“The time is now. We cannot ignore the epidemic of gun violence that disproportionately affects Black and Latino children. It is our moral obligation to fight for their safety, well-being and equal opportunity.”
Gun violence continues to plague our communities, leaving a trail of devastation and anguish in its wake. As we grapple with this unrelenting epidemic, it is crucial to shed light on the experiences of victims and survivors who have suffered immeasurable pain. Among those disproportionately affected are black and brown children, whose lives are cut short or forever altered by senseless acts of gun violence. We must demand legislative action to end this crisis and ensure the safety and well-being of our most vulnerable communities.
We know that mass shootings with guns have become a fact of American culture. Although mass murders have occurred throughout history, new weapons technology has made the murders more deadly. Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States since surpassing motor vehicle crashes in 2020. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Wonder database, guns Firearms accounted for almost 19% of child deaths (ages 1-18). ) in 2021.
Nearly 3,600 children were killed in firearm-related incidents in 2021. The average is about five missing children for every 100,000 children in the United States. In no other comparable country are firearms among the top four causes of death among children, according to a KFF analysis.
Behind these staggering statistics lie countless stories of tragedy and loss. We must remember the names and faces of those affected. Let us honor the lives of Amerie Jo Garza, Rohan Levy, Hadiya Pendleton and many others who should have been allowed to grow into bright futures. These young lives were stolen by gun violence, leaving their families shattered and communities traumatized. The pain and trauma experienced by these families cannot be measured, and their voices deserve to be heard.
Gun violence is not an equalizer; it exacerbates deeply entrenched inequalities that already exist. African American and Latino children are disproportionately affected by this epidemic and face higher rates of gun violence in their neighborhoods and schools. They grow up in constant fear, wondering if they will be the next victims of this vicious cycle. We cannot ignore the systemic factors that perpetuate this violence, including poverty, lack of resources, and limited access to quality education and health care.
These factors/issues are debated among our legislators and to that end, to truly address this crisis, we must demand legislative action at all levels of government. We need comprehensive gun control measures that put the safety of our communities first. Sensible reforms like universal background checks, closing gun sales loopholes, and banning assault weapons are necessary steps forward. We cannot afford to let political divisions stand in the way of progress when innocent lives are at stake.
Fortunately, in September 2022, after working with legislators, Governor Kathy Hochul announcedwhich happened in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down New York State’s longstanding gun permitting process. The new laws increased background checks and firearms training for people seeking concealed-carry permits, and prohibited concealed-carry permit holders from bringing firearms into sensitive locations, such as schools, and in transit. from New York City.
In addition to ensuring we have better gun laws in New York and across the country, we must also invest in our communities and address the underlying causes of gun violence. This means providing economic opportunity, quality education, mental health services, and support systems for at-risk youth. It means addressing the systemic racism and discrimination that perpetuate violence and create the conditions for it to thrive. We must dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and invest in restorative justice practices that empower and improve our communities.
The fight to end gun violence must be a collective effort. We must come together across racial, socioeconomic, and political lines to demand change. We need community organizations, activists, educators, law enforcement, and legislators to work together toward a common goal: protecting our children and ensuring their right to a safe and secure future.
At The Gathering for Justice, we focus on protecting our children. Our mission is to build a movement to end the incarceration of children while working to eliminate racial inequities that permeate the justice system. Through our “End the War on Children” campaign, we are building a movement of youth who bring their voices, ideas, and power to decision-makers at the administrative, municipal, county, state, and federal levels.
Our youth group will create a unifying agenda to “End the War on Children” that will include policies to end police presence and increase school counselors, stop the growing number of homeless youth in New York, pass comprehensive procedural protections for detained youth, and more, based on the experience and enthusiasm of impacted youth leaders.
The time is now. We cannot ignore the epidemic of gun violence that disproportionately affects Black and Latino children. It is our moral obligation to fight for their safety, well-being and equal opportunities. We must amplify the voices of victims and survivors, demanding legislative action and comprehensive reforms that address the root causes of this crisis.
By investing in our communities and uniting for change, we can create a society where all children, regardless of race or background, can grow up without the constant threat of gun violence.
Luis Jonathan Hernandez is the director of youth campaigns and leadership at The Gathering for Justice and co-founder and CEO of Youth Over Guns.