‘Firsthand’ Accounts: How Guns Changed the Course of Their Lives

WTTW’s new digital documentary series “Firsthand: Gun Violence” follows the stories of five Chicagoans whose lives have been touched by shootings.

Among them is India Hart, a young woman who saw multiple family members get shot and now experiences PTSD; and Jsaron Jones, a shooting victim who was arrested in September for carrying a gun that he says he didn’t feel safe without.

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Another now serves as an anti-violence outreach worker. In an appearance on “Chicago Tonight,” Reality Allah, who spent more than two decades behind bars for murder, says many of the young men he interacts with don’t feel as though they have good options. “The statistics show that they haven’t actually lived up to their full potential ... A lot of them have been in and out of prison for the majority of their lives, or at least their childhood lives,” he said.

Allah hopes to see a change in “the attitude towards the people involved (in shootings) … education and employment and addressing the traumas in the communities most affected by gun violence.”

More coverage: Watch this full special episode of “Chicago Tonight.”

Noemi Martinez echoed Allah’s call for trauma-informed approaches. Martinez, whose teenage son was shot and killed, now works with other parents who have lost children to gun violence. “Our youth who are traumatized have never had a chance at talking about what’s going on. (Give) them a second chance,” Martinez said on “Chicago Tonight.”

It was a second chance that, in recent years, offered Julie Anderson newfound hope. Her son Eric was sentenced to life in prison for murders committed when he was 15 years old. Resigned that he would die in prison, a Supreme Court ruling in 2012 calling juvenile life sentences without parole unconstitutional means he is eligible for release in several years. Julie Anderson has dedicated herself to working with families who have an incarcerated loved one.

“I would like to see our prison system remade into something that actually rehabilitates people,” Anderson said on “Chicago Tonight.”

“I think warehousing people doesn’t help your son. It doesn’t help anyone. And I don’t think that that honors those victims in the way that they should be honored,” she said.

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