The Impact of Gun Violence: A Conversation with Students

All my life, I have been aware of the impact that violence – and especially gun violence – has on children, families and communities. Young men who I got to know in pickup basketball games in Chicago – just kids, as I was myself back then – were buried far, far before their time, killed in moments of senseless stupidity.

Early on a recent morning, I visited Hart Middle School in the Anacostia neighborhood of DC, literally on the way from home to my office. I simply asked the students to tell me their experiences, and they bravely and honestly did – even with a video camera in the room. They talked about the family members they have lost – every single one of them knows someone who has been shot. They talked about their fears that an unspeakable tragedy like Newtown could happen at their own school, and their doubts they would survive to live a full lifetime. And they talked about the senselessness of the violence—people getting shot over a pair of shoes.

These are kids who deserve the best. They’re trying to do all the right things, and they deserve more than we adults have done for them. It’s our job to create a climate where they can grow and learn free from fear, and as you will hear, we are far from succeeding at our task. We need to do better.

It’s impossible to witness the conversation without being moved. I hope you’ll watch, and think about what it means for our communities. We have posted an 4 minute excerpt along with the full video of the hour-long conversation. Please watch.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education


  1. The idea of local neighborhood home schools is a great idea. Great socialization, quiet learning environment, better food, hours TBD since smaller classes provide a better learning environment….and we can reduce the size of, and contract DO Education out. Sounds like a plan to me.

  2. Arne needs to find a way to improve education in this country and leave it to teachers and families to figure out how tp help that SINGULAR issue. Leave it to law enforcement and the government to solve crime….they haven’t done very good in the past. Perhaps when everybody has CONCEALED CARRY, crime rates will likely drop. Take Illinois for example, we don’t have concealed carry and we have the highest crime rate in the nation. The supreme court has recognized this had directed the state to provide for concealed carry in Illinois. (And while they’re at it, improve the education system.

  3. Even in America’s Paradise,here in the US Virgin Islands,we have had to began training all of our students for the possibility of an armed intruder coming to harm any or all of us. Before now,we only used to have the regular natural disaster drills.But since the mass killings in the states,we now begun to have numerous Lock-Down drills,which at times may be pretty confusing and even frightening to our Kindergarteners and first graders. We just keep telling them,”We are practicing our to keep all of us safe and alive,just in case there’s trouble one day”. It is so very sad that this has become necessary. All assault weapons should be banned from non-military persons.

    • I am sure that will make it better. I just wonder your plan to get the weapons away from criminals. Posting signs? Alerts on TV? Please share that with me. And since we are at it, lets take vehicles away because so many innocent people are killed by vehicles. And that will be easy to spot so criminals will not be able to have a vehicle and we will see it if they do. Maybe we should add alcohol and drugs too. That kills so many innocent and there is so many problems rooted with drugs. And drunk driving kills many innocent victims, men-women-children. Wait a minute, WE DO have laws about alcohol and drugs. We see how well that is working. So, we will follow in their tracks.

  4. So much for keeping politics out of school! Children at public school are forced and pressured to think like liberals because of this idiocy!

  5. I walked to school when I was young. I did not drive until I was in high scholl. We were lower middle class. Three blocks away was a ghetto. I did not go there; a lot of knife and gun violence.

    Yes, it is a tragic statement of our times that a lot of our youth is threatened daily by violence of all kinds. I believe we are highlighting the wrong thing here. We are highlighting the tools used to execute the violence, not the purveyors of violence.

    Guns and knives are not the issue. PEOPLE are the issue. The issues are complex and many; from the lack of dignity created by welfare to the lack of fathers in the home, drugs and the lack of jobs even with a government that spends so much money it’s created a blizzard of dollars that melt as soon as they land.

    So, let’s get back to basics. Let’s build a stable economy, get the government out of the way and let’s get people back to work.

  6. This is a profound video involving teens who are faced with crime, gun-violence especially, regularly. I commend them for their courage to not only share their life experiences, but also to share how they’re overcoming some of the challenges they face in their community.

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