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Child Watch® Column: "We Must Do Better: Look at the Facts"

Release Date: July 26, 2013

Marian Wright Edelman

Nearly 2,000 people attended Molly Conley’s funeral last month to mourn the young humanitarian who was the victim of a random drive-by shooting the day after her 15th birthday. She was shot in the neck while walking with friends to a sleepover in a residential neighborhood in Lake Stevens, Washington. Molly was a 4.0 student best known for her kindness which she used to encourage her parents to care for infants waiting for foster families and to start a group called “Mother’s Helper” that raised money to aid victims of domestic abuse.

Caldwell County, Missouri sheriff’s deputies went to the home of the Curtis family after receiving an emergency call on January 11, 2012. Their 12-year-old son Steven had mishandled a gun and accidentally shot himself in the head. Steven loved playing football and being outside. He also spent a great deal of time hunting and grew up learning about gun safety and had a hunter’s safety certification from the Conservation Department. In Breckenridge, Missouri—a town of just 450 people—hunting safety is an important part of the middle school’s agricultural curriculum. Steven’s father didn’t know how his son got the gun from a locked cabinet that was in their living room.

Eleven-year-old Tayloni Mazyck was walking near her apartment building in Brooklyn on May 31, 2013 with her mother and niece when she was caught in gang-related crossfire. A bullet crashed into innocent Tayloni’s chin and lodged in her spine. According to Brooklyn prosecutor Jordan Rossman, she will be paralyzed for life. Instead of walking in her fifth-grade graduation ceremony, Tayloni was transferred to Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine for the summer. Her mother says some days Tayloni is in intense pain and easily frustrated because she can’t do simple things such as scratch her nose; other days she is convinced she will walk some day in the future. Tayloni suffers from post traumatic stress, says she is too scared to go home, and wakes up crying from flashbacks of that terrible night.

These are three of the child and youth stories shared in the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)’s new report Protect Children, Not Guns 2013—three of the 18,270 children and teens killed or injured by guns in America each year. Like Molly, Steven, and Tayloni, every one of these children deserved to live their whole lives. We can and must do better. CDF’s new report documents the truth about guns and the facts about the preventable gun violence epidemic in our nation including the economic cost of gun violence; a state-by-state breakdown on gun deaths among children and teens; comparisons on gun violence rates between the United States and other high income countries; positive and negative state actions on gun violence prevention, and more. It also documents the progress made since the Newtown massacre and lists steps for continuing action with urgency and persistence.

What can you do? Urge your members of Congress to protect children from gun violence by supporting this year common sense gun violence prevention measures including universal background checks and limits on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. We also need policies that support consumer product safety standards for all guns, public funding for gun violence prevention research, and resources and authority for law enforcement agencies to properly enforce gun safety laws. Parents, consider removing guns from your home and be vigilant about where your children play. Boycott products and places that glamorize and normalize dangerous weapons and violence.

Have we been fighting the wrong wars to keep our children safe? Nearly five times more children and teens were killed by guns in 2010 than U.S. soldiers killed in action that year in Iraq and Afghanistan. America’s military and law enforcement agencies have four million guns. Our citizens have 310 million. And we have no idea how many of those guns were purchased without a background check. The gun lobby has been enriching gun manufacturers at the expense of our children’s safety for far too long. For years the National Rifle Association has blocked the truth and actively fought against the passage and enforcement of gun safety laws. Please use the resources in Protect Children, Not Guns 2013 to find the latest research and actions you can take to protect children, not guns, in your home, in your community, and as a citizen to help create a better, safer America for all children. Together we can—and must—do better right now. So many child lives depend on it.


Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.

Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.

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Submitted by Mad Mom at: August 8, 2013
My son was shot in the back of the head dying instantly. His friend tried saving him and was also shot several times dying from his wounds. Both I and the other mother have been told that because the city has gone bankrupt their cases along with several others have been put on the back burner. This was May 2011. The case is cold and yet evidence has been submitted to the department. I don't want to take away a person's second amendment rights to bear arms but the NRA needs to collaborate with individuals such as myself to assist in decreasing gun violence. It is those who have the legal right to bear arms who often fall victim to their own vices.

Submitted by Liz at: August 5, 2013
These stories are so heartbreaking. God bless all the children and comfort their loved ones. Dear little Tayloni I believe you will walk again. I will keep you in my prayers. Love, Elizabeth O'Connor, Honolulu

Submitted by Retired Teacher at: July 29, 2013
Chicago and D.C. have the most gun control. Chicago and D.C. have the most murders. Gun control laws don't work. They insure only criminals have guns.

Submitted by Black Rooster at: July 29, 2013
Your comments are on target...the cause for action is worth our efforts...these are our babies...there must be a million people; parents in this country who would join a new political party which connects our vote and dollars to a safer USA...this is my dream, this is my aim.

Submitted by ChucklesnHope at: July 28, 2013
The NRA and ALEC are persevering. We must also persevere. Your column helps us and keeps us on the path. Thanks you.

Submitted by azeil at: July 27, 2013
Too many guns. Too few parents.

Submitted by Why me! at: July 27, 2013
I enjoy reading this column . It's informative, insightful, & influential. All people can relate to it, even children & preteens.Preteens use some topics as group discussions & that is insightful for them & inactive group observers.THANKS

Submitted by GALLEXIE at: July 27, 2013
THERE NEEDSTO BE A GUN SWEEP FAR TO MANY PEOPLE WHO APPEAR NOT TO HAVE COMMON SENSE DON'T NEED GUNS,AND U ONLY REALLY NEED ONE GUN IN YOUR HOME FOR DEFENSE. JUST LIKE THE GOVERNMENT ALLOWED THOSE COME INTO THE BLACK COMMUNITY EVERY HOME,PROJECT SHOULD BE SWIPED FOR ILLEGAL GUNS,SEND IN THE NATIONAL GUARD, PEOPLE WHO ARE KNOWN RACIST SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO BARE ARMS GIVEN THEIR MENTAL STATE OF MIND CITIZEN ARE OUT OF CONTROL,AND THE BLACK COMMUNITY IS SEEN AS DISPOSABLE. NRA MUST BECOME ACCOUNTABLE FOR CHILDREN KILLED. NO GUN CONTROL,OR MENTAL EVALUATION ,THEN SOMEONE SHOULD BE ACCOUNTABLE

Submitted by Jan at: July 27, 2013
Thank you for the gun article I just read in the email. I have SO much trouble understanding why people think they NEED guns. I am passing along the article to others.

Submitted by Tiny But Tough at: July 27, 2013
It is not just our children whom we must protect, but their families and, in particular, their fathers. Homicide ranks third as the cause of death among African American males.

Submitted by Stef at: July 26, 2013
Thank you for your continuous caring and leadership on gun violence. Your words are based on common sense and facts. We have to do better for our children