Gun violence is a growing problem in America. This includes toddlers who are caught in crossfires and teenagers who are gunned down in turf battles, drug squabbles, or because they post the wrong thing on Social Media.
In recent years, shootings of children and teens have increased in recent decades. 2021 is no exception. Experts believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to an increase in shootings involving children and teenagers.
LeGend Taliferro was a 4-year old boy who loved dinosaurs, basketball and was found sleeping on the ground in an apartment in Kansas City when he was gunned down on June 29, 2020. The second-degree murder trial of a man involved in a dispute between LeGend and his father is ongoing. According to probable cause statements, the suspect shooter was trying to locate LeGend’s father after that altercation.
Charron Powell, LeGend’s mother asks, “Why must we resort to violence because of our madness?” “What other methods can we use to solve a problem without causing harm?”
According to Gun Violence Archive, the United States saw 991 gun violence deaths in 2019 among those aged 17 and younger. The website tracks shootings from more that 7,500 law enforcement agencies, media, government, and commercial sources. This number rose to 1,375 in 2020, and is expected to rise further this year. On Wednesday, 1,165 youths were killed in shootings and 3,216 others were injured.
The FBI data supports this assertion. On Sept. 28, the FBI released a report showing that homicides in America increased by nearly 30% between 2020 and 2021, while homicides among children aged 19 and under rose more than 21%.
Horror stories are all around.
Caion Greene, 9, died March 23rd in St. Louis after someone opened fire on the family car. The crime is being investigated by police. The motive for the shooting was not revealed by police or prosecutors.
In May, two children from Minneapolis were shot to death. Trinity Ottoson Smith, nine years old, was killed while she was jumping on a trampoline. According to police, she was an unintentional victim of a bullet intended for another person. There have been no arrests. Aniya Allen, six years old, was shot after her mother drove her car through an altercation.
A 5-year-old girl and an 11-year old girl were both killed in Milwaukee on Oct. 2. The incident occurred when someone opened fire from another vehicle into the family car. The motive for the attack is unknown and police are asking for information from the public.
Teenagers are more often the victims.
Jamari Williams, 15-year-old student at Simeon Career Academy High school in Chicago, was killed in separate shootings on September 21. Police declined to speculate about the motives for the shootings and have not made any arrests.
Five students were shot to death at Philadelphia’s Simon Gratz School Mastery Charter. Nine others were also shot or wounded during the previous school year. Two students and a recent graduate were killed just weeks into the new schoolyear. The school provides a place for students who have been killed, helps with funeral expenses, and offers counseling services.
Principal Le’Yondo Dunn stated that they have become exceptionally skilled at knowing what to do and how to help young people who have lost their lives.
The March report by the Children’s Defense Fund revealed that teen and child shooting deaths have continued to rise since 2017. Black teenagers and children were four times more likely to be shot than whites.
Rev. Starsky Wilson said that gun sales spiked during the pandemic made matters worse.
Wilson stated that there are more guns on the streets than people with less chance to engage in productive activity. Combining both of these is extremely difficult.”
Experts say social media can also play a part. Jason Smith, a captain of the Philadelphia homicide division, stated that a posted insult could quickly turn into retaliation.
Smith stated that social media made it easy to show disrespect through the use of hashtags. They’re doing it live.”
Dr. Lindsay Clukies is an emergency doctor at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She said that she and her staff often treat repeat victims.
Clukies stated, “It’s not unusual that we see a little boy with a large scar. We say, What happened?’ and they reply, ‘Oh, it was once before.’
Clukies stated that it was frustrating for medical providers because they take great care of children and save lives. However, these injuries can be prevented. There’s nothing worse than telling a parent their child died from something completely preventable.
The Justice Department attempted to end violence with Operation Legend, named after LeGend Taliferro. His mother finds comfort in the fact her son’s passing spurred a national effort that led to hundreds of arrests. The pain does not go away.
Powell stated that it was a mental struggle to make it through each day. It’s hard to believe he’s gone and it’s impossible to hear his voice.
Someone fired shots at a group a boys from the Chicago front porch last year just before Father’s Day. Although the bullet missed the boys, it pierced the window of the dining room. Amaria Jones, 13, was performing a TikTok dance routine for her mom.
Everyone fled for safety after the bullet cracked a TV. Amaria’s mother found her daughter lying on the ground, with her neck broken, and tried to call “Mom” when she returned. Amaria was later declared dead at a hospital. There have been no arrests.
Mercedes Jones, Amaria’s 28-year old sister, stated that she grew up in the same neighborhood as her brother. “I have ducked bullets flying close to my head. That’s what I’m used too. But Amaria. She wasn’t like me. She didn’t live that lifestyle.
Small children can be caught up in the crossfire but teenagers are more commonly targeted by other teenagers in drive-by shootings along interstate highways and urban streets.
Shaquille Barbour, a Philadelphia resident, was shot and killed on June 6. He was riding his bike from a corner shop to his graduation. Police have not made any arrests and aren’t giving a motive.
Joseph Barbour, his father, is still unable to contain his anger.
He said, “I don’t think people realize how difficult it is, and not to want to revenge.” “These children are living on the streets, and it feels as if they’re hunter-gatherers.” After they kill someone, they brag and taunt others.”
Smith, a Philadelphia detective, stated that the shootings are just as brutal as they were brazen.
He said, “They will dump an entire magazine into somebody’s torso, or their head.” They call it walking someone down. They shoot someone and then incapacitate them. Then they walk down to them, stand over them, and unload their firearm.
There are many ideas and efforts to stop violence.
Wilson of the Children’s Defense Fund suggested a three-pronged strategy: Adopt new gun laws to strengthen background checks, incentivize safe storage, and invest in social services like after-school programs, mental health support, and more economic opportunity including summer jobs.
Studies show that victims of violence are more likely to become violent. St. Louis Children’s Hospital created the Victims of Violence Program to help reduce recidivism. It pairs victims of shooting with mentors, offers counseling, mediation, and links to social services agencies.
Chief Inspector Frank Vanore, Philadelphia Police, stated that they also monitor social media. If they become aware of a feud between officers or community leaders, they meet with the parties.
This year, a pilot program at Philadelphia’s Simon Gratz High will offer intensive services for students who are in danger of being victims or perpetrators of gun violence.
Dunn stated that although we have the capacity to admit 60 students to the program, due to the loss of so many students and the violence and gun violence in Philadelphia, Dunn believes there will be more students who will need the program than we can admit. “We know it.”