DES MOINES, Iowa — Whether it`s past gun violence in the Des Moines, “From 1997 to 2015, I continue to bury children,” or current mass shootings on college campuses across the country, “It`s becoming like so matter of fact, like oh, another one happened and we just can`t let that happen.” It’s all led to the Drake neighborhood holding a community event on gun violence. Not to blame guns but to point the finger in a different direction, the community.
Iowa State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, a featured speaker at the event said, “We are still watching people walk in and shoot at children and shoot adults, because why? Because we haven`t taken responsibility.”
Attendees believe neighborhoods have lost their way. Debra Franklin said, “Getting to know eachother and not just high how are you. Caring about one another, going out of your way and walking along side someone and help them. I grew up in the 50`s. It was present then. We did that and so that needs to come back.”
Rep. Abdul-Samad, who is no stranger to gun violence after losing his son in a 1997 shooting, pointed to September`s double homicide deaths of Mohammad Nabeel Mirzai and Demetrius Thomas, to prove the Des Moines community is far from close-knit.
“About five blocks from here where we had two young men who were shot to death, where were you then? When they had the vigil did you come out to support the family? Did you call the family?”
Saturday`s gun violence conversation still touched on gun control and background checks. Warren Dukes was concerned about individuals with guns who have mental health issues in the state of Iowa. He said, “There tends to be a lot of people slipping through the cracks that are in need of mental health services. We need to have a comprehensive approach and make sure there are services for people who need those services.”
But Representative Abdul-Samad`s message of building a tighter community could just be the spark the neighborhood needed to build a safer neighborhood from the tools they`ve had all along, eachother. “If not now when? If not you, who?” said Rep. Abdul-Samad.