When gunfire takes a child's life, the community must respond

R.T. Rybak
R.T. Rybak: People should think, what would I feel like if that was my kid?
MPR file photo

Editor's note: MPR News reporter Brandt Williams spoke Wednesday with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak about the death of Terrell Mayes, the toddler killed by a stray bullet from outside his home. This commentary is adapted from Rybak's remarks.

It breaks my heart to go back out to another situation and deal with another parent who is rightfully grief-stricken about a child who has been lost. We're going to do all the things that are important to do, but this isn't just about City Hall. This is about a community being outraged enough to say that no person will provide any sort of comfort or protection to someone who would perform an act so reckless or heartless that it would kill a toddler. We need everybody to come forward with every piece of information they have.

And more important, we need everybody to be involved in saying this isn't just about a gun law — and by the way, they need to be better. And it isn't just about enforcement — and by the way, it needs to be tough. It's about a value system that somehow makes a person feel more comfortable walking down the street with a gun than without it — that makes someone feel comfortable, that it's OK to pull a trigger, which it is not.

We're going to do everything we can in the government's response on this. But I'm really hoping to have the community dig deeper — which it has done over and over again in the wake of these horrible things — and say, we're going to be better than this. We're going to be safer than this. And we are, but we have to go a lot further when you see one more kid die. It should be a gut-check for every single person.

And not just in Minneapolis, because the guns are coming from all over, because the influences on crime and drugs and all of that are coming from all over. It's all of us, just saying that this is not the way we're going to live. We're proud of what we've accomplished and we have to do that again. And we are deeply shamed that a life that should have gone on much longer isn't.

I had to stand there at midnight with the mom looking at her son on a respirator. Three years old. And to just let everybody in the community in on that horrible moment is important. Because they should think, what would I feel like if that was my kid? This isn't "their kid." This is our kid. When a kid dies, it is our kid. This community has seen that before, and has responded right, and we have to do that again: short-term, immediately bring forward any information about this incident. And long-term, change the culture of violence that makes this far too acceptable.