After losing both her father and her brother to gun violence in St. Louis and later being victimized by domestic violence, Goldie Taylor purchased a gun for her own protection. On Monday, three days after the Newtown massacre, Taylor wrote: “After my father and brother were murdered, owning a gun made me feel secure. Now it’s time to give it up.” As President Obama vows new action on gun control, Taylor joins us to discuss her own case and the gun violence from Newtown, Connecticut, to the streets of Chicago, where nearly 500 people have been murdered this year, mostly by guns. Taylor, an MSNBC contributor and managing editor of “The Goldie Taylor Project,” calls on the corporate media to do a better job reporting all gun-related killings, regardless of race, economic class and gender. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Funerals continue in Newtown, Connecticut, after Friday’s shooting rampage that left 20 students and six staff members dead at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Four more children were laid to rest Wednesday, as well as the principal of the school, Dawn Hochsprung, and teacher Victoria Soto. Soto died while shielding her students from gunfire. She was remembered by a friend after her memorial service.
CONNIE DELOTTINVILLE: She was one of the most beautiful people, like the really super popular person, but she was friendly with everyone, like she did not have a mean bone in her body, always smiling and laughing, and you could hear her down the hallway. She was a great person. So, this is just such a tragic loss. And we were going to have our 10-year high school reunion next year, and I was really looking forward to seeing her and seeing everyone again. And quite the damper on things.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Meanwhile, President Obama announced Wednesday he would appoint a new White House-led effort, chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, to reform gun control policies, which he would outline in his annual State of the Union address next month.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence and prevent the very worst violence. That’s why I’ve asked the vice president to lead an effort that includes members of my cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January, proposals that I then intend to push without delay. This is not some Washington commission. This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside. This is a team that has a very specific task: to pull together real reforms right now.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: President Obama also referred to the ongoing toll from gun violence around the country since Friday’s attack.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Since Friday morning, a police officer was gunned down in Memphis, leaving four children without their mother. Two officers were killed outside a grocery store in Topeka. A woman was shot and killed inside a Las Vegas casino. Three people were shot inside an Alabama hospital. A four-year-old was caught in a drive-by in Missouri and taken off life support just yesterday. Each one of these Americans was a victim of the everyday gun violence that takes the lives of more than 10,000 Americans every year, violence that we cannot accept as routine.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, to talk more about the factors leading to gun violence, from Newtown, Connecticut, to the streets of cities like Chicago, where the homicide rate spiked earlier this year—more than 500 gun murders in the past year—and also behind closed doors in cases of domestic violence, we’re joined by Goldie Taylor. She lost both her father and her brother to gun violence. She is an MSNBC contributor and managing editor of “The Goldie Taylor Project.” She recently wrote a piece entitled “After my father and brother were murdered, owning a gun made me feel secure. Now it’s time to give it up.” And she did just that on Monday.
Goldie Taylor, welcome to Democracy Now! Let’s go back a ways, how you ended up getting your gun. Tell us your life story.
GOLDIE TAYLOR: You know, I grew up with guns, Amy. It was a part of our life. We grew up in East St. Louis. And so, having a gun was really a part of the family security, along with having burglar bars and those kinds of things. When my father was murdered in 1973, my mother immediately bought a gun and kept it in the house for, you know, all of our lives. My brother was murdered in a similar fashion about 20 years later. And it really took the family by storm. At that time, I bought my own gun. I did not want my sons to live the fate or end in the fate that my father and brother had, and so I did what I thought I needed to do to protect them.
I had been a former marine, and so I had weapons training. My stepfather had been a detective sergeant at the East St. Louis Police Department, and so, you know, it was natural to me to have a weapon in the house. But over the years, you know, I’ve just come to understand that having a privately owned, even though legal, weapon in your home, you are more likely—more likely to hurt yourself or someone that you care about than you are to hurt someone who is trying to hurt you from the outside. And so, those are, you know, the real statistics.
But we’ve got a real dilemma here. My father and brother were murdered with illegal guns. And this country is awash in them. The black market is just, you know, inundated, from Los Angeles to New York, Chicago, of course, Atlanta, where young men of color, you know, are using these guns on each other and, as a consequence, also hurting children surrounding them. And so, the University of Chicago says that one in five children who are hit by gunfire are not the intended target. There was a little girl in Chicago on her mother’s lap having her hair combed one warm evening in Chicago. She was shot by a stray bullet. And that is the tragedy in this country. You know, something about Newtown really brings this, you know, home for many people who aren’t impacted by violence on a daily basis.
But I turned my gun in, and I’ve watched and listened as others turned theirs in, and I’m glad that it’s beginning to happen. You know, some of these cities have had record buyback programs over the last 72 to 96 hours, and I’m really proud of that. I’m glad that we’re going to have a conversation about gun control in this country. I’m glad we’re going to have a conversation, I think, finally, about mental health and access to it. I think I’m really glad that we’re going to have, I believe, a conversation holistically about, you know, just our violent culture in general. It’s in our popular culture. It’s in our popular media.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Goldie Taylor, I wanted to ask you about that particularly, the culture of the country, because, as you say, the illegal gun problem is a bigger problem in the inner city, but clearly in the suburbs of America, in the heartland of America, many folks with legal guns also sometimes engage in some of these—many of these violent acts. And as we’re having the conversation for those who are turning their guns in, there’s also a section of the American people who are clinging desperately to this idea of their right to continue to have guns and not—even assault weapons. In the Connecticut case, for instance, the mother trained her children in the use of guns. And many Americans do that, continue to train their children in the use of guns from an early age. Could you talk a little bit more about the culture of violence in America, from your perspective?
GOLDIE TAYLOR: You know, I think that—you know, I believe in the Second Amendment, but as the president said, there is an awfully large gap between having the right to bear arms as is stated in the Second Amendment and then being able to own an assault rifle. I think that there are—being former military, I think that there are certain kinds of weaponry that civilians simply should not have access to. There are certain kinds of ammunition that civilians should not have access to. You know, I don’t know why a civilian would need, for instance, a hollow-point bullet, those things that are armor-piercing. You know, that is something that we ought to be able to severely regulate. But, you know, I do believe that people ought to be able to have, for instance, a shotgun, if you’re living in rural America, for home protection, if you choose to do that. It’s your right. I don’t happen to want to choose it for myself anymore.
But the idea that we as Americans have a right to assault rifles, that we have a right to, you know, armor-piercing bullets, I think that that is simply a fallacy. I think the—I think the Supreme Court has ruled that the individual right to bear arms for home self-protection, you know, is something that they—that is settled law for them. But what is, you know, I think widely open—you know, we regulate things like Sudafed. You know, I can’t buy but so much of it, and I have to go to my pharmacist and have it—you know, I can’t buy it off the shelf anymore. Why is it that I can get online and order a Bushmaster or order a Beretta or a nine-millimeter Glock? You know, why is it that I can go to a gun show and not have a background check or show appropriate identification and buy a gun? Forty percent of the guns in this country, both rural and urban, are bought without appropriate background checks. There are so many loopholes in our gun law, and we simply have to close them.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Goldie Taylor, and we’re going to take a break. When we come back, I want to ask you about your own personal experiences with domestic violence and guns, and let’s talk more about the inner cities, what deaths count and what don’t. The horror that we see in Newtown, should it be a model for how the media covers all murders in this country? Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye, Marvin Gaye who was shot dead by his father with a gun that Marvin had given him as a gift. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our guest, Goldie Taylor, MSNBC contributor, managing editor of “The Goldie Taylor Project,” where she writes about contemporary, social and political issues. We’re speaking to her in Atlanta, Georgia.
Goldie, can you tell us your own story about the linkage of domestic violence and guns?
GOLDIE TAYLOR: Sure. You know, here in Atlanta, I have lived here, I guess, probably 27 years now. During our first year here in Atlanta, I met who I thought was the most charming man in the world. We moved in together, started college, you know, just started to build a life with him. And not long after that is when the abuse began. He began to isolate me from my family, from my friends, began to belittle every single thing that I did. And then it became physically abusive.
I felt trapped, even though my mother lived less than 10 miles away. I was afraid to tell her what was happening, because for so many young women there is an unfortunate culture of silence, you know, that sort of places a dome around what’s happening in some of these homes. I remember a relative used to tell me back when we were younger that what happens between that man and that woman is between that man and that woman. It is probably, looking back, the most unfortunate thing that I’ve ever heard.
It ended for me the night that I was stabbed in my back. There was a horrific beating, where I was stomped and kicked, choked until I blacked out. And I ran. I took an opportunity to run. And I knew that if I didn’t run, that I was going to die that night. There is a scar on my left shoulder today from where he took a paring knife from the kitchen and caught me in the shoulder just as I broke through the door. He did not serve any jail time. It was broken down to a misdemeanor and then later dismissed.
And I look back on that today, and I understand that, you know, there have been new laws on the books since that happened, including compulsory arrest, that, you know, it is a little bit easier today to get a restraining order than maybe it used to be. There are new stalking laws on the books. And I’m grateful for all of that. But what we really have got to see is grassroots action around providing women safe haven, and then providing counseling and therapy for the men involved—and so, not only punishment, but treatment, because an abuser will abuse again. Hurt people hurt other people, and until there is some real healing.
You know, I wrote about my story because there was a young woman in the news who I kept hearing about, but I never heard her name. Her name was Kasandra Perkins, and she was the girlfriend and mother of child of Jovan Belcher. And I woke one morning to find that he had shot her nine times and killed himself. And relatives and friends will recount that the relationship was, as they called it, fraught or troublesome. The NFL team had engaged the couple in counseling. I believe a lot of people knew that it was coming, that one day he would kill her. And no one—no one did a thing. And so, I told my story, because Kassie and other young women like her aren’t here to tell theirs. Three women every day in this country are killed in domestic violence situations, whether it’s a knife, a beating or a gun. All too often, the gun makes it too easy. If there had been a gun involved in my situation, I am certain—certain—I would not be here today.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Goldie Taylor, I wanted to ask you, you’re former military, as well. Your sense, because our country obviously has been involved in so many military actions abroad and—the impact of the—how the military trains people in terms of the use of weapons and the impact of that once they get out of the military?
GOLDIE TAYLOR: Well, I think it’s two things. One, it is the weapons training that we receive, but, two, it’s the care that we don’t receive when we come home. You know, the level of PTSD, among both the men and women who see action on the front line and those who don’t, is really at—at a level that we haven’t seen in a very long time, because we have engaged ourselves in so many wars on so many fronts. But when we come home, the treatment, the care that’s needed, simply isn’t there. You know, our nation’s VA system, you know, is largely broken. I don’t know if you’ve spent much time in a VA hospital, but it’s a very tough place to get through, to get into its system and to actually receive care. You get better care, I think, at one of your county hospitals. And so, I think it is two things. It is, one, the weapons training, but it’s, two, you know, coming home to civilian life and making that transition, you know, isn’t always as easy for some of us as it may seem.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, the violence in urban areas, Goldie, how we cover violence in a place like Newtown, this horrific massacre that has taken place, the worst massacre in an elementary school in this country’s history, the worst school killing after Virginia Tech, and how we cover the constant violence in the inner cities, like Chicago, this figure of roughly 500 people killed in the last year, a quarter of them children under 18—in all of those cases, gun deaths.
GOLDIE TAYLOR: You know, I—there is something very horrific about Newtown, that there were 20 children, that there were six adults, that—well, seven adults, including his mother, because I include her. Even though she trained her son to shoot, and he had access to those guns, she was shot in her sleep. And so, I think there is something horrific about that to be set aside.
But in terms of the other 30,000-plus deaths in this country due to gun violence a year, the way that they are covered by media, the way that they are investigated, the level to which they are prosecuted, that convictions come, and even the level of sentencing, all of those things are never determined by the race of the shooter; they’re determined, as I’ve found, by the race of the victim. And so, you have African-American children, Hispanic children here in Gwinnett County, where I sit today, who are dying of gun violence, and no one’s talking about it. It’s because, as Americans, we feel as though it is isolated or contained to certain undesirable communities, and that if we just keep it away from us, then it won’t impact us. And so, you see a flash of it on the nightly news. You see a flash of it on a radio program in the morning. You know, we learned about my father’s death over a radio program. But to hear, to see the national coverage, it has to be random, and it has to be somebody who looks like us. I always said when the “that could happen to me” syndrome kicks in, that’s when there’s coverage. That’s when there is investigation and prosecution. That’s when you see more heavy sentences coming to bear. And, you know, I’m writing a piece now that is tentatively titled “The Color of Life,” because we, as a society, place differing values on differing lives according to race, gender, socioeconomic status and all of that.
AMY GOODMAN: Goldie Taylor, we want to thank you very much for being with us, MSNBC contributor, managing editor of “The Goldie Taylor Project,” where she writes about contemporary social and political issues — her website is goldietaylorproject.com — speaking to us from Atlanta.