Hip-hop: a genre of music or society’s scapegoat for gun violence?

Another rapper has been killed in the United States as a result of the gun violence epidemic

On Nov. 1, American rapper Takeoff from the hip-hop group Migos was shot and killed in Houston, Texas. The 28-year-old rapper was outside of 810 Billiards and Bowling Houston when an argument broke out that led to the shooting. 

The news of Takeoff’s death spread rapidly and left many in disbelief because it seemed that he died over nothing. There were no drugs, weapons, or anything criminal found on him, which left many wondering why this happened.

It seems that every year, at least one rapper gets shot and killed and then their death eventually becomes another statistic.

Sadly, Takeoff was the latest victim in this ongoing crisis. 

According to a summary of the statistics by CNN, in 2018, XXXTentacion was robbed and gunned down in Florida. In 2019, Nipsey Hussle was shot over 10 times while helping out his community in Los Angeles. In 2020, Pop Smoke was shot during a home invasion in California. King Von was also shot and killed in 2020 during a dispute in a parking lot outside of a hookah lounge. Lastly, in 2021, Young Dolph was fatally shot while buying cookies in Memphis.

However, not everyone feels pity for these rappers. There is crime committed in all communities but when it comes to this genre of music, it’s reported differently towards the public. 

Ben Shapiro is a US political commentator known for his controversial opinions. In 2019, he interviewed a rapper named Zuby and discussed how hip-hop negatively impacts people. “From the outside, when I listen to hip-hop, I don’t hear a bunch of family-oriented messages. In fact, I hear a lot of messages that are degrading to women, I hear messages that push violence, that are disparaging to the police.” 

It seems as though people who blame hip-hop for the violence in Black communities can’t separate fiction from fact. 

Hip-hop and rapping is a form of storytelling and rappers are often talking about their own life experiences and problems, with some exaggeration to make it entertaining.   

Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, also known as 21 Savage, is a famous rapper who’s respected in the culture. On his 21st birthday, he was shot six times but survived to tell the story. This year in August, he sent out a tweet that was faced with instant backlash. “Atlanta we have to do better, put the f****** guns down!!!!!” the tweet read. 

21 Savage was called a hypocrite because his lyrics depict him shooting, killing and robbing people. He responded back and informed the public about how his music is a narration of his life. “I ain’t never promoted violence. I just rap about what I’ve been through, or what I’ve heard about, what I’ve saw. That ain’t me promoting violence,” the rapper said on Instagram. 

While there are many who advocate against gun violence, the number of rappers who have been killed this year only seems to be growing. 

In 2022, Trouble, Snootie Wild, Tdott Woo, Wavy Navy Pooh, Goonew, Lil Devin, Archie Eversole, JayDaYoungan, FBG Cash, Rollie Bands, Young Slo-Be, Earl Swavey, Money Gang Vontae, PnB Rock, Desto and now Takeoff all are dead due to gun violence. 

Although these rappers were senselessly shot dead, it seems as though because of who they were, how they looked and the fact that they rapped, they were expected to die. In reality, there is a gun control problem in the United States which is constantly left unaddressed when someone passes away in the hip-hop community.

Graphic by James Fay @jamesfaydraws


Montrealers’ sense of security is being called into question

With 31 homicides this year, Montreal has been witnessing a spike in violent crimes

Montreal has always been a home to students who live alone, as it was known for its safety and security. However, a sharp increase in homicides and crimes is affecting the way many students view the city.

“I still get shivers every time I step into my building,” said Rhea Bakhach, a business student at Concordia living in downtown Montreal. She recalled how one morning as she was going to work, her building’s lobby was filled with blood as policemen carried a body outside. 

Bakhach’s neighbour, a 26-year-old music teacher, had killed his stepfather and stabbed his mother alongside two other people the night before. 

Bakhach has been living in Montreal alone for two years as her family is back in Lebanon. “My family freaked out, they had me install a second lock, and I considered moving out for a while. I used to feel very safe alone here, but now, not so much.”

The city of Montreal has recorded 31 homicides so far this year, compared to 36 total recorded homicides last year. Half of those involved the use of firearms. According to the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal’s (SPVM) annual report of 2021, homicides increased by 44 per cent last year. Compared to the last five years, the numbers are up by 39.5 per cent. 

“Coming from Mexico, one of the most dangerous countries in the world, even with everything happening in Montreal, I feel that I am safe living here,” said Rafael Ruiz González, an international journalism student at Concordia who lives in Verdun. 

“It is worrisome to see this spike in crimes here but we have seen so many headlines and stories about violence that now we’re just immune to it and learn to live with it,” said González. 

Michel Abou Jaoude, a government social worker, believes that there is a correlation between the rising crime rate and mental health issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“These people committing the crimes are clearly not well-surrounded,” Abou Jaoude said. “With the labour shortage that’s been happening, a lot of resources that used to help troubled youth are no longer available.” 

The labour shortage has also impacted the SPVM. Montreal Police Chief Sophie Roy announced during a news conference on Aug. 27 that the Quebec government will dedicate an additional $250 million to recruit 225 more officers in Montreal to help with this issue. 

“Gun violence is also a major factor in these stories. More laws should be controlling the entrance of illegal guns,” added Abou Jaoude. 
A national freeze on the ownership, transfer and sale of handguns was announced as Bill C-21 was introduced earlier this year in May. While the bill doesn’t ban handguns for now, it limits their possession to the people already living in Canada. This decision might help restore the sense of control and safety that people are longing to get back.


A first step in the march for change

Most people are familiar with the phrase: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” On March 24, that change manifested itself in the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of other cities across the United States. Although the march was organized by American students to protest against weak American gun laws following a lengthy streak of shootings in American schools, thousands of Canadians marched in solidarity on Saturday. The ability of a group of Florida teenagers to spark a transnational demonstration is courageous, inspiring and a major step toward effecting real change.

We live in an age where mass shootings are normalized in the United States—or at least they were until about six weeks ago. So far this year, there has been an average of more than one school shooting every week in the United States, or a total of 17 shootings in 12 weeks, according to CNN. While Canadians should be proud to support our neighbours to the south in their fight to improve gun control, it’s important to remember we are not immune to the problem in our own country.

There were 13 shootings—two of which were fatal—in Ottawa alone in January 2018, reported CBC News. This equals to 40 per cent of the shootings recorded in the city in all of 2013. Of the 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries, Canada has the fourth highest rate of death by firearm, according to The Globe and Mail. The rate in Canada is more than twice that of Australia and 10 times the rate in Britain.

Effective gun control has been terminated at the federal level, and gun circulation in Canada has amplified. According to The Globe and Mail, the Harper government overruled the RCMP’s ban on military assault weapons, and eliminated the legal requirement that the sale of shotguns and rifles be tracked. Today, people with gun licenses in Canada can buy an unlimited number of unrestricted guns (i.e. shotguns and rifles, among others), and there is no record kept about any of these purchases. Gun owners in Canada can also avoid background checks because of automatic six-month license extensions that kick in if they fail to renew their license on time. Additionally, from 2012 to 2016, the importation of guns to Canada almost doubled compared to the previous four years—increasing from more than one million to just under two million, according to The Globe and Mail.

So while most of the news media turns its attention to the overwhelming number of massacres in the United States, it is undeniable that gun violence and a lack of gun control are problems in Canada as well.

As Canadians, we should be proud to stand against the people who deem corporate greed and political gain more valuable than the innocent lives of children. We should be proud to support anyone who tries to effect positive, peaceful change in a world that seems increasingly polarized and violent. Canadians should take inspiration from the brave voices and powerful words of young Americans, and make sure our own government understands that weak gun control will no longer be tolerated here either. We should all be determined to end gun violence and school shootings.

A school should be a safe space for everyone. It’s where we go to learn, to flourish and to create a future for ourselves. It is outrageous that shooting drills have become as commonplace in schools as fire drills. Parents should not drop their children off at school fearing they’ll never see them again.

Change comes slowly, but we at The Concordian believe it will come. Children are the future, and Saturday’s march was just a taste of the future these courageous young people will build for themselves. The people in charge can not be relied on to protect that future, nor should it be solely their responsibility. As the students of Parkland high school continue to show us, we must become the change we wish to see in our world.

Graphic Alexa Hawksworth


#NeverAgain: A demand for change

Students-turned-activists fight back against gun violence in the United States

Yet another devastating mass shooting rocked the United States on Feb. 14. This time, it occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Seventeen lives were lost that day. Students who survived the school shooting decided to take immediate action and started protesting against gun violence in the United States.

We have seen an eruption of anger from these students, many of whom lost friends and teachers on that horrific day. Rather than staying home and grieving, they are channeling their outrage to give voice to the issue that devastated their school.

There is truly nothing more empowering than watching a group of teenagers speak up about gun control, form an alliance against politicians who are funded by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and spark a nation-wide movement now known as #NeverAgain.

Many Douglas High School students are advocating for change because they are tired of the normalization of mass shootings in the United States. They have expressed particular disappointment in the government’s failure to ban semi-automatic weapons—the type of gun used in the Parkland shooting—and all other accessories that make them fully automatic. Furthermore, these student activists are pushing for stricter background checks for gun buyers.

Just four days after the shooting, these students began planning the March for Our Lives demonstration, to take place on March 24 in Washington D.C. Numerous celebrities have demonstrated their support for the Parkland community, including Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney, who donated millions to the upcoming march. Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have both taken to Twitter to praise and express their support for the teens’ efforts. The former first lady tweeted: “Like every movement for progress in our history, gun reform will take unyielding courage and endurance.”

In light of this activism, it’s extremely maddening that President Donald Trump keeps highlighting mental illness as the prominent issue when mass shootings take place. Yet, as many gun control advocates have pointed out, Trump repealed an initiative in February 2017 that would have made it harder for people with mental illness to purchase guns. This was just one of the many points made in a heart-wrenching speech given by Emma González, a senior at Douglas High School, on Feb. 17. This speech became the defining moment at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale the weekend after the shooting.

Another name that has become familiar with the American public and over social media is David Hogg. Hogg is a reporter for the Douglas High School newspaper, now known for his comments on CNN the morning after the shooting: “We are children. You guys are the adults. […] Work together, come over your politics and get something done.”

In addition, Cameron Kasky, a Douglas High School junior, confronted Florida Senator Marco Rubio about accepting millions of dollars from the NRA at the CNN town hall meeting held on Feb. 21. People have praised Kasky for his courageous use of words when talking to the politician on live television. The crowd cheered for the young student and booed Rubio, who couldn’t even respond with a simple “yes” or “no.”

The words of these students over the past two weeks convinced President Trump to call for a ban on bump stocks, which make semi-automatic weapons to fire faster, and prompted Rubio to announce new measures to prevent school shootings, according to CNN. These students’ actions led to CNN hosting a town hall meeting, and their actions led certain advertisers to leave the NRA, according to The New York Times. These students have also raised millions of dollars for the upcoming march in D.C., reported CNN.

I believe this shooting triggered such an uprising because the victims were high school students, some of whom are getting ready to go to college and commence their adult journeys. But what’s most important is that these students have demonstrated they will not tolerate any more gun violence in the United States. Enough is enough.

As I look back on the Parkland shooting, I reflect on how it has affected me personally. I lived in Miami, Fla., for 10 years, and to hear about such a tragedy occurring only an hour away from where my family lives is horrifying. My younger brother is in the sixth grade at a public middle school in Miami, and everyday I fear the worst, knowing he lives in a nation where teenagers can purchase AR-15s.

It’s remarkable to see a group of teenagers who endured such trauma work so hard to change gun laws in the United States. Children shouldn’t have to fear for their lives when they go to school, and the survivors of the Parkland shooting are doing everything they can to make that a reality. As Emma González stated during her speech at Fort Lauderdale: “If us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail. And in this case, if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead. So it’s time to start doing something.”

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


The real reason behind gun violence in the U.S.

Blaming mental illness for shooting massacres is offensive and misleading

Blaming mental illness for gun violence is not okay, and I believe President Donald Trump is only causing more harm when he encourages the use of guns to supposedly prevent gun violence.

On Nov. 5, a gunman opened fire at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, reported The New York Times. The shooter was later found dead in his car and identified by authorities as Devin Patrick Kelley. He killed 26 people.
Trump, who was in Japan at the time, blamed the shooting on mental illness. He called the tragedy “a mental health problem at the highest level” and described the shooter as a “very deranged individual,” according to The New York Times. I believe Trump is using mental illness as a scapegoat for acts of violence. He also specified that “this isn’t a guns situation,” according to the same source. This further proves his incompetence as president.

In my opinion, Trump is unable to tackle this nationwide issue in an objective fashion. He is turning away from the real issue destroying the lives of many Americans each year. According to the not-for-profit corporation Gun Violence Archive, approximately 13,286 people were killed in the United States by firearms in 2015.

Not only is blaming gun violence on mental illness largely false, it is also offensive and misleading. Doing so increases the stigma around mental illness and perpetuates the incorrect assumption that mentally ill people are violent. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the majority of people with mental illness are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Only three to five per cent of violent acts in the United States can be attributed to individuals with serious mental illness, according to the same source.

Not only does Trump fail to assign fault where it is due, I believe he is promoting gun violence. Two days after the Texas shooting, the president praised another man in the church who shot Kelley. “If he didn’t have a gun,” Trump claimed, “instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead. That’s how I feel about it,” reported NBC News. With his pro-gun stance, Trump is fostering the view that gun ownership helps prevent massacres, and gun misuse is due to mental illness.

While I do believe mental illness and the availability of psychological services in the United States needs to be addressed, I think it is clear that gun control is what will prevent so many mass shootings from happening. The best way to prevent these tragedies is to ban the weapons that are used to hurt so many rather than promote equally violent retaliation. In the aftermath of the 2006 Dawson shooting here in Montreal, the college built a garden to promote a peaceful, safe space and began offering a non-violent communication course for students to take as an elective. I strongly believe this is the type of attitude the American president needs to have if there is any hope of lessening the number of tragedies his country regularly faces.

Following Trump’s response to the Texas shooting, the hashtag #LivingWithMentalIllnessIs began trending on Twitter. This is a positive step towards something bigger. This hashtag gives people who live with mental illness a platform where they can share their stories and disprove Trump’s views of why gun violence takes place. I also hope this hashtag promotes peaceful communication between people and ends the stigmatization of mental illness as a dangerous or violent disorder.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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