Credit: (source: flipboard.com)

S.E. Williams

“We must elect people who are committed to moving this nation toward a more perfect union,” I wrote last week.  “Whether we are protecting Black lives or the lives of children in elementary classrooms or those in a gay bar,  at an outdoor concert, in church, or shopping for groceries, the only way to begin to end [gun] violence is to elect those who are willing and committed to change, to put[ting] an end to white supremacy and a gun culture that has spiraled out of control.”

When I wrote these words  I did not imagine, though I could have surmised, that a mass killing of children was destined to happen again in this country. But, never in my wildest dreams, did I think within a day of publishing Keeping it Real: Has Hatred, Guns, Unbridled Racism Left Us Numb to Reality and too Paralyzed to Act, 19 elementary school children and two teachers would be massacred in another mass shooting. The slaughtering of innocents and the devastation to a community has once again broken our collective hearts. 

“My heart spills overflowing with tears. I cry for your suffering and your shortened years...”

Sweet Honey In the Rock

I say, “should have surmised”, because gun violence at schools has continued to escalate since the massacre at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999 which occurred within five short months of  the November 30, 1998 expiration of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention or Brady Act. 

The Brady Act had mandated federal background checks before a  person could purchase a firearm in the U.S. and it also imposed a five-day waiting period on firearm purchases. I am not saying the expiration of the Brady Act caused the Columbine killings of 15 people and the injury to 21 others, but I do believe it potentially produced circumstances conducive to it. More than 311,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since the Columbine tragedy.

The Center for Homeland Defense and Security K-12 School Shooting Database tracks the number of gun victims per year in schools across the country. This research project is widely inclusive as the  database documents every instance a gun is brandished, is fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason, regardless of the number of victims, time, or day of the week. The data speaks for itself. 

K-12 School Shootings 

(Every instance of a gun-related incident on a school campus whether or not a victim was involved.)

The School Shooting Database Project compiles information from more than 25 different sources including peer-reviewed studies, government reports, mainstream media, non-profits, private websites, blogs, and crowd-sourced lists have been analyzed, filtered, deconflicted, and cross-referenced. (source: chds.us/ssdb)

Black communities know the devastation of a gun-worshipping society

Hearts broke across the country as the impact of what happened at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas became clear possibly even more than usual when mass shootings occur because most of the victims were children and also because the shooting came on the heels of the hate inspired massacre in Buffalo, NY just a week earlier that left 10 Black people dead and another three people injured.  

In a broader sense, the grievous loss resulting from both incidents reverberates through the Black community because we, more than others, understand the senselessness of it all as “deaths by guns”  is an ever present tragedy in our communities  to such an extent that it has almost become the background music of our lives. 

Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. We experience 10 times the number of gun homicides, 18 times the number of gun assault injuries, and nearly 3 times the fatal shootings by police compared to  white Americans.   According to the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety.

What changed in 2018

For the first time in history beginning in 2018, the leading cause of death for  all children and teens between the ages of 1 and 18, was gun violence–a trend that has continued to today and for every child or teen shot and killed, another five suffered non-fatal gunshot wounds.

As devastating as this is, the impact of gun violence on Black children is even more catastrophic. For example, in 2019 although Black children and teens were only 14 percent of all children and teens in the country, they accounted for 43%t of child and teen gun deaths and were four times more likely to be killed with guns than their white peers. In addition, while boys accounted for 86% of children and youth who died from gunfire in 2019, Black boys were 18 times more likely to be killed in gun homicides than white boys.

In 2019 although Black children and teens were only 14 percent of all children and teens in the country, they accounted for 43%t of child and teen gun deaths and were four times more likely to be killed with guns than their white peers. (source: twitter.com)

More guns do not equal more safety

More guns do not equal more safety. If it did, our babies would not be dying from such violent, gun related deaths in such great numbers. Numbers tell the story. Americans own 393.3 million weapons and yet there are only 330 billion people in this country and we are less safe from the ravages of gun violence than ever before. 

Americans strange obsession with guns and the Second Amendment coupled with corporate greed and political expediency, has spurred gun manufacturers to produce more and more weapons. Collectively gun manufacturers produced a minimum of 11 million more guns in 2020.

Americans strange obsession with guns coupled with corporate greed and political expediency has spurred gun manufacturers to produce more and more weapons resulting in more and more deaths.  (theconversation.com)

A good guy with a gun

Despite the dangers and deaths, the gross production and accumulation of weapons in America has wrought, rather than establishing controls, regulations and other forms of sensible gun control, political leaders in many instances are making it easier to access and carry weapons while continuing to pander, posture and collect contributions from gun manufactures and enjoy benefits offered by their lobbyists while propagating the myth that, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun” as a way of advocating for  more Americans to buy even more weapons.

We witnessed the fallacy of this argument  in Buffalo, NY and again in Uvalde, Texas where in one instance Buffalo, the (retired police officer) working as a security guard was out gunned, and in Uvalde, where police were apparently afraid to confront the gunman.   

Why we must vote

Child-related Gun Violence 

(source: sandyhookpromise.org)

Even if all the gun manufacturers stopped producing and selling weapons today, because there are so many guns in this nation, it is going to take a more intentional effort to stop the violence and save lives. That effort begins with who we elect that are willing to pass sensible gun control laws. 

When you cast your ballot this year whether you are electing a candidate for local, state or federal office remember the children, think about the guns controlling our lives, and then vote to make a difference to place the lives of our children first in a nation that has lost its moral compass on the issue of guns.

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.

S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.