Harlem Focus
Apr 27, 2018 · 3 min read

When the Gun Points at You

by Lisandra Santana

Photo Courtesy Pixabay

“I’ll be honest, I’m scared. You don’t need to pretend to be brave when the gun is pointed at you. That’s a feeling I never want to experience again,” said 29-year-old Vladimir Gutierrez.

Vladimir lives in Queens and like many Americans has been too close to a shooting.

In 2018 15,634 incidents involving guns occurred in the U.S., according to the Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit that tracks gun violence.

After the Parkland, Florida school shooting, many say they have had enough. The March 2018 protest, “March For Our Lives,” saw at least 3,000 demonstrations nationwide. It resonated with many because students who walked out of their schools to take a stand against gun violence.

It all stirred up memories for people across the country.

In Brooklyn, Vladimir recalled what he experienced in 2017. “I was at this party in Williamsburg when this scuffle happened inside. Everyone rushed out and there was this guy outside just standing there and waiting. He pulled out his gun. And I kid you not, who he shot at was standing right next to me. I froze, I mean it’s human instinct, right? I saw the gun pointed at me and all I could say was, ‘This is it.’”

In New York City, it is illegal to carry a gun without a permit. But as Vladimir’s story shows, people all too often get and use guns in the city. The New York State Attorney General’s study on illegal guns, Target Trafficking, traced guns used in New York to states where it’s easy to obtain a gun. Seven states, known as the “Iron Pipeline” — Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Ohio — are responsible for many of the guns that reach New York. The report said, “Gun laws do make it harder for criminals to get guns where tough laws are in effect. But it is no doubt true that existing state gun laws are made far less effective when there are guns readily available to criminals in a nearby state with weaker laws.”

In New York, gun violence feels too common for some. Twent-seven-year-old Jonathan Hernandez says “I’ve dodged many bullets in my life. But so many of my friends encounter this on a daily basis. It’s kind of crazy how easy it is to buy a gun. The streets are ruthless and once that’s in your hands, you have the power.”

Some people in some neighborhoods say they fear walking home alone at night. Catherine Gomez shook her head and said, “I live in the Bronx. So that’s pretty self-explanatory on the amount of gun shots I hear outside of my window.”

The 25-year-old said she takes precautions to protect herself, “I literally take an Uber from my train stop to my building if I know I’ll be home past 10 o’clock. It feels like it just gets worse by the day.”

Gun advocates across the country suggest arming more people might be an answer to stop gun violence. But in New York, people we talked with don’t agree with that idea.

With concern in his eyes Vladimir Gutierrez said, “There’s a very thin line between needing a gun for safety and using a gun to hurt others. I’m fearful that because of the law embedded by our founding fathers, people will think that there needs to be a demand on citizens acquiring a firearm. I don’t want to walk into a school and get shot. I don’t want to be in a movie theater and get a shot. I don’t want to get shot. That’s not the kind of life I want to live.”

Harlem Focus

Harlem Focus is a blog with an eye on community, culture, art, food and life in and around Harlem. It is a product of CCNY Journalism Program in collaboration with the Documentary Forum.

Harlem Focus

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We're blogging all things #Harlem at medium.com/harlem-focus. @docforumccny + @CityCollegeNY = #Squad

Harlem Focus

Harlem Focus is a blog with an eye on community, culture, art, food and life in and around Harlem. It is a product of CCNY Journalism Program in collaboration with the Documentary Forum.

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