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Gun Violence is Killing Our Children

ACCORDING TO LIZ - Four hundred people died from gun violence in the United States in the first four days of 2022.

How can we go on pretending we live in an advanced and civilized nation? 

Gun-related deaths for Americans under age 19 have increased a shocking 29.5% between 2019 and 2020. Research released by the Centers for Disease Control in April identified homicides as the primary cause, ahead of suicide and accidental shootings. 

In Los Angeles

This past January, the LAPD released its 2021 “Crime & Initiatives” report, a tell-all about Los Angeles crime statistics including that the City had the highest number of homicides in nearly 15 years. 

There were 397 murders in Los Angeles in 2021, up 11.8 percent from the 355 in 2020, and up 53.9 percent from the 258 in the pre-pandemic year of 2019. Although this is still nowhere near the number of homicides in Chicago (697) and New York City (485) in 2021, or the 1,094 killed in Los Angeles in 1992. 

Two-thirds of these Los Angeles murders were committed with firearms. It’s a lot easier to shoot someone than risk getting up close and personal, and a lot easier to kill with guns than by any other easily available method. 

In in 22 of the 37 officer-involved shootings last year, the suspect did not have a firearm. Those officer-involved shootings led to 18 deaths compared to seven in 2020. 

Also reported was that 1,459 people were shot in 2021 compared to 946 in 2019. 

The LAPD seized 8,861 illegal firearms last year, including 1,921 ghost guns (guns manufactured on 3-D printers and lacking serial numbers). 

But statistics don’t bring people back. Not 12-year-old Alexander Alvarado killed dead in Wilmington two-and-a-half weeks before Christmas. Not 14-year-old Jeremy Galvin shot the next day in Boyle Heights. 

Nationally

In 2020, twenty thousand Americans were murdered by guns, twice that number were injured, while another twenty-four thousand used guns to kill themselves. 

A study on gun deaths in the top 23 high-income countries published in the American Journal of Medicine before the pandemic documented the disparity between the United States where killings continue to rise, and these other nations where such deaths continue to drop. 

With less than half the population of the other 22 countries combined, the United States accounted for 82% of total firearms deaths. 

Ninety percent of women killed with guns in those 23 countries live in the United States. As do 91% of children under 14, and 92% of young people between ages 15 and 24. 

And that was prior to the most recent upticks of gun violence, first in the wake of the Trump election and then with the double taps of the ever-escalating increases among African-Americans and pandemic-fueled hate crimes. 

Firearms are the leading cause of death for American children and teens. Gun deaths are 25 times those in other developed countries; but in the 15-to-24 age group that disparity jumps to 49 times. 

In the early years of the 21st century, death through gun violence ranked second only to car accidents for young Americans; in 2020, gun violence took the lead. 

And African-American children and teens are over eight times more likely to die from homicide by gun than their white peers. 

The study also noted that non-lethal violent crime statistics for the United States were not significantly greater than those for the other countries; it was the incidence of murder, especially murder by firearms a figure that has been steadily increasing since 2016, that sets Americans apart. 

Yes, we do have to make America great again but this is not the way to go about it. 

In the Senate

Over the years, there have been many advocates for more gun regulation and control to reduce homicides and suicides by firearms in the United States. 

However, the gun lobby, and the armaments manufacturers that support it, oppose any restrictions on weapons ownership and operation which cut into industry profits and gun-advocates' desire for unfettered opportunities to purchase and use their death-dealing “toys”. 

Access to, and glorification of, firearms in this country are the real crimes. 

The same day in April that President Biden announced new regulations for ghost guns, he also nominated former federal prosecutor Steve Dettelbach to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF has been operating under a series of acting directors since 2015 which doesn’t allow for much policy-making. 

Given the timing and that, for gun-rights groups Dettelbach is an unknown when even the suspicion of a commitment to safety is a cause for alarm, his nomination will almost certainly become another contentious confirmation battle in the Senate. 

A previous Biden nominee, David Chipman, was withdrawn from Senate consideration last fall when his record as an advocate for stricter gun laws came into question. 

That a commitment to safety and the belief that advocacy for stricter gun laws would make someone a less effective ATF director when there is the opportunity to save thousands of American lives each year is a sorry state of affairs. 

However, every voter in the United States has the power to contact their Senators’ office and ask that they decouple gun-owner rights from the public’s right to be safe from guns. 

Make it clear that any Senator who continues to ignore the safety of America’s children, who continues to kowtow to professional lobbyists and an armament industry dependent on selling more and deadlier weapons, deserves to be thrown out of office. 

This is not about saving guns, it’s about saving lives. 

 

(Liz Amsden is an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)