February 15th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: How we talk about guns in my Chicago classroom

Courtesy Sandra SteinbrecherEditor’s note: Ray Salazar is a National Board Certified English teacher in the Chicago Public Schools. He writes about education and Latino issues on the White Rhino blog. Follow him on Twitter @whiterhinoray.

By Ray Salazar, Special to CNN

(CNN) - During Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama spoke about gun violence, and he continues the discussion in Chicago today. He recognized in his speech, “our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country.”

As a high school teacher in Chicago, I want to hear more than an acknowledgment that shootings are happening, that young people are dying violently and unfairly.  I want to hear his determination to push through Second Amendment politics and assure us his leadership will make our streets safer. We might not be able to prevent every senseless act, but we must decrease the desensitization that encourages only one-word reactions to shootings: “Again?”

My first teaching job in 1995 focused on troubled teens at an alternative high school on Chicago’s Southwest side. I grew up in this neighborhood, but only knew gun violence in Little Village as a distant reference - until one of my students got shot in the middle of the day, about one mile from the school, about one block from my house.

Sergio had returned to school in 1996 after dropping out. He slouched and wore a black, dusty hoodie. He struggled. His spelling was so bad that all I could do was rewrite his crooked sentences so he could then rewrite them correctly. He never complained. He sat, mostly silent, usually working. One day, his parole officer met with me and said his spelling was getting better. In 1997, he was shot and died.

He became the first person I knew killed by being shot. A couple of years later, someone shot a gang banger in front of my house while I dozed off to “Saturday Night Live.” A few years after that, my wife and I were shot at near our home as we returned from a wedding. Despite my anger, my disappointment, my fear, I felt all I could do was call 911.

In 2012, Chicago reached 500 homicides. So far this year, Chicago has at least 42 murder victims, one of them a high school student who performed at events around Obama's inauguration.

We've explored controversial issues in my classes, but we never took on gun violence, perhaps because it wasn’t controversial. There is only one side to it - it should not exist. I didn’t know how to push students into a deeper conversation or meaningful debate about this.

It was after the Sandy Hook shooting, however, I felt obligated to engage my students in conversations about guns. Gunshots, because of Colorado, Arizona and Connecticut, finally captured people's attention beyond Little Village. I knew my students would hear perspectives on the news, online, on Facebook. What would they say? What would they do? They needed to know the vocabulary, the history, the rhetoric to challenge closed minds and respond to open-ended questions in ways that represented their individual reality. We needed to join the national discussion.

These, after all, are the experiences that show students how the writing in their notebooks matters outside of our classroom.

For the first time in 18 years of teaching, I asked my students not to make a personal connection to the content. I am prepared to build my students’ competence as independent thinkers and as sophisticated writers; I am not prepared to counsel my students through the aftermath of violence.

I pushed them to look at how others led the conversation that could affect their city and their lives.

My students needed to understand how emotional decision making affects our reason. I wanted them to look for the logic, or lack thereof, on both sides of the gun control debate. We focused on examining misconceptions, policy and truths of gun control which, unlike gun violence, is debatable. How were writers and speakers, for example, capturing the audience’s attention in responsible and irresponsible ways? This insight would last far beyond any ugly recollection that could arise from sharing personal experiences with gun violence.

We watched a PBS video with young people’s perspectives to understand the multiple views from around the country. We viewed analysis about the NRA and the Second Amendment. We read a summary of President Barack Obama’s recent gun control policy after the Sandy Hook shooting. We examined gun violence truths and misconceptions, admittedly from a progressive viewpoint. They evaluated the logic of an editorial that claims guns, in cities like Chicago, are not the problem.

READ: Chicago's violence took my dad, friends

Not once did I ask if they knew someone killed by guns. Not once did anyone bring it up. For a couple of weeks, we engaged in a conversation about this controversial topic by reacting to texts, by seeing how they related or contradicted each other. My students found gaps in logic. They individually decided if Obama’s proposed policies would make a difference.

We made it through the short lesson, some may say stoically, some may say callously. I say we made it through safely. One student wrote, “Before this, I had my views and experiences with gun violence and this helped me organize my thoughts about it. It’s an important issue in the media today and high school students should start practicing voicing their opinions to the world.”

Another student wrote, “Not everybody knows about this and if there is confusion, students can clear it up.” Another: “Teens open their minds and see the problems around the world and, most importantly, in their community.” Another: “Students aren’t aware of gun-control views. We are exposed to more myths than truths. Therefore, if we examine views of gun control, our decisions and opinions will be based on reality.”

My students, I realized, can now do more than talk about their own experiences with gun violence. They can judge others’ views and determine what's valid. (They can also use semicolons and conjunctive adverbs correctly.) The ability to step away from our emotions and experiences to examine an issue will endure beyond a few class periods.

I realized that helping them step away from their reality can be beneficial, too. The only way to examine volatile issues like gun control is to teach students how to understand the logic behind both sides of the debate, to teach them to gain access to credible information, to teach them to assess misconceptions plaguing the Internet, to determine if someone is reacting with reason or with emotion.

Conversations that are so intentionally detached from our lives can only happen after teachers and students establish a good relationship. I would not have taken this instructional risk without establishing a good bond with my students first. Sadly, with all the violence faced by our city and country, I know I'll use this lesson plan again.

Teachers outside Chicago need to help students understand the gun control debate, as well. Even if students haven't been directly affected by gun violence, the discussion can help them understand the debate outside their protected world is complex - and their world can too easily be shattered when we think of gun violence as someone else’s problem.

As gloomy as this issue is, one of my students reminded why we must continue the conversation: “It will allow for more voices to be heard rather than just a politician’s.”

My students and I will watch Obama speak today and consider his rhetorical moves. Our country, our city, my students must then decide, will Obama’s ideas and visit make a difference?

Experts and analysts will express their decisions on the airwaves and in print. My students will express their decisions on notebook paper in our class. Because of their experiences and our gun control lesson, I trust these young people’s judgments will be just as precise.

The opinions expressed are solely those of Ray Salazar.

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Filed under: Guns in school • Politics • School violence • Students • Teachers • Voices • Writing
soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. DMG2FUN

    "President Barack Obama’s recent gun control policy"
    Violates the 2nd amend.

    February 19, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  2. Ammara Ansari

    I believe that our own experiences in life and biological factors contribute to many of our actions in life. It's not just one or the other. And I think that Obama's gun laws might not be enough to save America from violence. Violence comes in many different forms, and while I appreciate that there is a cry for stricter gun regulations, it might not completely do the trick. Will having to fill out gun registrations be sufficient? Obama said it himself. There will always be violence. But maybe this step will help reduce the chances of pain and pressure in society.

    I like how the news report talked about Obama's lack of logical flow and greater emphasis on emotional pathos in his speech. Mr. Salazar here very clearly and rightfully points out that we must be able to look at different issues from every angle and in logical perspectives. But at the same time, we must consider the fact that emotions play a huge role in people's lives and they are often needed to gain support. Maybe he is just trying to use sentiments to do what he thinks is best for America.

    February 18, 2013 at 12:05 am |
  3. Old Man

    I wish there were many other teachers that taught as you do.

    I suggest you incorporate some history of the subject matter whatever it may be into the way students arrive at an opinion. For example, when I was growing up, school shootings were unheard of. Guns were readily available and we grew up watching Westerns and other shows with violence.

    What has changed?

    At that time Roy Rogers and other Western heroes used violence only in self defense. Now violence is mostly used for revenge. I suggest you have your students consider what else has changed.

    February 17, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Tom Langstrom

      You practically read my mind in your post as I am asking the same question ,what is so different about today than when I was in school. As a kid I knew there were at all times two loaded weapons in the house at all times within easy access of a young boy just going to school. I would have never dreamed of even touching one of those guns let alone take one to school. We were raised different then, we were told by our fathers to stand up to bullys, we were told to be seen and not heard, we were held accountable for our actions good and bad, and we were taught to respect our elders. A good strapping every now and again only hurt our pride and we knew that we probably deserved it anyway. Being accountable for our actions was taught at home and at school. It seems nowdays many children and parents feel that just because things might be a little tough in their lives they are justified in doing whatever it takes to survive, legally or illegally. We had honor in those days and we had a concience.

      February 17, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
      • Ammara Ansari

        I think that maybe your idea of conscience is different than that of today's. But at the same time, I understand that the issue of guns was understood in a different way in the past. But people change, and those changes are often times a result of both inevitability and either progression or digression.

        The real question is whether we believe that changing these gun laws and informing our children about them are going to help us in the future. I think that Mr. Salazar's method of spreading knowledge is extremely practical, as Old Man has pointed out. Children then are more aware of what goes on in their surroundings – they are forced to confront truth and reality.

        February 18, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  4. Mya

    I think we should have gun control, but I don't think we should not have guns. A lot of people need protection in today's society. It just like that woman in Georgia who had to shoot someone to protect her children.

    February 17, 2013 at 10:32 am |
  5. EarlyRiser

    Lets focus on student safety.
    Keeping students safe in the event of an intruder is paramount. Keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill or otherwise unstable folks is not going to happen by taking them away from the law abiding.
    Making it possible to lock doors from the inside would definitely keep students safe. Radios in the hands of all staff at the school would make it possible for communication in case of any emergency.
    Guns are an emotional issue and it is overriding the importance of keeping students safe.

    February 17, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  6. krehator

    People use guns. Guns do not use people.

    February 17, 2013 at 7:24 am |
  7. lulz

    Solution: bring in the national guard and either A) murder the idiot gang bangers if they won't change for the better, or B) protect and support those that try to get better.

    February 16, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
  8. Moose1

    Blaming guns is way to easy. It's quick, promises an easy solution and gets you on the evening news!! Now let's look at reality. Look at the mentality behind the gun violence. A teen was just tied up, shot and killed in Snellville, Ga for his expensive basketball shoes, fancy clothes and electronics. A young man's "stuff" was worth more than his life. Where do kids get values like this?

    Impregnating a young lady and then running off to the next one, leaving yet another fatherless to grow up lacking in values and morals just continues the cycle. Where do kids get values like this?

    Disagreements aren't settled with verbal discussion or even a physical fight. The only answer is to "bust a cap in him 'cause he dissed me!" Disagreeing with your spouse can't be settled with discussion either. The answer is either a divorce, a knife or a gun. Where do people get values like this?

    Banding together in a street gang that victimizes the entire neighborhood with crime, drugs and violence is seen as cool and the acceptable norm. Dressing in gang clothing that resembles a rodeo clown, with his behind hanging out of the oversize pants is considered fashion. They look like they retrieved their clothes out of a dumpster!! And young ladies find this attractive?? Where do kids get values like this?

    Work on these culture values. If values improve, maybe the violence will decrease and you will no longer have to blame the legal ownership of firearm for the violence. In addition, apply severe punishment to those who repeatedly criminally misuse firearms.

    Try this President Obama!!

    February 16, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • EarlyRiser

      Well said.
      Words of wisdom rarely fall with impact on those with pre-conceived notions.
      Thank you kindly for your words and observations.

      February 17, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  9. t

    .......Gun NUTZ are SHEEP...............YOu are being USED AS FOOLS by the weapons and bullet companies. You see, these CORPORATIONS see each person in the USA as a CONSUMER of weaponry and CUSTOMERS so these CORPORATIONS CAN MAKE ....MORE...MONEY. It IS about MONEY.

    February 16, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Moose1

      And you, Sir live in a utopian fantasy world where eveything is beautiful, everyone has everything they need and all is at peace. I am happy for you! The rest of us have to deal with hate, crime, violence and greed; defending ourselves and our families from it.

      Say hello to Peter Pan while you are there in Neverland!!

      February 17, 2013 at 12:39 am |
  10. Brian Mumford

    The last paragraph is very telling. "Experts and analysts will express their decisions on the airwaves and in print. My students will express their decisions on notebook paper in our class. Because of their experiences and our gun control lesson, I trust these young people’s judgments will be just as precise."

    That gun control “lesson” had one short pro-gun article, another from PBS, a liberal opinion video about the NRA and the Second Amendment, and the Obama policy. That's three to one in favor of a liberal bias if anyone's keeping score. It’s actually worse than that as the pro-gun article is hardly a strong counterpoint to the president’s official policy stance.

    This is hardly a fair "lesson" for his students. This teacher goes through great pains to claim he's trying to get his students to look at this objectively; however, objectivity was heavily weighted towards the pro-gun control argument.

    Why didn't he go straight to the NRA instead of providing something about the NRA as presented from a liberal perspective? Moreover, it’s disconcerting to think that these four very short and biased sources of information will allow his student’s judgments to be “just as precise” as the experts.

    This is a typical trait of gun control advocates; they rarely do their homework. I wish I could say that I'm glad he's not teaching children in schools in my neighborhood—I am and he’s not—but he is teaching children in our country nonetheless. I don't appreciate him trying to pass their precise “judgments”, or more importantly his “lesson”, off as fair, balanced and properly researched when it clearly isn't. Understanding the gun debate requires much, much more research and reflection than what this English teacher offered his students in the classroom.

    February 15, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
    • Callum J Hackett

      Objectivity is not about giving equal representation of all opinions, it is about determining truths based on evidence and data, and it should be no surprise that this leads to a bias against those sources which are filled with nonsense.

      February 16, 2013 at 6:58 am |
      • Ray Salazar

        Thanks, Callum. That's a perfect way to explain my approach and the approach of many other good teachers.

        February 16, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
  11. Kevin

    Teaching students to dig through bias and to get to the data, and then to actually interpret the data, is admirable.

    Doing so by way of breaking down one of the most contentious and emotional issues of the day is damn impressive. I like to think I turned out all right, but I definitely think I could have used more teachers like you. Thanks, Mr. Salazar.

    February 15, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Ray Salazar

      Thanks for the encouraging words, Kevin.

      February 16, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  12. Kristen

    I have long felt that in this era of information overload, one of the best lessons we can teach our children is how to filter and interpret the information that is available to them. Mr. Salazar has encouraged critical thinking in his students – requiring them to consider the sources, biases, and motivations of those who provide information. Hopefully he has taught these young people skills that can help them develop their personal stances not just on gun violence but any of the other topics that afect them. Thanks, Mr. Salazar.

    February 15, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Ray Salazar

      I hope so too, Kristen. Thanks for commenting.

      February 16, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  13. brian

    Join the NRA before the liberals destroy this country

    February 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • longtooth

      Are you a fool or a troll?

      February 15, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  14. Animal

    Mr. Salazar. I'm glad to read an article from a teacher who cares so much for his students. As a firearm owner I can only say that I regret what has happened to you and your students. I will also say that, I'm glad that you and students are having the discussion about guns the way that you have framed the discussion. I know that it seems like the rest of the country doesn't care, but I want to assure you that there are people on both sides of the isle who do. I would love nothing better, than to find a way to reduce the violence that plagues our inner cities. One thought is that in our discussions about firearms is that there are millions of firearm owners who think that this violence is revolting. We want to see the law enforcement agencies have and be able to use the tools they need to stop the illegal firearm trade. We also want to see that the mentally ill who are dangerous are denied the ability to purchase firearms. Thank you for having a responsible discussion about firearms and their control.

    February 15, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Ray Salazar

      Thanks for responding. One of the things we learned was that there is just no way our country will every ban gun ownership. This right is fully protected by the Constitution and there are many people who own guns and are responsible with them. We also learned that there has always been some kind of gun control in our country. There have always been guidelines for when and where to use guns. There were many other texts I wanted my students to read. One was by a man who hunts who believes in gun ownership and in the need for a safer country. I also wanted them to read the NRA’s post-Sandy Hook statement. But the semester ended and it was time to move on to something else (teens need a variety of topics to remained engaged). Next time I teach this, I’ll change the texts to include these. However, I hope this exposure will let students engage in the gun control conversation.

      February 15, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
      • Frank Albert

        If we could just start the education at home before children even get to school so they can learn about personal dignity and compassion for others. No morals seem to be taught anymore, as if they expect the teachers to do it for them. Look at all the reality shows on TV glamorizing deceit and lies.
        Guns aren't the issue anymore than knives being used for some killings. We used to have guns in school, pladege of allegiance, prayers, and the teachers themselves could whack you if you got out of line. We took all that out and this is what's left.

        February 16, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
      • Get a Clue

        Guns are a symptom, not the cause. Poor education leads to unemployment. Humans will do what they need to survive. Unfortuntalty some turn to crime, drugs, more crime to pay for drugs. Guns are a big part of the Crime & Drug culture. i.e. more shootings. No one seemed to care that the hood rats have been shooting each other for decades, but as soon as a regular Joe gets shot, you all want to take guns away and create more LAWS. What we need is BETTER EDUCATION and JOBS, JOBS, JOBS...... THAT is the solution to the problem. You see the same mentality with cancer. Everyone wants to cure cancer, but noone wants to find out why cancer occurs and eliminate those chemicals or drgs from our food.

        February 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  15. O Escalante

    Another great write up by Ray-
    Having grown up with Ray on the same block seeing the same issues I do find this approach to educate youth on gun violence lacks the major issue and that is youth violence. During Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics there was a riot (of sorts) in a south west side high school of Chicago (no Guns) that almost instantly overshadowed Chicago image as a tourist attraction. It is unfortunate that the recent events in Colorado, Arizona Connecticut and Chicago (again) are bringing an even larger voice to Gun Control, but as you can see it does not stop those that wish to do harm to others. The problems can easily be traced back to the home. The real questions that people should be asking: where are the parents? Everytime we lose a child to violence (gun or assault) there is never a reasonable answer for why it happened, however the families of the accused repeat the same message- “He /She is a good kid that just makes bad choices sometimes”
    We can’t continue to defend these horrible people for their actions, we need to hold them to their own demise and also hold the parents accountable. This will make parents more accountable for their kids behavior in and out of the home.

    February 15, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • thinkforamoment

      You are absolutely correct... a large portion of gun related murders occur by those who are illegally possessing the firearm in the first place. They kill over little or nothing at all, without remorse. Fathers are not teaching their sons to be men anymore; everyone of these murderers was a good kid who worked hard and went to church... it is not their fault, it was the guns fault.

      February 15, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
      • ppedo

        ????the gun selested the kid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        February 15, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Ray Salazar

      Thanks for commenting, Oscar. Remember this was a study of the gun-control debate, not gun violence. What you refer to are conversations about parenting and the justice system (punishing criminals). The purpose of my lessons was to help them understand why there is a debate on gun control and how we can tell the difference between logical and illogical support.

      February 15, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
      • O Escalante

        How far is to far on gun or assault weapons ban legislation? At the end of the day no reasonable or over reaching gun laws will prevent gun violence on our youth or our society as a whole. The 2nd Amendment, however old it may be or argued that should not apply to anyone other than the military or law enforcement still allows the average American to say "I will not be a victim". I would suggest that a closing topic of discussion for your class to be, "How can we as a society learn or master a new form of solving our problems in a more civilized manner?" – One of life's greatest mysteries as all nations have secured their survival in one form or another through violence.

        Keep up the great work Ray you are one of the great teachers that makes a difference in our world.

        February 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  16. Matt

    It’s interesting to note that in a country like New Zealand where it’s extremely difficult to own a handgun or military style rifle the homicide rate is 80% low than the US. I was on holiday there recently and noticed even the police don’t carry guns!

    February 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Brendan

      It's easier in NZ than Australia, you are overstating the difficulty a bit. And NZ's homicide rate has always been significantly lower than the US even prior to any restriction on firearms. So if you are claiming it is because of the guns, the evidence suggests that you are wrong.

      February 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
      • Brian

        You are so correct. To liberals, it's more about taking rights than it is anythng else. They will use any statistic (no matter how poor) to attempt to take the rights away from free, eligible citizens to own a firearm or firearms.

        February 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
      • Kevin


        That kind of gross generalization is not helping anyone and it's the exact kind of discourse that makes actual progress difficult.

        Some places have very restrictive gun laws and very low rates of gun violence. Some have loose gun laws and low violence. Some have loose laws and lots of violence, and some have very strict laws and lots of violence.

        What you should be doing is looking into WHY New Zealand falls into a particular quadrant, not dismissing anyone who disagrees with you as a "stupid liberal." Grow up.

        February 15, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • ppedo

      Does this relate at all to illegitamacy, teen pregnancies, and single parent families?

      February 15, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
  17. thinkforamoment

    Last year, a young man delivering pizza (M. Birdsong) was robbed of $20 at gunpoint and shot, execution style, in the back of the head by two young punks. Both young men pleaded guilty for reduced sentences of 20 (accessory) and 49 years (trigger man) with eligibility for parole. When the punishment does not fit the crime, crime will always win and passing meaningless laws restricting citizens will not do anything to deter criminals.

    It is currently against the law to murder someone, yet these monsters did it anyway, with an illegally obtained gun. No other law would have prevented this. when the progressive liberals realize that we need to execute murderers, the murder rate will decrease.

    February 15, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  18. Darh Jedi

    If I didn't know who actually wrote this I'd swear it was by the hippie teacher from Beavis and Butthead.

    February 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • Brendan

      "Now Beavis I want you to tell me how that incident made you feel" ..... "Shut up fart-knocker"

      February 15, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Ray Salazar

      I think this is a compliment. Thanks, but I don't smoke weed.

      February 15, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  19. Nate

    I would have loved to be in a class with a teacher like that! Of course, he would not have enjoyed my views. Nor the resulting agreement from my fellow classmates! I have NEVER seen a compelling viewpoint for gun control for law-abiding citizens. If you want to change gun laws... Then do so honestly by openly trying to change the second amendment.

    February 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Ray Salazar

      Thanks, Nate. As I said in another comment here, we learned that there is really no way–no way–Americans will lose the right to bear arms. This right for self-protection has been supported by the Supreme Court. People may and probably will try, but the chances of that changing, in my view, are slim. The conversation we can have, though, can be about questions like how do we guarantee this right without endangering others? How do we decrease the amount of illegally owned guns? That is a longer, more complicated conversation.

      February 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
      • Brian

        How you do that sir is for the government to enforce the laws on the books. We had a 4 year old shoot themselves this past week in Memphis and guess what? The parent and boyfriend who put the weapon where the child could get it is not facing charges. If you tag a mandatory 10 years no parole to gun crime then you will see a significant drop in deaths. Face it, most of the gun crime is done by individuals who are illegally using the firearm. A very small percentage of law abiding gun owning citizens are commiting these acts. And for the black community, the real issue isn't guns is it? It's irresponsible individuals who are acting stupidly because they have not been raised any better. What can you do about that? I think if something could work, it would have surfaced since the '60s. So let's lay blame where it should be, let's be honest here. It's not the lawful gun owners, it's sorry people acting sorry.

        February 15, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  20. WouldYouLookAtThat

    "We examined gun violence truths and misconceptions, admittedly from a progressive viewpoint." – Having them observe one side of the debate, via "a progressive viewpoint" detracts from your "intent" to have them observe arguments from both sides of said debate. Limiting views to one side or the other, progressive or conservative, prohibits objective thoughts and opinions on what is rhetoric, a misconception, or fact.

    February 15, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Ray Salazar

      If you click on the link to that source, you'll see that the source is more progressive but the facts are not debatable. The source included number of victims, trends in gun ownership, and information explaining why gun control is not politically popular. I also made it very clear to students that there is a bias–in every source–no matter how objective it claims to be. The big question we kept asking ourselves is does this make sense? Sometimes they said yes; sometimes they said no. And the last commentary we read was actually from someone who did not think guns are the problem. Check out that one, too.

      February 15, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
      • Greg

        I think you missed several very good sources about how gun control does not work. I would start with John Lott's work. That would serve up a decent begining and also a starting point about how facts can have bias and issues with it, though it might be correct. Kopel would be next since his data is very good and doesnt have much bagage. I was at least glad to see that you didnt include much from Mother Jones as they are a very biased source (ie no mass shooting were stopped by normal guys with guns but they selected their data point to purposely exclude those shootings that were stopped with less than 4 deaths). I would also include having your students go search out real studies and then learn what rebuttals were to those studies and then the responses to the rebuttals (Lott has a bunch of both, dont know about others). I would also toss out Michael Bellesiles book about making up facts and how he was shut down. Harvard has many studies that can show either outcome for gun control as well. One other point, I think it would be important to detail about other contries who have confiscated guns and what happened to the citizens (Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, etc.) Either way, good job for attemping something that you havent done before but you need to put more information out there for the kids to wade through.

        February 15, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
  21. interested

    I agree with an previous post. While it's great to have an open discussion about guns, let's face it, we are talking about the symptom of a larger issue. Over the last 10 years, based on WSJ research, the majority of crime has been focused on a handful of cities (LA, NYC, NOLA, Detroit, Philly, Chicago, Detriot). The data indicate that murders by firearms generally are related to gangs, drugs or robbery (but usually as a result of the first two items).

    Let's not spend time or money trying to treat the symptom of the issue, guns, and instead get the politicians to focus on something more meaningful – programs to help kids stay away from gangs, drugs and crime. The gang problem has penetrated our military, so the "gun" problem really won't go away.

    We spend billions on a war in Afghanistan but do very little by comparison to help the less fortunate among us. 99.99% of gun owners are honest, hard-working and law abiding citizens. They have to be in order to purchase and be approved to own a gun! these laws we are creating will do two things:

    1. affect only the law-abiding gun owners
    2. create a false sense of security for everyone else

    Focus on our kids in this inner city areas that need our help. And get rid of these silly "gun free zones". I'm sorry that's like telling the wolf where the sheep will be.....

    February 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  22. Ty

    crime will still happen in various forms even if you take away guns. it happens in china everyday. it does not matter what you do with guns bad seeds will still create bad problems. quit making more laws for people to break. i agree there should be stricker restrictions on getting a gun. taking guns away is the not the answer. we need to quick making jails and prisons nicer and bigger and start putting money in organizations that help young kids and adults stray away from violence.

    February 15, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  23. Curtis

    I commend you Mr. Salazar for caring and daring to teach in the city you do. I am curious to analyze the results of your students conclusions. Kids awareness of guns in their neighborhoods and maybe amongst their friends will help them make decisions as to who to befriend and who to possibly mention to adults or law enforcement. People involvement (at a save distance of course) is the only way to solve or greatly diminish these problems. People should police themselves as the cops just can't do it all.

    February 15, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  24. Caleb

    The problem is just like with drugs, gangs are getting guns that getting shipped across the border, or stolen from law abiding citizens. Money needs to be put into youth programs, religious centers, and sports programs that are proven to keep kids out of gangs. Also put money into the education system and jobs so they know that there is a future to afford life and to pay for bills other than dealing drugs and doing crime. Even with total gun bans there is higher violence in big cities that still have gang problems, where opportunity lacks, churches are leaving, and education is poor.

    February 15, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  25. Bankrupt1

    Repair our communities rather than dump resources into the prison-industrial complex.

    February 15, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Brian

      Yeah those programs have really worked out well....right, got some beachfront property in Arizona to sell ya.

      February 15, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  26. Bankrupt1

    The gangs are recruiting kids in junior high. grade school. parents are teaching their kids to be thugs. They tell them it "protection". That they will have protection anywhere in the world. They get kids to steal guns, ammunition for them. It's racially motivated.

    February 15, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  27. bs1

    How about you discuss gang violence and gang gontrol since that is the true issue. Do you honestly think that if there was not a single gun on the planet those gangs would suddenly be manning lemmonade stands on the street corners? Do you honestly think that being stabbed to death, beaten to death, run over by a car to death by a gang member is any different from being shot to death by a gang member?

    February 15, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • hopefulspam

      Great reply!!!

      February 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Ray Salazar

      bs1: The shooters in the Arizona, Colorado, and Connecticut shootings were not gang members. Gangs are a big part of the problem. But let's not let that blind us into only addressing that and ignoring other factors like access to assault weapons, the lack of background checks, lack of mental health care. We learned this situation is more complicated than you make it seem.

      February 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
      • Brian

        Come on and take responsibility here. Percentage wise gun crime is extreamly high in gang and crime infested places with high amounts of gun control. The real issue is someone picking up a gun illegally and going out and acting inappropriately. And within the black community even higher rates. Those references of Colorado, CT, etc. make up a very small percentage of gun violence and you know it. The "complication" you talk about isn't about guns or gun laws, the complication is how to you make generations of ill-behaving people straighten up and fly right. That's complicated and frankly likely not to end very soon. More generations of blacks will be lost why? Because of the way they are raised.

        February 15, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  28. Mary Leonhardt

    Mr. Salazar, I love your approach. Not only are you teaching critical thinking skills, you are moving your students from just thinking of themselves as potential victims, to thinking of themselves as well-educated citizens who may be able to make a difference.

    I also taught inner-city kids for a number of years in the Boston area. At one point, almost every Boston student I had knew someone–a family member or friend–who was a victim of gun violence. I wish I had thought of your approach then.


    February 15, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Ray Salazar

      Thank you, Mary. I hadn't thought about it that way. Yes, they are moving beyond thinking of themselves as victims and realizing that, while they/we cannot control everything, they / we can make significant contributions to debates and situations. I'll check out your blog.

      February 15, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  29. Andrew_Engeldinger's_Glock 9mm

    Chicago does not have walls around the city. When you look at Chicago's gun control laws you also need to look at Gary Indiana's lack of gun control laws and gun shops willing to profit off of straw purchases.
    "Chicago gangs don’t have to go far to buy guns" by Frank Main (Chicago Sun-Times) August 26, 2012
    Of course Chicago is way down on the list in violent crime, murder, and gun death rates as it is.
    It might even be able to catch up with New York City one day if Mark Jones, a retired supervisor for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives finally gets just Chuck's Gun Store closed.

    February 15, 2013 at 5:50 am |
    • Blame game

      Right. Always someone else's fault?
      So who are you going to blame if every state has "chicago" style gun control?

      February 15, 2013 at 10:02 am |
      • OpinionOnly

        I heard that there is statistics showing that Chicago is now worse then NYC

        February 15, 2013 at 11:47 am |
      • Leslie Post

        You are correct- the BLAME GAME has permeated society today from the WH down. The way to do things is to BLAME someone or SOMETHING else. Rather than address the problem: mental illness,violence in society/ movies/ entertainment we blame the method: guns, the NRA.
        We want to pass FEEL GOOD LAWS which will do NOTHING to prevent a similar act in the future, but will let us feel like we have done something and then move on.
        Violent acts are sometimes LEARNED or EMULATED. Why don't we spend more time addressing the problem and quit blaming the method.

        February 16, 2013 at 10:14 am |