The Gun Violence Epidemic Is Getting Worse And We Need To Talk About It
By Steffi Badanes | June 4, 2019, 4:01 p.m.
Gun violence claims 100 lives every day in the United States. No other developed nation experiences gun violence of this magnitude.
More than five years ago, 20 children and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Since then, the United States has seen more than 2,000 mass shootings. From an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando to a church in Charleston, from a concert in Las Vegas to a high school in Parkland — gun violence is an epidemic. For every day that our elected officials fail to address gun violence, another community risks being upended by a massacre.
As a health care provider, Planned Parenthood is committed to the fundamental right of all people to live safe and healthy lives without the fear of violence.
Safety In Schools
Schools are meant to be safe — they are sites of growth and development for young people. But as of 2013, nearly 2,900 children and teens are shot and killed at school every year. In Kentucky, a 15-year-old boy opened fire at Marshall County High School, killing 15-year-olds Bailey Holt and Preston Cope. Only weeks later, another school was disrupted by unimaginable violence. On February 14, in Parkland, Fl., a 19-year-old man opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing at least 17 people.
Parents should never have to fear that their children will lose their lives to senseless gun violence. That’s why young people and people of color are have mobilized the nation around gun violence prevention, and many organizations have been leading gun violence prevention research, education, and community organizing. We must also give credit to the young Black activists who have been fighting to end gun violence for years.
To elected officials who’ve neglected to use their legislative power to sensibly respond to these massacres, we ask: When is enough, enough? Policymakers should take notice and listen to their constituents.
Guns and Violence Against Women
Ending intimate partner violence, which disproportionately affects women, is a matter of basic rights and equality for families. One in three women have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, and when women are 21 times more likely to be killed with guns in the U.S than any other developed nation, it’s imperative that we closely examine this link. Fifty-two women are shot to death by intimate partners in an average month, and women who are abused are five times more likely to be killed when their abuser owns a firearm.
Having a history of domestic violence is also a disturbing trend among perpetrators of recent mass shootings. We saw this in Sutherland Springs, where a man who had previously been court-martialed and convicted of domestic violence was able to kill 26 people with a gun. We also saw this in Orlando, where a man who had been physically abusive to his former wife used a gun to kill 49 people. We cannot let this dangerous pattern continue.
Gun Violence Against Marginalized Communities
The rate of gun violence has already reached unprecedented numbers in the United States, but it’s communities of color who bear the brunt of the epidemic. As Everytown for Gun Safety notes, too many of our lawmakers prioritize the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda — including policies like “Stand Your Ground” that lead to increased violence against people of color and make it more likely their deaths will be deemed justifiable in court. Black men are nearly 10 times as likely to be killed with a gun as White men, and Black women are three times as likely to be killed with a gun as White women. Additionally, our broken criminal justice system subjects people of color to systemic gun violence at the hands of law enforcement. Solutions to gun violence must take into account the effects of racism, law enforcement, and mass incarceration on communities of color.
People with disabilities face gun violence at the hands of law enforcement as well. One-third to half of all people killed by law enforcement have a disability, according to the Ruderman Family Foundation, a disability advocacy organization. No person should have to fear they or their loved ones may die at the hands of those entrusted to protect and serve them.
Gun violence also disproportionately affects transgender communities. In fact, 2017 was one of the deadliest years for transgender people — especially trans women of color. 28 trans people were killed by violent means, with more than half being victims of gun violence. Among those killed with guns were Mesha Caldwell, Chyna Gibson, and Chay Reed. The transphobia in our communities is the root of these tragedies, and we must address it alongside commonsense gun policies.
Break The Cycle, Fight Back
We cannot lose hope that real change is possible. From Black Lives Matter, which gained momentum after a man was acquitted for fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, to the teens in Chicago who kicked off the Wear Orange campaign when their friend, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, was fatally shot only one week after performing in former President Obama’s second inauguration — activists have been vocal about our right to feel safe in our homes and communities. It is long overdue but, every day, the call for serious action to address the gun violence causing deaths in every corner of our country grows louder.
That’s why we’re calling on Congress and elected officials across the country to combat this public health crisis. Here are several organizations that need your support: