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Child Watch® Column: "We Can Do Better"

Release Date: June 14, 2013

Marian Wright Edelman

  • Guns killed more preschoolers in one year than they did law-enforcement officers in the line of duty. Ask yourself if this is really what we as Americans meant by putting our children first?
  • American companies manufacture enough bullets each year to fire 31 rounds into every one of our citizens. How many more mass-murders will it take to get Congress to pass sensible gun regulation?
  • The number of children and teens killed by guns in 2010 was nearly five times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action that year in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shouldn’t our legislators be as concerned about the wars at home as they are about the wars overseas?

“Ana’s love for singing was evident before she was even able to talk. In a musical family, her gift for melody, pitch, and rhythm stood out remarkably. And she never walked anywhere—her mode of transportation was dance. She danced from room to room and place to place. She danced to all the music she heard, whether in air or in her head. Ana loved her God, loved to read the Bible, and loved to sing and dance as acts of worship.” These are the words six-year-old Ana Grace Marquez-Greene’s parents released in a statement after she was killed by gun violence six months ago on December 14, 2012 in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Ana’s father and mother are co-founders of the Sandy Hook Promise and have been standing up and speaking out for common sense gun safety laws ever since. Despite their courage and the courage of the 25 other families who lost children and loved ones that horrendous day, Congress has done nothing to protect children instead of guns. Nothing.

We can do better. We must do better.

Seven children and teens are killed by guns every day in America and a child or teen is injured by a gun almost every half hour. Every three days guns kill more than 20 children and teens, enough to fill a school classroom. We have likely had the equivalent of 67 Newtowns in the numbers of child deaths since December 14th. On January 29, 2013 a 15-year-old honor roll student chosen to march in President Obama’s Inauguration parade was taking shelter from the rain under a canopy in a public park with a group of girl friends from school when she was shot and killed by a gun less than a mile from the President’s Chicago home. Hadiya Pendleton’s courageous mother and father have spoken out and come to Congress to ask them to protect children, not guns. Yet nothing has changed. We can do better.

America’s military and law-enforcement agencies have four million guns. Our citizens have 310 million guns. How many have been purchased without background checks? We do not know. We can do better.

Alton Perry had been nicknamed “the greeter” at his preschool because of his eagerness to see visitors at his classroom door. Alton was particularly happy on February 26, 2013 when he brought mini-cupcakes to share with his class in honor of his second birthday. Later that day, his grandmother, who had a history of mental illness, shot and killed Alton and his six-month-old little brother before turning her husband’s gun on herself. We can do better. We must do better for our children’s sake. 

Minnesota fourth-grader Devin Aryal loved soccer, Spiderman, school, and the color green. On February 11th a middle-aged man began shooting passing cars at random in St. Paul, killing nine-year-old Devin. Upon arresting the shooter, police found the man armed with bullets, loaded clips and two large knives. A judge ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation; it was unclear how he obtained the 9-mm handgun used in the shooting. Nine-year-old Shayla Shonneker loved playing outside with friends and riding her bike. Unbeknownst to her, in April an Oregon City military reserve member was practicing holstering and unholstering a loaded gun when it accidentally discharged 50 yards away. The bullet shot through the wall of the house, striking Shayla in the face and killing her. In May a five-year-old Kentucky boy was playing with his rifle when he accidentally shot and killed his two-year-old little sister, Caroline Sparks, with a single shot to the chest. The five-year-old little boy had gotten the weapon, a .22 caliber Crickett single shot rifle marketed to children, for his birthday. We can do better.

Since 20 six- and seven-year-olds were mowed down with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in December, more than 1,300 children and teens have likely been killed. The number of children and teens killed by guns in one year in America would fill 134 classrooms of 20 students each. It’s time for every parent, grandparent, faith and community leader to stand up to a do nothing Congress and say, “Enough – do something now!” The overwhelming majority of Americans agree we can and must do better. Polls show the vast majority of Americans, gun owners and non-gun owners, Republicans and Democrats support universal background checks as a first step to making America safer for our children and for all of us. The Children’s Defense Fund is launching a “We Can Do Better” public awareness and social media campaign created by Fallon Worldwide. Look at our website 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

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

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Here's what others have said:

Submitted by Dad at: June 17, 2013
Guns don't kill people. Gun control doesn't work. The more attempts to limit guns will cause more violence.

Submitted by Jeanno at: June 15, 2013
We can and should do better; but when you have politicians with aspirations of being President someday like the Governor of Nevada who just vetoed background checks although only 14% of Nevadans agreed, I am not hopeful that anything will change ever. This country was built on violence and oppression and continues violence and oppression not only here but all over the world. I am disappointed and sad that my 7 and soon to be 8 grand children have to live in a country like this! Peace and love from North Las Vegas, NV.

Submitted by L B at: June 15, 2013
Crazy people and minors do not have the right to vote or serve in the military or bear arms. No more accidental gun deaths of children in the home. No more murderous shooting rampages of the mentally ill. No more guns sold without background checks and at least a brief waiting period. No more guns marketed to minors. No more guns sold to the mentally ill. No more high-count ammo clips sold to the general public. No more automated military-type weaponry sold to the public. Do the background checks at every store, show, and sale; keep hunting equipment locked up safely; keep children and the mentally ill safe and away from guns.

Submitted by Peace-Action at: June 15, 2013
Why must scores of innocent victims be sacrificed to the greed and power of gun manufacturers, the distorted NRA spokespersons, the misguided second amendment advocates who are blinded by propaganda completely misreading the intent of the amendment. Politicians, swayed by contributions (dirty money) have abrograted their sworn oath of office to bow to greed and not the best interests of the general citizenry. Pray tell, what was their motivation in running for office?

Submitted by Brent at: June 15, 2013
Best wishes with your efforts. The safety of children should be the first priority of a society and sensible federal gun laws, tightly written, well funded & well enforced, will go a long way to achieving that safety. And, interestingly, those laws also protect gun rights because the true nemesis of those rights is gun violence!

Submitted by fjakobci at: June 15, 2013
It boggles the mind that such things as back ground check should hold up gun or weapons regulations. What are these people afraid of? It is not taking them away, it is trying to prevent those who not for one reason or another qualified to have weapons. It has nothing to do with the holy grail of the NRA et al the Second Amendment. It is fear on their part that so many should suffer injury and death when it could be prevented. I will never forget the symbol of Charleton Heston, addressing the NRA, I think, hold a weapon in his oustreached arm, with chin out, as if he was making a Nazi salute, following the Columine killings. Will nothing ever make sense to these people behind guns in the hands of every child, of every American and the perpetual need to have them and use them?

Submitted by Anonymous at: June 15, 2013
You are so right- we can and we must do better! Gun violence is a disgrace and unless we do something, we are all complicit!

Submitted by Kathy at: June 14, 2013
Children are our future, and are more important than the needs of a few people who care more about guns than about the lives of our future generation. Thank you, Children's Defense Fund, for doing all this important work for our children who are our future! Thank you

Submitted by Debi at: June 14, 2013
Words like heartbreaking and tragic cannot convey the pain of these children's stories. They do, however, describe the Congress' inaction on responsible gun ownership. 10% approval rating...and falling.

Submitted by Linda at: June 14, 2013
Please keep our children safe!

Submitted by Syl at: June 14, 2013
I think Congressional salaries should be withheld until reasonable gun legislation is ennacted. This should include background checks, severe limits on magazines, 6 or less and automatic weapons should be illegal outside the military.

Submitted by Eric at: June 14, 2013
So now we are sending weapons to Syria, eavesdropping on American citizens, closing down schools and building prisons, developing drones capable of killing American citizens, and you want us to give up our 1st and 2nd Amendment rights?