Live by the Gun
5 months ago
An NFL murder-suicide sparks talk about gun control. Here’s how men in the gun-riddled Bronx think the problem should be solved.
As children, Shane Allen, Billy “B.O.” Logan and Richard Morales used to play Manhunter, Blackout and other variations of tag in the Bronxdale Houses projects. It was the late 80s, the height of the crack epidemic, and the Soundview section of the Bronx was especially hard hit. Men smoked weed and drug dealers staked out their territories in urine-stained lobbies. Crack vials littered the ground, and addicts went door to door, selling stolen lotion, talcum powder and other goods to earn enough for a hit. Even inside the individual apartments, where the decent families lived, the depravity of the outside world seeped in, as gunshots often pierced the constant hum of the days and nights.
The object of the games the boys played was to run fast enough to escape the person who was “it”. They were games, the same that children play all over the world, but for boys growing up in the Bronx, they were more.
“All those games, running from each other, that was like training for running from the cops later on in life,” says Allen, “because when we started selling drugs, that’s what we were doing.”
With the drug dealing as teens came an introduction to guns, and with guns came violence, and sometimes death.
“The only way to govern is by being ruthless,” says Allen, 31. “That’s how the guns became involved—people shooting each other because this is my corner where I sell at, this is where I live at, and you shouldn’t be here.”
This past weekend's shooting death of Kasandra Perkins by boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs lineman Jovan Belcher, before he took his own life, has raised the issue of gun violence and gun control to the national consciousness yet again. Pundits are expounding on the issue while politicians skirt around it. There is a collective conversation being had mainly by those whose only knowledge of gun violence is based on what they’ve studied or read, and the images they’ve seen on the evening news or in movies.
But for people like Allen, Morales and Logan, gun violence was a part of everyday life. Morales, 32, remembers the first murder he ever witnessed, when he was just 14, and a man bled to death right in front of him. Allen has been shot in the shoulder, gone to prison for gun possession, and has lost at least a dozen friends to gun violence. The last friend died in August; the first, Logan, was killed in 2006, when he was just 22-years-old.