What will it take to keep children safe from gun violence in the US?
Published: Jan 06, 2023 02:40 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Can you imagine what is killing the most children in the US? 

Firearms, apparently. They have surpassed motor vehicles as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the world's richest nation, according to researchers at the University of Michigan analyzing new federal data in April. President Biden lamented in a tweet, "Over the last two decades, more school-age children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active duty military combined."

Not just numbers, but someone loved

These are young precious lives lost for no purpose at all. Jakhi Snider, 16, was fatally shot in a vehicle in Southeast Washington on November 27, 2022. On the same day, a 12-year old died in a shooting in Atlanta, Georgia and all the injured were reported to be aged between 15 and 21. Darius King Grigsby, nine months old, was brutally taken away from his family in a drive-by shooting a few weeks ago while being walked by his mother down a street in Merced, California.

Alexzandria Bell, a bright and energetic sophomore less than a month away from her 16th birthday, perished in a shooting at her school; the incident also killed 61-year-old educator Jean Kuczka, who heroically put herself between the gunman and her students. The killer, 19-year-old Orlando Harris, opening fire with an AR-15-style rifle with more than 600 rounds of ammunition, died in hospital after an exchange of gunfire with the police. 

Sadly, they are but the tip of the iceberg. In 2022, 989 children (aged 0-11) and 5,127 (aged 12-17) teens died as a result of gun violence, according to Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit based in the US.

Sermon on the Mount?

The Second Amendment, often hailed as the Sermon on the Mount by those who see it as an embodiment of American liberty and democracy, was created by the nation's forefathers to allow ordinary individuals the capacity to protect themselves. Little did they suspect that their good intentions would go on to cause a malaise in American society that robs tens of thousands of their lives every year. The Gun Violence Archive puts the number at over 41,500 in 2021 and 44,191 in 2022. 

In a piece on the bloodshed in Uvalde, The New York Times hits the nail on the head, "The United States has become ungovernable not because of political differences or protest or a lack of civility but because this is a country unwilling to protect and care for its citizens - its women, its racial minorities and especially its children."

'Smaller, safer, and lighter'

In the meantime, gun-makers are trying to win over more young customers. Earlier this year, an Illinois manufacturer launched a miniature AR-15 rifle for teenagers, called the JR-15 or Junior-15; its key selling point being "smaller, safer, and lighter." The weapon is said to be 20 percent smaller than a regular AR-15 and weighs only 2.3lbs. But that does not diminish its lethal nature. According to its maker Wee1 Tactical, the firearm "packs the same deadly punch as its full-sized version." Ironically, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which sponsored the launch event, comes from nowhere else but Newton, Connecticut, the location of the Sandy Hook School massacre in 2012 which led to the deaths of 20 young children and six adults. 

Emotions seem to run high across the political aisle on the issue of firearms. When tragedies strike, politicians are heartbroken, indignant, and eager to hold someone accountable. Fingers are pointed in every direction. Barely anything changes though, except for more lives continue to be lost in senseless shootings.

It goes without saying that every child deserves the right to live free from gun violence. Yet in a country that prides itself as a human rights champion, children are dying from the insincerity and inability of elected officials to protect the people. As they continue to bury their head in their petty political fight, the future of the nation is being held at gunpoint in the cradle.  

The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Xinhua News Agency, Global Times, CGTN and China Daily. He can be reached at xinping604@gmail.com.