I cried after Big Girl got out of the car today. The late bell rang as she walked through the doors. Little Girl asked if I was crying because her sister was going to get a late pass. I told her yes. What else could I say? I couldn’t tell her the truth that I am crying because I feel like there is really no place and no one I trust to keep my kids safe. Or that I am crying for all the parents who aren’t dropping their kids off today? Or that it hurts my heart to have to tell a 9-year-old that it is okay to run out of the school and away if she thinks something is wrong; that she will not get in trouble.
As we were driving away Little Girl told me that it was going to be okay. That we would throw away the late pass when her sister gets home so I won’t have to cry anymore. If only it was that easy to solve our society’s problems.
Today I found a report penned by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), a non-profit child advocacy organization. Written back in March, it contains the following chilling statistics:
- In 2008, 2,947 children and teens died from guns in the United States and 2,793 died in 2009 for a total of 5,740 — one child or teen every three hours, eight every day, 55 every week for two years. The 5,740 children and teens killed by guns in 2008 and 2009 would fill more than 229 public school classrooms of 25 students each, and was greater than the number of U.S. military personnel killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan (5,013)
- The number of preschoolers killed by guns in 2008 and in 2009 was nearly double the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2008 and 2009.
- The most recent analysis of data from 23 industrialized nations shows that 87 percent of the children under age 15 killed by guns in these nations lived in the United States.
- The gun homicide rate in the United States for teens and young adults ages 15 to 24 was 42.7 times higher than the combined rate for the other nations.
- Of the 116,385 children and teens killed by a gun since 1979, when gun data by age were first collected, 44,038 were black — nearly 13 times more than the number of recorded lynchings of black people of all ages in the 86 years from 1882 to 1968. Even so, more white than black children and teens have died from gun violence.
These statistics are terrible and wrong. We need to make changes to our laws so these all-too-familiar stories stop happening. Children should never be shot to death. I think we should start with the changes suggested by the CDF (this has been pasted verbatim from the report, which can be downloaded here:
- Closing the gun show loophole. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act requires federally licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks on every sale. But a loophole in the law allows private dealers to sell guns without a license and avoid the required background checks. This loophole accounts for a large share of all gun sales, especially at gun shows. It is estimated that over 40 percent of all guns in this country are sold by unlicensed sellers to buyers who did not have to submit to a background check. Eighteen states have attempted to block the loophole by requiring background checks for some categories of gun sales not covered by the Brady Law. Congress must require criminal background checks on anyone who attempts to purchase a gun.
- Reinstituting the ban on assault weapons. The federal Assault Weapons Ban, signed into law in 1994, banned the manufacture and sale of 19 types of semi-automatic military style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines that contained more than 10 rounds of ammunition, but it expired in 2004. Legislation now pending in Congress, The Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act, H.R. 308 and S.32, would reinstitute the ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. These high capacity magazines were used in the mass shootings in Tucson, Arizona and at Virginia Tech. Congress must restore the ban on both high-capacity assault clips and on assault weapons.
- Strengthening restrictions on people convicted of a violent misdemeanor or a violent act as a juvenile. Under current law, a conviction for a violent misdemeanor does not prohibit a person from purchasing or possessing a gun. A related loophole exists for people adjudicated for violent offenses as juveniles. A study found that a person convicted of a violent misdemeanor was eight times more likely to be charged with a subsequent gun
and/or violent crime, and one in three people convicted of a violent misdemeanor who tried to buy a handgun was arrested for a new crime within three years of acquiring the gun. Congress must close these loopholes and prohibit gun possession by individuals who have been convicted of violent misdemeanors or have been found delinquent
for violent acts.
- Requiring consumer safety standards and childproof safety features for all guns. Every gun in this country should be childproof. One-third of all households with children have at least one gun in the home. It is estimated that nearly two million children live in homes with an unlocked and loaded gun.10 Federal law is silent on gun-related consumer safety standards and child access prevention. In fact, the production and manufacture of guns is exempt from oversight by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. As a result, many handguns do not contain easily-installed life-saving safety features. Only 27 states have even attempted to keep children from accessing guns by passing child access prevention laws. Congress must subject guns to the same consumer product safety regulations that cover virtually every other consumer product. Congress must also require childproof safety features on all guns.
My family’s thoughts and prayers go out to all the families of the victims of Sandy Hook and to the eight families that will lose a child to a gun today, according to statistics. My only question: Why haven’t we done something sooner?