- Nick Luhring
The Least Recognized Gun Violence Expert in the United States of America
There are times where our largest achievements go unnoticed and the largest achievers go unrecognized.
Kenny Barnes is well known by many, and has been a leading advocate against gun violence since the brutal murder of his son, Kenny, Jr., by a 17 year old youth in 2001. Although he has been recognized by media, awards, proclamations, and by those on the forefront of the campaign against gun violence, he has somehow been excluded from the national dialogue, and not included with those voices that are offering recommendations and seeking solutions.
Furthermore, Mr. Barnes believes firmly that gun violence, and its accompanying youth violence, is a public health/mental health crisis and not a legal issue; that 2nd amendment arguments and debates cloud the real issues of the causes of gun violence; and that legislation, though a part of a comprehensive strategic approach to reducing gun violence, is not, in and of itself, the panacea.
In fact, among Mr. Barnes' many accomplishments was the introduction to Congress in 2009 by Congressman Bobby Rush of a public health model for reducing gun and youth violence, entitled The Community in Action Neighborhood Defense and Opportunity Bill, The CANDO Bill –HR1303. This Bill is the only one of its kind ever introduced in Congress to address the reduction of gun violence from a comprehensive, public health perspective.
In addition to having proclamations introduced on both the Senate and House floors by Senator Carl Levin and Congressman Bobby Rush, respectively, ceremonial proclamations and resolutions have been introduced in Washington, D.C., along with 2 days named in his honor in Prince Georges County, Montgomery County, and Boston, Mass.
Mr. Barnes has been at the forefront of organizing the D.C. community in blocking attempted efforts by others, including members of Congress and the Senate, to change the gun laws as they exist in the District of Columbia.
His reasoning, unlike many others, is not based on 2nd amendment issues, but on autonomy. His rallying cry was that only D.C. residents should decide what regulations regarding gun laws should be imposed in the District of Columbia. His efforts with respect to his involvement include:
▪ Serving as a friend-of-the court, “amicus curiae,” for the landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, District of Columbia v. Heller.
▪ Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was dissuaded in his attempt to introduce legislation that would have drastically changed the D.C. gun laws. After a compassionate meeting with Senator Frist’s chief of staff, led by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mr. Barnes, and Ms. Marita Michael, Senator Frist withdrew his support for the Bill.
▪ Mr. Barnes organized the effort and helped lead the charge against the Ensign Amendment, introduced by Senator John Ensign, which led to its demise.
▪ Mr. Barnes organized and facilitated the campaign and subsequent press conference to denounce S. 3265/H.R. 5162, “The Second Amendment Enforcement Act," together with the D.C. Mayor, the entire City Council, various local and national organizations, and victims of gun violence, all organized by Mr. Barnes, aligned to express opposition to this legislation which was introduced by Senators John McCain and Jon Tester. Based on his efforts, Mr. Barnes was instrumental in having these Senators withdraw their support for the Bill.
In April, 2013, Mr. Barnes was selected by the Rotary Club Foundation and the National Rotary Club as one of 10 Rotarians chosen throughout the United States to be presented to the White House as a Champion of Change during Rotary Day at the White House.
Mr. Barnes was the recipient of the 2009 National Service Award presented to him by the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder during National Victims of Crime Week. This honor is the highest award to an individual based upon their work on behalf of victims of crime.
Finally, perhaps his greatest achievement to go unrecognized is that Mr. Barnes may be the only person in the country to have met or discussed with the following organizations, institutions, and individuals in a true quest to set aside differences and work together collaboratively in an effort to reduce the incidents of gun violence:
▪ Wayne LaPierre & the National Rifle Association - NRA
▪ The Brady Campaign
▪ The NAACP
▪ The Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
▪ Dr. Abby Spangler, Founder, Protest Easy Guns
▪ The Vera Institute of Justice
▪ Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health
▪ Howard University
▪ Debbie Weiss and the UCLA School of Public Health
▪ Dr. Carl Bell, Director of Public Health & Community Psychiatry, the University of Chicago
▪ Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, Associate Dean & Professor of Public Health Practice, Harvard
▪ Lt. Gov. Michael Steele of Maryland
(Article written by Barbara Hanson of HHM Consultants, Inc. - www.hhmconsultantsinc.com)