An article published in The Ledger on Monday examines the results of a News21 investigation of child and youth deaths in America between 2002 and 2012. At least 28,000 children and teens nineteen years old and younger were killed with firearms. “Teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 made up over two-thirds of all youth gun deaths in America,” write Kate Murphy and Jordan Rubio.
Most of the deaths—62 percent—were murders, and the majority of victims were black children and teens. Twenty-five percent of the deaths were suicides. Most of those lost to suicide were white. Furthermore, more than 1,100 children and teens were killed by a gun that accidentally fired.
The findings are “compiled in the most complete database to date from records obtained from 49 state health departments and FBI supplementary reports.”
The American gun debate only reaches the national level when it’s a mass shooting affecting an affluent white community, says Zeke Cohen, executive director of The Intersection, a Baltimore youth advocacy group.
“We as a country tolerate violence when it is in low-income black communities. Because we’ve come to accept that the acceptable face of gun deaths is black, we allow it to continue to happen.” He adds that the conversation must not just be about guns—“it’s more about racism and poverty.”
Americans must also realize that gun-related suicides and the accidental shootings of children would happen less frequently if gun-owning adults were more responsible about keeping them unloaded and locked away.
“Any gun that ends up in the hands of a child is first passed through the hands of an adult,” said Colette Martin, a member of Parents Against Gun Violence. “We have a lot of responsibility and accountability when it comes to legal gun owners who allow children to access their guns unsupervised.”