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The mother of Darrin White grieves for the death of her son. Andre Smith Photo

Last week, President Barack Obama shed tears as he announced his decision to invoke executive action to enact what he viewed as “common sense” gun legislation designed to at least somewhat stem the tide of gun violence that has kept this country in an NRA-approved death grip for decades. Predictably, Obama’s actions were attacked by many on the right as anti-gun and as executive overreach.

But just as much bitter reaction was directed at Obama’s tears, which were shed for the child victims of gun violence, as was directed at his end run around a maddeningly stubborn Congress that has refused to effectively address the issue of gun violence despite the president’s repeated attempts to get something done – and despite the steadily rising body count. No doubt a large part of that resistance was directed at Obama himself with no regard for the facts, for what was right or wrong, or even for what was in the nation’s best interest. Because in the eyes of the right wing, if Obama approves it then it must be opposed, even if it is something they themselves may have approved before.

Arguably the strongest lobby on Capitol Hill, the NRA has managed to effectively kneecap any effort, large or small, that would in any way hamper individuals from purchasing the desired level of firepower to fit their fancy. Guns for all, guns forever seems to be their mantra. So during the period of his presidency that has characteristically been labeled the ‘lame duck’ period’, Obama decided to flex his executive muscles once again and take yet another defiant stand. Because while the Republican-controlled Congress continues to bicker and stall, and the NRA continues to play puppeteer/profiteer with their obedient bought-and-paid-for minions, children continue to die – and commit murder – at an alarming rate.

Nowhere does this fact resonate more than in the streets of Detroit which, even in the midst of a much-trumpeted revival, remains the deadliest city in the nation for children. The city’s infant mortality rate – the highest in the nation – ranks as the number one killer of young children, according to a Detroit News special report published in September, 2015. But homicide, according to this same report, ranks number two.

From the News:

“Nearly 500 Detroit children have died in homicides since 2000 — an average of nearly three dozen a year.

“Most were gun-related, and most were among children 14-18. Many youngsters just got in the way of a bullet intended for an adult, or for no one in particular.

“The findings came from a six-month News investigation, during which thousands of bits of data from state health departments across the country were gathered and analyzed. The News found that the death rate from all forms of violence in 2010, the most recent year for which comparable data are available on other communities, is higher in Detroit than in any other major U.S. city: 15.7 per 100,000 children.”

The Christmas Eve killing of bassist Anthony Tolson, who was carjacked as he was leaving a gas station after giving a performance at his church and was on his way to his mother’s home so he could wake up with his children to open their presents, once again shook the community as yet another press conference was held to mourn Tolson and draw attention to out-of-control gun crime in Detroit. Several days after Tolson’s murder, 7-year-old Chanell Berry was killed by a stray bullet fired during a domestic dispute. She was playing with her Christmas toys with a friend who was also shot, but managed to survive. Chanell was buried on her 8th birthday.

These stories are being repeated because they deserve to be repeated. As long as the killing keeps happening, the stories need to keep getting told. Over, and over, and over again.

But a picture, as the saying goes, is worth a thousand words. The recent picture of a grief-stricken President Barack Obama is certainly an example of that. And the pictures of so much gun-related grief in Detroit, captured by photographer Andre Smith over the past several years, who has attended more funerals for dead children than he ever wanted to see, present emotions and pain that few words can adequately capture.

We therefore interrupt the Detroit Auto Show to focus on the children. These are the reasons behind President Obama’s tears.

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