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For Every US Soldier Killed in Afghanistan, 13 Children Were Shot and Killed in America

| September 6, 2015

Child's play, alleged. (J.R. Trauben)

Child’s play, alleged. (J.R. Trauben)

For every U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan during 11 years of war, at least 13 children were shot and killed in America.

More than 450 kids didn’t make it to kindergarten.

Another 2,700 or more were killed by a firearm before they could sit behind the wheel of a car.
Every day, on average, seven children were shot dead.

A News21 investigation of child and youth deaths in America between 2002 and 2012 found that at least 28,000 children and teens 19-years-old and younger were killed with guns. Teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 made up over two-thirds of all youth gun deaths in America.

The News21 findings are compiled in the most complete database to date from records obtained from 49 state health departments and FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports.

“It’s an unacceptable number and it should be regardless of where you stand on gun-owning ideology,” said Colette Martin, a member of Parents Against Gun Violence. “The numbers are that high and we are as a country ignoring them.”
Most of those killed by firearms, 62 percent, were murdered and the majority of victims were black children and teens. Suicides resulted in 25 percent of the firearm deaths of young people: The majority of them were white. More than 1,100 children and teens were killed by a gun that accidentally discharged.

An epidemic of violence

Zeke Cohen, executive director of The Intersection, a Baltimore youth advocacy group, said the dialogue on guns only seems to pierce the national consciousness when it’s a mass shooting in an affluent white suburban community, such as the one where he grew up.

The American gun debate, he said, rarely takes into account the number of black youth who are murdered every day.

“We as a country tolerate violence when it is in low-income black communities,” Cohen said. “Because we’ve come to accept that the acceptable face of gun deaths is black, we allow it to continue to happen.”

Dawnya Johnson was 11 years old when her already broken life was shattered further. Her mom was addicted to drugs, her dad was in prison, and she was tossed from foster home to foster home. She found solace in her older cousin, but that protection was left on a bloody sidewalk. Johnson’s cousin was shot six times in the back and he bled to death before the ambulance got to the scene. He was 17.

“He had taken on the role of two people who were unable to take care of me at that time,” Johnson said. “This beam of support had been ripped from under me.”

Her cousin had lost his job and started selling drugs to make ends meet. When Johnson’s foster families wouldn’t give her food or buy her clothes, he always found a way to get her what she needed.

“My cousin made sure that I had the basic stuff and that I had Nikes and looked fresh every day,” Johnson said. “No kid would ever know if we were homeless or I was hungry walking in the door.”

A young black girl growing up on her own in inner-city Baltimore, in a state with one of the highest percentage of black youth gun deaths in the nation, she said she doesn’t live in fear.

“I’ve become desensitized to fear,” Johnson said. “Once something happens so many times and it repeats itself it becomes something that you don’t fear.”

Jennifer Rauhouse, executive director of Peer Solutions, an Arizona-based organization that looks to prevent violence from occurring, said gun violence was a manifestation of other issues, such as child abuse, sexual abuse and bullying.

“If we don’t get to the heart of the question of gun violence, we’re doomed,” said Rauhouse, who founded the organization.

It’s not enough to react after a shooting, she said. Steps have to be taken to prevent that sort of violence from occurring in the first place.

Eli Chevalier, a high school senior and member of Peer Solutions, said the group works to prevent violence by teaching middle- and high-school students that respect and equality are the norm, not violence.

It’s easier for a child to buy a gun than to buy a pack of cigarettes.

“People won’t turn to drugs and violence if they have respect and equality in their lives and in their relationships,” Chevalier said.

Cohen started The Intersection, a Baltimore youth advocacy group, after he was held at gunpoint in his Maryland apartment and realized how many kids live with gun violence in their neighborhoods. Johnson, an active member and student leader of The Intersection, lives with it every day.

“For my students, it’s having hope and feeling like they are playing a constructive role in bettering their communities,” Cohen said. “One of the challenges when you’re dealing with communities is that the victims of the gun violence often have a feeling of disenfranchisement.”

All of the students at The Intersection have been affected by gun violence. They’ve lost family or friends, been shot at or caught in shootouts.

“Our students are attempting to change that narrative and dismantle the amount of violence in our city,” Cohen said.

The state of Maryland had one of the highest percentages of black youth gun deaths from 2002 to 2012. In 11 years, more than 600 black kids were shot and killed in their homes or on the street.

“Kids are getting killed, but the reality is America has played such a role in shaping these communities, there is a responsibility that we have to solve this problem,” Cohen said.

The conversation can’t be just about guns, it’s more about racism and poverty, he said.

“There is too much access. It’s easier for a child to buy a firearm in Baltimore than it is to buy a pack of cigarettes,” Cohen said. “The less guns that are available, the less gun deaths we are going to have, but that doesn’t solve the problem.”

“This is not a Maryland problem, this is an American problem.”

One gun, one moment

Suicides by gunfire, on the other hand, made up the majority of gun deaths among white youth, accounting for an average of 644 every year.

news21-logo“A gun doesn’t cause the suicidality, but a suicidal person with access to a gun is far more likely to die from an attempt than someone using another method,” said Elaine Frank, the director of Counseling on Access to Lethal Means. “It’s the combination of accessibility, familiarity, lethality and really short time frame that’s offered by a firearm.”

In New Hampshire, where CALM is based, more than 95 percent of all young people killed by guns were white youths and 70 percent of them committed suicide, News21 found.

As a former program director of the injury prevention center at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth in New Hampshire, Frank helped develop a state plan on suicide prevention, from which the state developed a suicide prevention council. According to Frank it’s not the gun laws that are going to prevent suicide – it has to be more of a family, community and cultural change.

Unintentional bullets are just as destructive

Accidents involving guns are the third-largest cause of firearm deaths for youths, after murder and suicide. More than 1,100 kids have been killed by a gun that accidentally discharged, the News21 analysis showed.

James Parker was 12 years old when he was accidentally shot and killed by a family member. He was hunting with his dad, uncle and step brother in Wake Forest, North Carolina, when a shotgun blast took his life.

Sincere Tymere Smith was 2 when he fatally shot himself with his father’s gun on Christmas in Conway, South Carolina. His father, who bought the gun after a previous break-in, was charged with involuntary manslaughter after the toddler grabbed the gun as it was lying on the table and shot himself in the chest.

Ryder Rozier was 3 when he stumbled across a gun in his uncle’s bedroom and shot himself in the head in Guthrie, Oklahoma. The gun belonged to his uncle, a state trooper.

Neegnco Xiong was 2 when he was shot by his 4-year-old brother, who found a gun under their father’s pillow in Minneapolis. The gun did not have a safety on it. The father was charged with second-degree manslaughter and endangerment of a child.

William Rees was 14 when he shot himself at his grandparent’s house in Fremont County, Idaho. He was shooting targets when his pistol went off and pierced his abdomen.

All were killed in 2012.

“Any gun that ends up in the hands of a child is first passed through the hands of an adult,” said Colette Martin, a member of Parents Against Gun Violence. “We have a lot of responsibility and accountability when it comes to legal gun owners who allow children to access their guns unsupervised.”

Teens between 15 and 19 were the most likely to be killed by the unintentional pull of a trigger, accounting for half of such deaths.

Neegnco Xiong, 2, was shot and killed by his older brother in Minneapolis. The 4-year-old found his father’s gun under a pillow. Photo courtesy of WCCO-TV, CBS 4, Minnesota.

“These are the cases that keep me up at night because they are 100 percent preventable,” said Martin, a gun owner and stay-at-home mom, “and I will not be swayed from that belief.”

America’s kids
Whether homicide, suicide or accident, every four hours a child’s life was taken by a bullet during the 11-year period from 2002 to 2012. That’s the equivalent of the Sandy Hook massacre every three days.

More than 19,000 high school-aged students never got to walk across the stage and get a diploma.

“No gun law is going to change anything at this point,” Rauhouse said. “We make it about the guns and we’re not worried about our kids. People should be focusing on why gun violence exists and trying to prevent it from occurring.”

Other gun control activists argue that laws for gun storage need to be implemented.

“Gun-storage laws with teeth behind them would stop some of the gun deaths that happen in homes,” said Martin, of Parents Against Gun Violence. “It’s a really important piece of federal law that’s missing. Responsible gun owners do it already, it’s not an infringement of a Second Amendment right.”

There are currently 28 states and Washington D.C. with a child access prevention law, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. These laws impose criminal liability on adults who do not properly store their guns when children are in the house.

“The gun lobby is very powerful. Elected officials are out of step with what the general public wants,” said Gerry Hills, founder of Arizonans for Gun Safety. “Americans are not serious about protecting youths and preventing gun violence.”

–Kate Murphy and Jordan Rubio, News21

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25 Responses for “For Every US Soldier Killed in Afghanistan, 13 Children Were Shot and Killed in America”

  1. Cyd Weeks says:

    From a report in 2014:” Over the course of the almost 13 years of the conflict, 831,576 service members have served at least one tour of duty in Afghanistan. Some 2,184 American service members have lost their lives”. In a census report: “73.6 Million Children are in the US in 2014”. That figure does not count 19 year olds. So…what’s the point of comparing the two?

    • just me says:

      The point is a far left wing attempt on saying our rights are should not longer be secured by the Constitution. They use the term “children” to elicit a emotional responds of we must do SOMTHING no matter what that something is. Some 2/3rds of those killed are between 15 and 19 per this story so they are not little kids who accidently harm themselves. !8 + 19 year olds are not children they are adults. I would also like to see of all these horrific events (as nobody wants people harmed or killed who are innocents) just how many are/ where killed that are 15+ that where involved in illegal activitys? Drugs and gangs Il bet are the common factor in most.

    • Nancy N. says:

      The point of comparing the two is not to compare percentages. The point of comparing the two is that most Americans will tell you those 2,184 deaths of military members are a great tragedy, yet apparently seem immune to the deaths of 13x that many children during the same period from a preventable cause.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The heading of this story makes it sound as though it is safer to be an American soldier than an American civilian…..I think NOT! What about the men and women who come back to America in pieces missing limbs? More people are dying from misuse of drugs, car accidents and cancer than they are from guns, so rather than focus on gun control, focus on what needs to be focused on that is not a Constitutional Right.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Did you really just say that your constitutional right to an AK-47manhood extender trumps a 2 year old’s right TO LIVE? Did you really just say the equivalent of “nothing to see here” about the deaths of TWENTY EIGHT THOUSAND children, because heaven forbid you might not be able to get your ammosexual fix that you want?

      That’s sick.

      Your use of misdirection to cancer, drugs and car accidents is a classic “red herring” and completely invalid. Just because something else is worse doesn’t make a tragedy not a tragedy.

      Imagine going to the office tomorrow and having this conversation:

      Your coworker tells you that her nephew died over the weekend of a suicide by gun. You respond by saying that you lost two cousins in a car accident during the holiday.

      Does that make your coworker’s loss not a tragedy, not important, because you lost two relatives to her one? No, they are both tragic.

      Funny thing about this big country of ours containing millions of people…we can focus on more than one thing at a time with all those talents and resources. We can research cures for cancer, engineer safer cars, and pass laws that keep guns out of the hands of kids – at the same time. Amazing, huh?

  3. Footballen says:

    All of it is sad. Not exactly sure what the message is though.

  4. Nikia says:

    I keep asking this question and no one seems to be able to give me an answer – when does life become valuable in America? You sure wouldn’t be able to tell we value life by any of our laws as they stand now. We have been brainwashed to believe that abortion is a non- issue and guns are a non-issue and now cops don’t deserve to live nor do troubled youth. We keep getting shocked by senseless taking of life in all its many forms yet we refuse to value life in our laws and we are mad or upset that this is now bleeding into society? Wake up people. You can’t have it both ways.

  5. Knightwatch says:

    Actually, the statistics are very comparable. In terms of gun violence, it is much safer to be a soldier in Afghanistan than a child in America. It is safer to be a solider in Afghanistan to be anyone in America. We now kill over 35,000 people here each year by gun violence. We will soon kill more people with guns than by automobile, Already guns are the single leading cause of death of people under age 25 in America.

    You gun nuts readily dismiss the truth because the NRA tells you to do so. Clearly, NRA demagoguery and intransigence have led to far more deaths in America than our last several wars, combined.

    The NRA needs to be shut down and guns strictly regulated and controlled like any other dangerous device or substance like cars, motorcycles, airplanes, pesticides, drugs, domestic and exotic animals and a myriad of other potentially lethal things that we, collectively, agree to manage and control because, unregulated, they hurt and they kill.

    • Anonymous says:

      What has lead to the deaths you talk about is NOT the NRA or legal gun ownership BUT the lefts destruction of the family unit in the black community and the InterCitys as a whole. The violence and defats are NOT because of legal gun ownership but because of CRIMINALS who have them.

      • Knightwatch says:

        So, Anonymous, you blame 35,000 + gun-related deaths solely on blacks who, apparently, are mostly criminals. Damn, didn’t know that. I just assumed these deaths crossed all racial and cultural lines.

        I guess the answer is much simpler, now. We don’t need to control guns, we just need to control blacks.

        You and that clown Trump should get together. You think alike.

  6. Freddy says:

    Just how many children killed are killed by guns belonging to legal gun owners and how many children are killed by gang violence. Gang members are not legal gun owners so any type of gun control will not prevent these deaths. If you can take guns away from gang members and all the bad guys out there then the number of killings would drop. No one has the answer to that problem but all liberals just want to take all guns away from the legal gun owners. Good luck with that!

    • Nancy N. says:

      The NRA acolytes keep floating that load of bull but there’s two problems with it that completely destroy it.

      1) Look at what happened in Australia when they virtually banned guns. Deaths by gun violence virtually disappeared from their society.

      2) Even if gun control didn’t end all gun deaths here, it would certainly eliminate many – the kids who die of suicide, by accidental discharges. Are you really saying that “if we can’t stop the gang bangers from killing each other it’s not worth saving an innocent two year old?” Seriously?

    • Knightwatch says:

      That’s kind of disingenuous, Freddy. A child’s death by gun, no matter the legal status of the gun or the shooter, is still a dead child. Guns kill children. Less guns, lots more live children.

      I question the values of good Christians who decry abortion, yet condone the rampant proliferation of guns in America. Not saying this pertains to you. Just a general observation.

  7. karma says:

    On average, 3000 babies are killed each day in clinics around this country. We are told how great this is for medical research. If we use that same logic with children killed by guns, think of all the great things we could do with their organs. I would think a fully developed organ is worth much more than would a 6 month old child(in the womb) organ would be worth.

  8. Sherry E says:

    Let’s think this through, shall we?

    With our current very lax gun safety regulations, nationwide, even assault weapons can be purchased with very little in the way of background checks. Once the initial purchase of all guns is completed, there is even less in the way of making sure those weapons stay in the hands of the perfectly”law abiding” mature, responsible NRA member.

    Intelligent logic should tell anyone that the more guns circulating through our populace, the more gun will fall into the hands of criminals who steal them, or even buy them “second hand” with no tracking or responsibility tracing back to the original “law abiding” owner.

    Look, we currently regulate the buying and selling of cars more than we do lethal weapons.

    Yes, the 2nd amendment has been interpreted to mean that it is legal for civilians to own guns. BUT, it does not give the right for people to own ANY and ALL guns with little or no regulation what so ever and with no responsibility to maintain them in a way that poses NO risk to society in general.

    • Anonymous says:

      The second DOES say that the people have the right to own Guns its NOT a interpreted that way. We do have laws/regulation on who and what guns can be owned. For the most part military rifles are NOT allowed to be owned. We also have regulation/laws on responsibility of ownership if one uses them in a crime they get punished for that crime.

  9. Will says:

    Taking guns away from legal gun owners is as rational as giving Iran billions of dollars; atom bombs; and intercontinental missile systems. Neither approach makes the United States any safer.
    Try taking violent movies, television, and video games away from our impressionable young people. Call for a Press that will actively support our police instead of making murderers and other criminals into heroes. Stop catering to fringe elements. Put gang members into work camps. If law abiding citizens feel its safe to live in this Country again, most would gladly get rid of their guns.

  10. Dean Carpenter says:

    Since illegal drugs are available to every elementary school student in every community and have been for decades I don’t follow the logic of making guns illegal to eliminate them but if that’s your goal quit whining and start a movement to amend the Constitution. Until then the Supreme Court has ruled we may own them and that police are not responsible to protect individual citizens. That means I am responsible for protecting myself and my family. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously. More seriously than any government ever will.

  11. Geezer says:

    “It’s easier for a child to buy a gun than to buy a pack of cigarettes.”
    OK, but how about Cuban cigars?

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