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From our archive: Jahlil’s commentary first aired on KQED in May 2013.
When I was 12 something happened that made me think buying a gun wasn’t the worst idea. I thought it could give me what I would like to call, a twisted peace of mind.
One morning I was on my way to the bus stop when I heard gunshots. I looked back and saw no one. Then out of nowhere I spotted a guy running towards me, wearing a grey sweat suit with a gun in his hand. I took off in the opposite direction. As I was running I saw someone on the ground, across the street. It was my teenage cousin, lying in a pool of his own blood.
Growing up in West Oakland, I’ve witnessed robberies, drug deals and even people being paid to commit murder. It wasn’t unusual to see my older cousins load their guns before going to the corner store to buy some eggs and milk. Wearing a gun seemed as essential as wearing a pair of boxers. There have been plenty of times when I’ve had the money and the right connections to purchase one.
But each time, at the last minute, I stop and think to myself, “Do I honestly need a gun?”
Then I’d buy a pair of shoes instead.
My friends ask me things like, “Why don’t you tote? You too scared to get a hammer?” and quite frankly the answer is yes. I’m scared of losing my freedom. I’m scared of the effect the gun could have on my personality. And I’m scared of the thought of ending a person’s life.
Thankfully my grandparents and I relocated from West Oakland to a much calmer neighborhood. For the first time I was free to think more about music, sports and… shoes, without those thoughts being drowned out by violence.
Every now and then I still find myself in a potentially threatening situation, and I start to think about getting a gun. But then I remember buying a piece would only ruin the peace I already have.
With a Perspective, I’m Jahlil Jackson