By J. GABRIEL WARE
Former Kalamazoo City Commissioner Eric Cunningham’s grew up on the east side of town where gun violence was prevalent. When the 33-year-old reflects, he can name, without hesitation, at least five of his grade-school peers who were shot and killed. One of his friends was shot and killed while Cunningham was in middle school. Two more of his friends would later commit suicide by shooting themselves, and last year, during his tenure as city commissioner, his younger cousin was injured in a shooting.
“The main problem I have with guns in our society is that they’re not as restricted as they should be,” Cunningham says. “I have never feared for my life to the point where I felt that I needed a gun.”
Cunningham says he’s not allowed to legally own a gun anyway, because he has a felony on his record. In 2008, Cunningham pleaded no contest to “misprision of felony” for failing to report that one of his friends, using a gun, robbed a bank in 2003.
Cunningham, who earned a master’s degree in public administration from Western Michigan University, says he submitted countless of job applications after graduation but received only three interviews because of the felony. Although he eventually rebounded and moved on to work as an Eligibility Specialist at the Kalamazoo Department of Health and Human Services, he says that personal history has only strengthened his contempt for guns.