Two children have been gunned down while playing on the street; we have a problem. We, the whole state, not "they," the kids who live in north Minneapolis.

Unlike the author of a recent commentary ("Don't weep at urban violence; prevent it with better schools" Aug. 31), I do not believe that the problem is kids having "time to shoot each other."

The immediate cause of the recent horrific events on the North Side is the fact that one or two people, most likely kids, had access to a gun. What would have been fistfights instead ended in two deaths.

Guns are not being manufactured in our neighborhoods. Somebody brings them in. Yet our Legislature and Congress refuse to do anything about gun trafficking.

Why can't they require background checks before gun purchases at gun shows? The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has called gun shows a "major trafficking channel."

We hear a lot about bad parenting, but less about the public policies that limit our ability to parent. The drug war has forced the mass incarceration of a generation of parents for drug offenses like possession of marijuana.

People of color are disproportionately sent to prison, despite similar rates of actual commission of crimes. Some parents can't parent because they are in prison.

And when people come home after being in prison, they can't get a job because most employers will not even look at an application from a person with any kind of prior conviction.

The result is that, for many people, it is easier to get a gun than to get a job.

The causes of gun violence are complex, while the effect of gun violence is very clear. It is devastating to families, communities and schools.

Schools, as the commentary writer said, can be a bigger part of the solution. But that, too, requires public policy that supports schools and kids.

One student, a friend of one of the children killed, told me she almost didn't come to our conflict-resolution program after the funeral because she had been crying all day.

This child is doing her part by learning to solve problems peacefully. What, then, are the adults doing?

It is time for us to stop assigning blame to others and to start looking at the policies we should support to make our communities safer.

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Heather Martens, is executive director of Protect Minnesota/Citizens for a Safer Minnesota.