Sunday, January 16, 2022

Gun violence is killing more lives of American children

ST. LOUIS (AP). Gun violence is killing an increasing number of American children, from toddlers caught in the crossfire to teenagers shot dead in territorial wars, drug fights, or posting the wrong thing on social media.

Filming with children and adolescents has increased in recent years, and 2021 was no exception. Experts say the idleness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is linked to easy access to weapons and disputes that all too often end in gunfire.

Legends Taliferro, a 4-year-old boy who loved dinosaurs and basketball, was asleep on the floor of an apartment in Kansas City, Missouri when he was gunned down on June 29, 2020. The man who was involved in the dispute with LeGenda’s father is awaiting trial on second-degree murder charges. The probable cause stated that the shooting suspect was trying to find LeGend’s father after that altercation.

“Why should we resort to violence because we are angry?” LeGend’s mother, Charron Powell, asks. “How else can we solve the problem without harming anyone?”

According to the Gun Violence Archive website, which tracks gunfire from more than 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources, there were 991 gun deaths in the United States in 2019 among people 17 years of age and younger. That number rose to 1,375 in 2020 and is expected to deteriorate this year. On Monday, shelling killed 1,179 young people and injured 3,292.

FBI data confirms this. The agency released a report on Sept. 28, which showed that homicide rates in the United States increased by nearly 30 percent in 2020, while homicide rates among people aged 19 and under increased by more than 21 percent.

Horror stories abound.

In St. Louis, 9-year-old Cion Green was killed in March when someone opened fire on his family’s car. A 17-year-old teenager is charged with the crime. Police and prosecutors declined to discuss the motive or to say what caused the shooting.

In May, two children from Minneapolis were shot dead. Nine-year-old Trinity Ottoson-Smith was shot in the head while jumping on a trampoline. Police said she was the unintentional victim of a bullet meant for someone else. No arrests have been made. Six-year-old Ania Allen was shot dead while her mother was driving through a shootout.

On October 2, in Milwaukee, an 11-year-old girl was killed and a 5-year-old girl was injured when someone shot at their family’s car from another vehicle. The police did not say if they were aware of the motives and if they were looking for information from the public.

Teenagers are more often the victims.

Jamari Williams and Kentrell McNeill, 15-year-old students from Simeon High School at the Career Academy in Chicago, were killed in separate shootings on September 21. No arrests were made and the police refused to speculate about what led to the shooting.

In Simon Graz’s Philadelphia Charter for Higher Education, five students were killed and nine others were shot during the last school year. Just weeks before the start of the new school year, two students and a recent graduate were killed. The school offers a site for memorials to murdered students, often helps with funeral expenses, and offers counseling services.

“We know extremely well what to do and how to offer help when a young person loses his life … we have learned very well at this,” said Director Le’Yondo Dunn.

A March report from the Children’s Defense Fund said child and adolescent mortality from gunfire peaked at a 19-year high in 2017 and remains high. Black children and adolescents are four times more likely to be fatally injured than whites.

The Foundation’s president and CEO, Reverend Starsky Wilson, said the surge in arms sales during the pandemic only made matters worse.

“There are more weapons available on the street and there are people with fewer opportunities to be productive,” Wilson said. “The combination of the two is really problematic.”

WATCH: What’s behind the rise in domestic and gun violence during the pandemic?

According to experts, social media also plays a role. A claimed insult can quickly turn into retaliation, said Jason Smith, captain of the Philadelphia Murder Investigation Unit.

“Social media makes it easy to quit that disrespect,” Smith said. “They do it in real time.”

Dr. Lindsay Klukis, an emergency room physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, said she and her staff see repeat victims frequently.

“Often we see a child with a big scar and ask:“ What happened? “And they say:” Oh, I was shot once before, “said Klakis.

“As a health care provider, this is so frustrating because we obviously take pride in caring for children, saving lives and fixing lives, but these injuries are preventable,” Klukis said. “There is nothing that compares to having to tell a parent that their child has passed away from a completely preventable disease.”

The Justice Department sought to address the issue of violence with Operation Legend, named after the Legend of Taliferro. His mother is comforted by the fact that her son’s death spurred a national effort that led to hundreds of arrests. However, the pain never goes away.

“This is truly a mental battle that needs to be overcome every day,” Powell said. “It is very difficult to understand that he is not here, and I do not hear his voice.”

On the eve of Father’s Day last year, someone shot a group of boys on the front porch of a Chicago home. The bullet did not hit the boys, but it pierced the window in the dining room where 13-year-old Amaria Jones was showing her mom a dance routine she was perfecting for TikTok.

The bullet smashed the TV and everyone fled to safety. When Amaria’s mother returned, she found her daughter lying on the floor, holding on to her injured neck and trying to shout, “Mom.” Amaria was pronounced dead at the hospital. No arrests have been made.

“I grew up in the area and was often subjected to gun violence,” said Mercedes Jones, Amaria’s 28-year-old sister. “I dodged bullets flying near my head. I’m used to it. Not Amaria. She didn’t hang out like me. She did not know such a way of life. “

While young children are often caught in the crossfire, adolescents are more likely to be targeted – often by other adolescents – in highway gunfire on interstate highways or in broad daylight on city streets.

Shaquille Barbour of Philadelphia was killed on June 6, a week before high school graduation, by shooting 13 times while cycling home from a corner store. No arrests were made and the police did not disclose motives.

His father, Joseph Barbour, is still trying to contain his anger.

“I don’t think people know how hard it is not to want revenge,” he said. “These children are on the street and they seem to be hunters. They brag and taunt people after they kill someone. “

Philadelphia detective Smith said the shooting was as brutal as it was insolent.

“They dump a whole magazine in someone’s torso or head,” he said. “They call it” bringing a man down. ” They shoot a person and incapacitate him … then they lower them down, walk until they stand above them, and unload their firearms at this person. “

Attempts and ideas to slow the violence down are varied.

Wilson of the Children’s Defense Fund proposed a three-pronged strategy: pass new gun legislation to strengthen background checks and encourage the safe storage of weapons; invest in social services such as out-of-school programs and youth mental health support; and create more economic opportunities, including summer jobs.

Research has shown that victims of violence are at increased risk of resorting to violence themselves. Therefore, St. Louis Children’s Hospital has developed its Victims of Violence Program, which aims to reduce relapse by connecting shooting survivors with mentors and providing counseling, mediation and liaison with social service agencies.

In Philadelphia, Inspector General Frank Vanor said police are also monitoring social media and, if they are aware of the feud, a group of officers and community leaders meet with the controversy.

This year’s pilot program at the Simon Graz School in Philadelphia will provide intensive services to students at risk of being victims or perpetrators of gun violence.

“We will have the opportunity to recruit about 60 students to the program, but with the number of students lost, the amount of violence and gunfire seen in Philadelphia, we know there will be more students who need this program than we do. you can come in, ”Dunn said. “We know this.”

Lauer reported from Philadelphia.

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