ST. Louis (AP) — Gun violence continues to kill an increasing number American children. From toddlers caught up in crossfires to teens gunned in turf wars and drug squabbles, or because they posted the wrong thing on Social Media, it is killing a growing number of American children.
Recent years have seen an increase in shootings involving teenagers and children, with 2021 being no exception. Experts believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to an increase in shootings involving children and teenagers.
LeGend Taliferro was a 4-year old boy who loved dinosaurs, basketball and was found sleeping on the ground in an apartment in Kansas City when he was gunned down on June 29, 2020. A man accused of second-degree killing in LeGend’s dispute with his father is currently on trial. The probable cause statement stated that the suspect shot was trying to find LeGend’s father following the altercation.
“Why is violence necessary because we are mad?” Charron Powell asks LeGend’s mom, Charron, “Why do we have to resort to violence because we’re mad?” “What are some other ways that we can solve an issue without hurting anybody?”
Gun Violence Archive reports that the U.S. witnessed 991 gun-related deaths among 17-year-olds in 2019. This website tracks shootings from over 7,500 law enforcement, media, government, commercial and other sources. This number rose to 1,375 in 2020, and is expected to rise further this year. Monday’s shootings claimed the lives of 1,179 teens and left 3,292 others injured.
FBI data backs this up. A report by the FBI was released on Sept. 28. It showed that murders in the United States increased by almost 30% in 2020, while homicides among those aged 19 and younger rose to more than 21%.
Horror stories are all around.
Caion Greene, 9, died March 23rd in St. Louis after someone opened fire on the family car. A 17-year old is facing charges in connection to the crime. The police and the prosecutors declined to comment on the motives or reveal what prompted this shooting.
Two children from Minneapolis were killed in a shooting incident that took place in May. Trinity Ottoson Smith was nine years old when she fell on a trampoline and was shot in her head. According to police, she was an unintentional victim of a bullet intended for another person. There have been no arrests. Aniya Allen, six years old, was shot after her mother drove her car through gun battles.
On October 2, a Milwaukee 11-year-old boy was shot and killed by another driver. A 5-year old girl sustained injuries when the gunman opened fire on their car. Police are still seeking information from the general public about the motive, but have not yet revealed if they have any clues.
Teenagers are more often the victims.
Jamari Williams, 15-year-old student at Simeon Career Academy High school in Chicago, was killed in separate shootings on September 21. The shootings are still under investigation by police.
Five students were killed at Philadelphia’s Simon Gratz School Mastery Charter and nine more were shot or wounded during the previous school year. Two recent graduates and two students were both killed in the first week of the new school year. The school has a memorial space, assists with funeral expenses and offers counseling.
Le’Yondo Dunn, principal of the school, said that she has become extremely skilled in knowing how to respond to young people when they lose their lives.
According to a March report from Children’s Defense Fund, teen and child gun deaths rose 19 years ago and continue to rise. Black children and teens were four times as likely to die from gunshot wounds than those of whites.
Rev. Starsky Wilson said that gun sales spiked during the pandemic made matters worse.
Wilson stated that there are more guns on the streets than people with less chance to engage in productive activity. “A combination of both is really difficult.”
Experts also believe that social media plays an important role. Jason Smith, a captain of the Philadelphia homicide division, stated that a posted insult could quickly turn into retaliation.
Smith said that “Social media makes a lot of disrespect easy.” “They do it in real-time.”
Dr. Lindsay Clukies of St. Louis Children’s Hospital is an emergency room physician. She says she often sees repeat victims.
“It is not unusual for us to see a child who has a large scar and ask, “What happened?” They say that they were shot once before.
Clukies stated that it was frustrating for medical providers because they take great care of children and save lives. However, these injuries can be prevented. There’s nothing worse than telling a parent their child died from something completely preventable.
The Justice Department attempted to end violence with Operation Legend, named after LeGend Taliferro. His mother finds comfort in the fact her son’s passing spurred a national effort that led to hundreds of arrests. But the pain doesn’t go away.
Powell said, “It’s really difficult to get through every single day.” It’s hard to believe he’s gone and it’s impossible to hear his voice.
Someone fired shots at a group o Chicago boys from their front porch last year just before Father’s Day. Although the bullet missed the boys, it pierced the window of the dining room. Amaria Jones, 13, was performing a TikTok dance routine for her mom.
Everyone fled for safety after the bullet cracked a TV. Amaria’s mother came back to find her daughter, Amaria, on the floor with her injured neck, trying to call her mom. Amaria was taken to a hospital. There have been no arrests.
Mercedes Jones, Amaria’s 28 year-old sister, stated, “I grew-up in this area and I’ve been around gun violence.” “I’ve dodged bullets flying near to my head. I am used to it. But Amaria. She wasn’t like me. She didn’t know this lifestyle.
Teenagers are most often targeted, often by their peers, in drive-by shootings at interstate highways.
Shaquille Barbour, a Philadelphia resident, was shot and killed on June 6. He was riding his bike from a corner shop to his graduation. Police have not made any arrests and aren’t giving a motive.
Joseph Barbour is still trying to control his anger.
He stated, “I don’t believe people know how hard that is, not wanting to retaliate.” “These kids live on the streets and it feels like they are hunters. After they kill someone, they brag and taunt others.”
Smith, a Philadelphia detective, stated that the shootings are just as brutal as they were brazen.
He stated that they would empty an entire magazine into the torso of someone or their heads. They call it walking someone down. They shoot a person, incapacitate them, then walk them down until they are standing up and then unload their firearm onto that individual.
Many ideas and attempts to reduce violence exist.
Wilson, from the Children’s Defense Fund, recommended a three-fold strategy. Adopt new gun legislation that will strengthen background checks and incentivize safe weapons storage; invest in social service such as after school programs and mental health support for youth; and create more economic opportunities, including summer job opportunities.
Studies show that victims of violence are more likely to become violent. St. Louis Children’s Hospital created the Victims of Violence Program to help reduce recidivism. It pairs victims of shooting with mentors, offers counseling, mediation, and links to social services agencies.
Chief Inspector Frank Vanore, Philadelphia Police, stated that they also monitor social media. If they become aware of a feud between officers or community leaders, a team made up of officers and community leaders meets with the parties.
The pilot program will be offered at Philadelphia’s Simon Gratz school and provide intensive services to students who are at risk of becoming victims — or perpetrators — of gun violence.
Dunn said that while we will have the ability to enroll 60 students in the program, given the volume of violence and guns seen in Philadelphia, Dunn says there will likely be many more students who are interested. “We know it.”
Lauer reported out of Philadelphia.