in their choice of media. What I cannot accept is the fear and hatred we as blacks have amongst each other. Why write an article condemning a man who is not even an alumni of the institutions of which you praise? Why not instead ask that the esteemed alumnus of those institutions to follow his lead and donate what they can to their alma maters in-need?  Do not get me wrong. The money donated by Dr. Dre would have completely transformed an HBCU, but it also may have encouraged more black youth to pursue their academic careers at USC. At the end of the day, we have been pushed out and pushed around for far too long to continue the exhibition of this “crabs in a bucket” mentality.

The police officers may view me as a criminal, a few ignorant students at USC may view me as a monster, and other blacks may see me a member of an illusory bourgeoisie that they continuously take shots at, but my degree tells me that I am a Trojan. And as I stood tall walking across the stage embracing the cheers from family and friends, I also took with me the permanent scars from the incidents that transpired during my time at USC. I still have a bullet lodged in my lower right lung and a skull full of “USChangemovement” memories that will continuously replay in my head forever.  Each memory and scar will serve as a reminder of who I am, what I have been through, and how far I have to go. I am not sure how quickly our society will evolve, but I do know that before the curtains close on my windowpane eyes, the 6% of African-Americans I met at USC will be amongst the main catalyst for that evolution.

Every story ends in a catharsis and this song describes my personal purgation:

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Am I a Monster?

From THEM:
To be honest, I cannot blame anyone for their perceptions of me. LAPD is constantly in the news because one of my co-workers looses their cool and throws an extra punch too many while a camera is recording.

What I can blame you for, however, is not understanding that in my line of work, showing weakness is a death warrant. I am a nice guy once you get to know me. I have a family that I love. I have kids that I am raising to fight the injustices of the world without fear and wife who supports my every action.

I am only a cop because I gave up on my real dreams a long time ago. So I adapted to the best profession to suit my personality. I hate offices. I hate crime, especially after I lost a close friend to gang violence. I love excitement and would like to feed my wild side. So here I am now, your local police officer.

The Night:
I am finally ending my shift and I cannot wait to go home. I've had an extremely long day and all I can think about is my bed.

I get a distress call from the dispatch. The officer in danger is a friend and all I was thinking was, "Not on my watch." I threw on my sirens and sped to the destination with my game face on.

I arrive to the scene and see a large crowd of students. Mostly black with a few white and latino kids also.

"Wait, why are they calling me racist? I'm not racist."
"Don't look weak"
"The faster you all go home, the faster we can all go home."
"He's looking at me. Show him you mean business."
"I'd hate to do it, but if they get too close I'll hit them with all my God given might."

From US:
To be honest, I cannot blame anyone for their preconceived perception of me. The media constantly perpetuates images of those who look like me in a negative, arrogant, or flamboyant manner and I understand that.

What I can blame you for is choosing whether or not you allow those images to prevent you from getting to know me rather than making assumptions.

I'm a pretty nice guy once you get to know me. I made it a prestigious university after working hard in school. I have a deep passion for helping others. Now I am about to graduate and would simply just like to have fun on the eve of finals to celebrate my accomplishments and the accomplishments of my peers.

The Night:
Just came from a yacht ride with some friends from student government in celebration of a year of hard work and good programing.

My phone died so I decide to walk to a friend's house because she usually has friends over that are filled of good energy. I was feeling great, but when I saw that there were a few other friends that I enjoy spending time with at her house, I became elated.

We know of a "ConGradulation" party happening near campus so we decide to go. I usually don't like to go to house parties, but this one has security and they are checking student ID so hey, why not?

We get there and see that there is an identical house party across the street with friends of mine who don't have as good of a tan as me (if you catch my drift).

The party was fun. I saw plenty of friends of all races all enjoying themselves and enjoying the music. LAPD arrives to shut down the party as a result of a noise complaint. That's okay. I had fun and saw the people I needed to see. We were leaving.

I hear commotion behind me and see a friend getting hauled off in cuffs. Then I see another friend who was recording the situation wrestled to the ground by several cops. Then two more friends being tackled. I look at the house across the street and the police are telling them to stay inside the gate to stay away from harm.

The next thing I know, we are at a complete face-to-face stand off with LAPD and the SWAT Team.

"Look at how they are looking at me. Racists!"
"There's an identical party right next door. Why are you treating us this way?"
"You are telling me to leave, but our cars are behind the barricade you just created."
"I couldn't imagine how people used to get fire hosed and bit by dogs for similar situations."
"Why are you arresting her and hurting her? She's a Trustee Scholar."
"Whatever happens, I am willing to stand in solidarity with the people by my side."
"Something has to change."
"What did I do?"
"Why are you treating me like a monster?"

These may have been the thoughts of a select few involved in the events that took place the night of May 4th. Those individuals may be the outliers of a population of police and African-Americans. It is possible that this event and those similar can be prevented or rationally avoided through proper communication. But when you look at the skin, the badge, or the attire what do you choose to imagine? The monster or the man?

How To Help:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Weekend 2 Remember

My first Coachella experience is finally in the books and its memory is ready to be eroded away by distance and time. But before the stories I begin to tell friends become increasingly exaggerated, I figured I might as well give my honest opinion.

Even with my dirt filled lungs, scorched skin and dehydration, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I came into the atmosphere with no expectations except to maintain a good mood for 72 hours, and although I did not make it the full 72 hours, I was able to witness multiple unique musicians exposing their souls in artistic melodies.  I would have never cared to know these people had I not been there to make that personal discovery.

We had our scheduled bands, Dj's, and rappers to see, but the best part for me was allowing the music to dictate where we wandered. Hearing a beautiful voice or insane electronic instrumental, walking over to get a better view, and asking the nearest stranger what musician is currently sweeping you off your feet is something that everyone who has an ounce of hippie/indie love in their DNA should experience.

The top unexpected musicians that I saw were 2 Door Cinema Club who had my entire group dancing as if we would never tire, Vintage Trouble who is a mix between old school Al Green and country music, Beardy Man who is a one man band equipped with a keyboard, a looper, and his voice for beatboxing, and Action Bronson who is a chef turned rapper.

For those of you who have yet to check this event off your bucket list, I have a few suggestions. One, there is no such thing as too much sun block. Two, you are in the desert and will have a couple moments where you are on your camel searching for the water oasis. Three, come with an open mind because there are interesting sites to see.

As for me, I think that I will hold out for a premiere lineup since I have the first notch in my belt. The producers went from an epic performance from Kanye West, to resurrecting Tupac in hologram form, to a surprise appearance by R.Kelly. No offense to Kells, but he doesn't quite fulfill the excitement requisite set by the previous years. However, a couple of people in the front row stressed from the heat were quite elated by the possibility of a golden shower.

My only regret is that I could not be in two places at once. Until next time Coachella..

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Product of My Dreams

Will you become a product of your environment, or a product of your dreams?  This is the question I pose to the students involved in my mentorship program. All of whom are considered “at-risk” because they either reside in group-homes or attend LAUSD high schools that lack adequate resources. Hence the title of the program, “Product of My Dreams.”

My inspiration for this program spurred from reflecting on my own experiences growing up in South LA and the series of people and events that encouraged me to fulfill my potential. I structured Product of My Dreams in a way that will create an optimal learning environment for students that may have never considered their futures to be valuable.

Every month we highlight a different major and/or career field. This year we have covered Entrepreneurship, Cinematic and Photographic Arts, Law, and we will end this academic school year exploring Music and Creativity.

Each career installment has 3-4 segments. We begin the day with a panel discussion, take the kids on a tour, give them a technical crash course on the related material, and then we facilitate a participation activity.

For example, the next installment, Music and Creativity, will begin with a panel of student-artists from USC and UCLA. These students vary from full-time and part-time musicians, poets, producers, promoters, and students in the fine arts. Next, the kids will get a chance to explore the Thornton facilities when we break them up into groups and they choose a nice space for their individual workshops. Some kids will learn how to song write, some will learn how to write poems, others will design the album cover work, and the kids who are feeling extra creative will work with the musicians to compose melodies that compliment the lyrics the writers create. Last, but not least, they will present and/or perform their creative works.

We typically work with about 30-40 teens each session. The different segments accommodate people that may have different learning styles.

The most important element to this program rests in the quality of the mentors and volunteers. My team and I hand select each panelist and volunteer before every session to ensure that they have an understanding of how to approach the teens and also that they themselves have the ability and motivation to inspire others. This creates cohesion of like-minded individuals, all passionate about their craft. The teens feed off of this passion and become more engaged in the activities of the day.

My goal is to spark passion, make the kids comfortable with their presence in a college setting, as well as displaying an array of role models of students who came from similar circumstances yet have risen above those circumstances to new heights.

It takes a village to raise a child and dream to create a destiny. This program will hopefully do both.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Bleeding the Creed

I guess the red gushing blood and the exposed white bone constituted the assumption that Kevin Ware does indeed bleed Louisville colors.  Isn’t that the creed most of us pledge to our given universities?  At what cost would you actually be willing jeopardize your body to test the theory?  Kevin Ware’s injury yet again raises the question on whether student athletes should be paid.

As for now, athletes receive full or half tuition, board, required course related books, and a monthly stipend.

To students at premiere universities such as the University of Southern California, just one of those listed options would be well received and appreciated. However, in a study by researchers at Ithaca College and a national athletes’ advocacy group, athletes on full scholarship at Division I universities still end up paying approximately $3,000 every year.

At USC in particular, $3,000 is incomparable to the rough $50,000 of debt most students accrue.

The idea that even those on a “full ride” have to take out loans in order to avoid placing additional burdens on their family is absurd.  In the 2011-12 year the FBS full athletic scholarship failed to meet the entirety of attending school by a $3,285 average. This left a large portion of players on a “full” athletic scholarship living below the federal poverty line.

The National College Players Association (NCPA) and the Drexel University Sport Management Department produced a study called, “The $6 Billion Heist: Robbing College Athletes Under the Guise of Amateurism” where they determined what college football and basketball players would make in a fair market using public information on the value of their scholarships and the revenue generated by each athlete.

The study found that each player on the top ten revenue-generating teams would miss out on their hard earned $3.5 million over the course of a 4-year stay at a university.

Kevin Ware specifically is worth $1.6 million annually in a fair market.

Paying fair market value for players may in fact cause unforeseen problems as a result. Especially giving kids that large amount of money at such a young age. Yet, with this argument I see little difference between the ages 19 and 22. In fact, universities understand the type of money that some of their athletes will receive once drafted to the NBA and NFL, but do little for the players’ financial literacy and professional development.

Somewhere along the road to national championships, the term “Student-Athlete” gets convoluted.

Most players are encouraged to pursue majors that impose the least on their commitments to their sport. Disciplines such as business are replaced by communications, or sociology. Each of the two is valuable in its own right, however neither provide the information essential to wealth management.

The 30 for 30 Documentary, “Going for Broke” showed that on average, NFL players go bankrupt 3 years after their retirement from the league. These bankruptcies are typically the result of extravagant purchases and assisting family members who conveniently turn into leeches.

There are very few athletes that have not only raised their jerseys beyond the rafters, but they themselves have risen beyond the courts or playing fields as entrepreneurs. Magic Johnson is the most notable with his most recent business ventures.

This information has been widely discussed for years and has been raised in the same breath as the adequate financial payments for student athletes question, yet nothing has been done on a national scale by the universities that have all the resources necessary to make a substantial change. It’s almost as if they do not care.

The NCAA and universities are not responsible for hospital bills of their injured players. Why? Well, because they argued in court that the players are “student-athletes,” and not “employees” therefore freeing them of liability.

If Kevin Ware happened to be a senior, his dream of making it to the NBA by being showcased through a college medium would have taken just as severe of a break as his leg. On top of the searing pain Ware would have normally been left with a hefty hospital bill that would add that nice salty burn. 

The NCAA has an insurance policy of up to $90,000 for student-athletes, but only during championship situations and with the stipulation that the players must be completely disabled, which Kevin Ware was not. Luckily for Ware’s wallet Louisville paid for his medical expenses. But to call Louisville’s move to pay for the medical bill is hardly honorable, it should be protocol.

Why wouldn’t universities want to take care of the individuals who equally contribute to admission rates, alumni financial support, and billions of dollars of generated revenue?

When will we stop vilifying athletes for choosing to enjoy the fruits of their labor by accepting finances under the table and begin by reconstructing the academic curriculum for student athletes and creating a policies that take care of the players who clearly do anything necessary to win. Even if that means showing the audience what it means to bleed their university’s colors.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Conversation

Los Angeles, California. Home of the palm trees, cool breeze, and beach. There is basically two seasons. Beach weather and weather that people on the east coast would still consider beach weather. However, there is a side to LA that most people do not quite know too much about. The side that they only hear about through music and/or movies. Both reasons why other races love us and fear us at the same time.

Why do I feel like I was born onto a battle field of a war which had begun long before I arrived. A war where as a result, countless of lives have been lost. This is not a war of the kind experienced by my Iranian brothers where missiles are liable to fly over head at any time, but it is of the nature where I am liable to die walking down the street if I am unconscious of my personal color coordination or from a baseball hat ordained with a team not favored in that particular neighborhood. My sophomore year in high school I remember getting off the bus at Crenshaw High School at a time when two local gangs were in a murder contest and had to hide behind a car in a parking lot so that I would not become the victim of a drive-by. In another incident, me and a group of my friends were robbed at gun point for our cell phones.

To make matters worse, those we hire to protect and serve often act as catalysts for the perpetual hatred. At the age of 16,  me and a friend of mine were pulled over driving home from a workout in an area that was known for gang violence.  I forgot my ID at home, something which at the time was irrelevant to me. He asked me what was I doing in the area as if I needed a reason. He asked me where I lived and searched my address in the computer. He saw that I did not live too far.  The officers congregated by their car, put me in handcuffs, told me that I fit the description of someone that committed a robbery (black, 5'10-6'2), and told my friend to drive away. This is an old tactic. This is what the cop actually translated to us by the series of questions to me. I was wearing a blue hat in area that was inhabited by a gang whose primary colors were red ("what are you doing over here?").  My address was going to specify if I was either a predator or bait. If I lived too far away from the area, they would've thought I was there to violate a rival gangs territory (No, I was playing basketball), and if I lived in the neighborhood then they know that the spectrum of colors that I simply thought were stylish would provoke violence from the local inhabiters of the neighborhood. The answer was B. So, the fact that I did not have my ID gave them an opportunity to take advantage of the situation. He told my friend to drive away, which translates to make sure that you go far enough away to where they can no longer see you, but you can see them. The cops then drove me a block away, got me out of the car, unlocked the hand cuffs, and told me to walk home. This translates to, we have no current intentions of personally harassing you, but we know that because of your attire you are liable to get jumped walking through this neighborhood to get home.

Fast forward 5 years. I get accepted to USC as a transfer student. I went to 2 different colleges prior to attending USC. I finally feel as though "I made it" although I have not physically left my Los Angeles dwelling.  Long story short, me and my roommates throw a party after the first home of the season in 2011 and I get shot in the chest by a gentlemen who had the bright idea to steal from our homes. These are just a few accounts many from my time growing up in "Killer Cali." It is very possible that I could just have bad luck, but I as well as many others know that this is not true. It is a common story of most African-Americans, especially black males who grow up in these hostile environments. I made it to USC and still almost lost my life. Most others who are not as fortunate simply adapt to the lifestyle out of pure survival. Others do it because media and their reality tells them that it is a part of their culture and "normal."

This is not a justification, but an explanation of a point of view from a guy with an abstract mind who grew up in a concrete jungle. Where those who make it out have had to battle with being different, duck for cover, and mentally overcome their environments just to make it to the same places that our counterparts have been blessed to receive without having to grow up so fast. This is not to say that every African-American has it bad, is bad, that I had it the worst, or that other races and creeds do not have their own issues.  This is just my addition to a conversation that has yet to be had. Maybe this conversation will cause someone to look at me for me instead of a criminal. Or if not a criminal, without the innate skepticism that is to be had for the black race.

I was told by a gentlemen heavily intoxicated by the cheapest of liquors that I do not belong at this institution and that I took the place of someone who was more capable. "If it wasn't for that Affirmative Action!" he said. I could nothing more than laugh at the situation, because it would've taken me an entire semester with ample resources for me to get him to understand the blaze that me and my cohorts have risen from; our stories strikingly similar as we cope with our new life at a predominantly white institution.

I hope that this conversation continues. I would like to hear other people's stories also, because this is what produces substantial change...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spoon Fulls of Bullets

Tomorrow’s headline should read: Spoons, leading cause of obesity for overweight Americans. The headline, although flawed in its validity, is the same argument used by most supporters of gun control. The objects themselves serve inherently different purposes, however both are lethal if wielded by the wrong hand.  The proposed gun regulations currently target the type of guns people can obtain. Instead, the regulations should govern what types of people can obtain the weapons.

Not everyone that uses a spoon is fat. It takes certain mindsets to produce obesity, all of which have nothing to do with the spoon itself. The same is true for a pistol. Legislation to ban the sale of magazines capable of holding more than 15 rounds of ammunition is currently being signed and debated by several politicians. In all fairness, guns such as the .223 caliber, Bushmaster AR-15 were recovered from the crime scenes of several mass shootings throughout the US. The fact that guns are dangerous will never be disputed, but focusing on laws that prohibit the availability of certain types of guns will not cure the dilemma of mass shootings in America.

More prevalent than any high-powered weapon or extended clip were the signs of mental illness displayed by each shooter prior to their incident. In fact, upwards of 38 out of the 62 mass shooters in America displayed signs of mental health problems prior to the killings. A large majority of the remaining individuals experienced some form of bullying, or recently lost their job.

Jared Loughner, who shot 19 people inside of a shopping center in January 2011, was known to make outbursts during his high school classes and often complained about hearing voices in his head.

As a country, we have failed those children in Sandy Hook and those innocent people in Loughner’s targeted shopping mall. How is it that someone who both voluntarily and involuntarily expressed signs of mental illness can casually walk into a store and purchase a weapon and ammo?  In fact, it is easier to purchase a gun in some American states than it is to vote.

Out of the 62 cases officially classified as mass shootings in America, 80% of the criminals purchased their guns legally.

This past Sunday afternoon, John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado, mourned the loss of his long time friend Colorado prison chief, Tom Clements, as he also signed the legislation banning assault rifles. In the midst of heartache, emotional decisions are often the easiest.  Our nation allowed legislators to pass the Patriot Act following the September 11 attack out of emotion. We need to retreat from what is easiest and conduct the proper deliberation to formulate the best decision.

Who can blame anyone for wanting to fix a faltering system especially when the decisions we make today have the possibility of preventing the occurrence of other tragedies? However, if we must take anything away from crafty policy makers during the aftermath of 9/11, it should be that protecting our citizens is the number one priority, and number two is to protect our rights.

It is true that legislators who would like to assess gun violence in conjunction with mental illness are also currently being pressured into making a hasty decision. So, given the fact that there is a possibility that guns will be regulated, will those new regulations prevent mass murders. I assume that reasonable minds would venture to say, “no.”

 Just as spoons are not the cause of obesity, the rescindment of every spoon manufacturer would not prevent obesity either. Sure it may become slightly more difficult to kill people as quickly, it will not prevent the incidents caused by unstable and provoked people.

I myself was shot in the chest by a .22 caliber handgun in an incident at my USC apartment September 4, 2011. The bullet entered my chest piercing my lung and liver. The only reason I am alive is because that same bullet was slowed down by first piercing the middle finger of a girls whose hand was on my chest. If an individual has it out to shoot someone, whether or not the gun has a magazine size of 14, or 1,400, there is not much that can be done to protect that individual.

If legislation were to pass and another mass shooting were to occur, but this time the deranged criminal used nothing except handguns, where will the legislation stop?

I am personally reminded of the dangers of gun violence every time I take a labored breath. I just refuse to sit around blaming the gun for its magazine size. Attention needs to be focused on those that pull the trigger.