“It was my second shooting. So I was kind of prepared. I always am expecting something to happen.”
These were the haunting words of 8-year-old Faris Nunn after gunfire broke out and injured three people during a baseball game at Nationals Park in the District of Columbia last weekend. Shamefully, in a nation where gun violence is rampant and rising, her words and experiences represent a horrifying reality for every child, every day, everywhere. Mere miles away, in fact, 6-year-old Nyiah Courtney was killed with a gun the night before as she rode her scooter down a sidewalk. Today, the sounds of gunfire—and the terror of dying in a senseless act of violence—have become a normal part of growing up in America.
Every 26 minutes, a child or teen is killed or injured with a gun in the U.S. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and teens ages 1-19, claiming more lives than cancer, pneumonia, influenza, asthma, HIV/AIDs, and opioids combined. In 2019, 3,371 children and teens died from gun violence. For every child killed with a gun, another 5 were injured. Many more witnessed gun violence in their homes, schools, or neighborhoods and suffered the deep pain and trauma that follows. According to the most recent available data, more than two-thirds (67.5 percent) of children and youth were victims or witnesses of violence in 2014. Nearly 1 in 7 older youth (13.4 percent) had witnessed a shooting at some point in their lives, and this number is thought to be even higher among low-income children.
From stadiums to schools to sidewalks, our children are learning there are no safe spaces in America. They are living in a state of constant fear, always “expecting something to happen” and worrying if today will be their last. And they are crying out and begging leaders to protect them.
It is past time for Congress to hear and heed their calls. Gun violence is not an inevitable or intractable problem. Congress can—and must—strengthen background checks, ban assault weapons, and pass other gun safety measures to ensure all children a chance to grow up free from violence and fear. Gun violence has robbed too many children of their lives, loved ones, and peace of mind. We cannot allow another generation to live in fear of gun violence or die from it.