President Barack Obama, in last week's State of the Union address, declared that victims of gun violence "deserve a vote" on sweeping gun control legislation.
The president recalled the tragedy in Newton, Conn., and the need for gun safety reform:
"It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans -- Americans who believe in the Second Amendment -- have come together around common-sense reform like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun."
The president also mentioned Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old Chicago honor student who was gunned down a week after performing at the president's inauguration.
To thunderous and emotional ovation, the president stated:
"Hadiya's parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence .... The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence -- they deserve a simple vote."
The current list of proposals by the president and others, albeit well-intentioned, fails to address the plight of urban America, which is the epicenter of the country's gun violence.
The notion of a "nobody" killing a "nobody" is commonplace in cities such as St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Oakland, and others, where communities have become desensitized to the level of ongoing violence.
Would we know about Hadiya Pendleton had she not performed at the president's inauguration? Would a 15-year-old student killed in Chicago suffice?
In urban cities, the unregistered firearm is the problem, and we need stronger laws for possession of such firearms. I realize there are already laws against carrying unregistered guns, but do those penalties carry a mandatory 25-year sentence?
Michael Ward, 18, who, according Chicago police, confessed to shooting Pendleton and two others in a case of mistaken identity, was sentenced to two years probation in January 2012 for unlawful use of a firearm.
Since each state has its own laws, the only way to have a consistent unregistered gun policy is for the federal government to step in.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein recently introduced legislation that bans import or sale of 150 weapons -- including the Bushmaster rifle used in the Newtown rampage -- and ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds. What about unregistered firearms?
Is it lost on Feinstein that the legislation she describes as "common sense" fails to address the magnitude of the gun problem plaguing Oakland, Richmond, Vallejo, Fresno or Los Angeles?
Irrational gun enthusiasts will fill my email, protesting that such legislation will open the door to the government's secret desires to take away everyone's right to possess a gun. I cannot think of a good reason to possess an unregistered weapon.
Stronger laws for possessing an unregistered firearm will not eradicate the problem overnight, but it can over time change behavior.
The issue is not with responsible gun owners, but with irresponsible ones. That stricter laws on unregistered firearms is even a debate suggests a portion of the country wants to keep one foot firmly planted in the hunter-gatherer society.
But it is the high-profile cases and not cascading violence in urban America that dominate the debate, even though the latter is the face of gun violence.
Contact Byron Williams at 510-208-6417 or email@example.com.