When did we get away from common sense in this country? Perhaps it was in 2004 when the United States Congress failed to renew the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Or perhaps, it was following the Sandy Hook shooting when gun laws across the country became more relaxed in 28 states. Here in Missouri, the state legislature has completely eliminated the permitting requirement as long as the firearm is concealed. So any average 19-year-old can legally acquire a gun without learning how to use it, without getting a permit as long as they keep it concealed and it’s perfectly legal. Needless to say, these types of relaxed gun laws have deadly consequences in our cities.
Tyra Brown, Jorge Delgado, and Emorye Spriggs are just three of the 40 citizens who have been victims of senseless gun violence in our community so far this year. Each of these young people were killed before they reached the age of 24. What’s most devastating is that 31% of the homicide victims this year have been under the age of 24, as well as 32% of the suspects in those crimes. To say this is disheartening is an understatement.
Nationally, these trends are just as alarming. Did you know that Americans are 25 times more likely to be murdered with guns than people in other developed countries? This is absurd. In 2015, firearms were responsible for more than 13,000 deaths in this country and 25% of those were children 17 and under. Not to mention the number of non-fatal gun victims.
In 2013, guns were used in 84,258 non-fatal incidents. Non-fatal incidents [of gun violence] cost the tax base $229 billion because of gun violence. That’s more than we spend on education in this country. That’s more than we spend on preventive health strategies to keep our citizens healthy. That’s more than $700 per American every year. What could you do with an extra $700 a year? Probably a whole lot more than finance a hospital visit for someone who was shot with an illegal gun by a 19-year-old kid.
I’m fed up with visiting crime scenes where the victim is an innocent child. I’m fed up with schools and universities being ground zero for mass killings. And I’m fed up with trying to convince misguided legislators, at various levels of government, that sensible gun regulations can be enacted without offending the Second Amendment. Despite the challenges, however, we must continue to argue for ways to eliminate the widespread availability of illegal guns on our city streets.
As we recognize National Gun Awareness Day we must double down on our collective efforts to make our intolerance of gun violence more widely known. Far too often, a life is cut short at the hands of someone who is barely old enough to drive. Yet, we receive no help to mitigate these tragedies. The Missouri State Legislature consistently turns a blind eye to passing smart legislation that will aid local municipalities in reducing this problem. And Congress seems to forget about all of these horrific mass shootings as soon as the corresponding news cycle ends.
While it is easy to be discouraged by our perceived lack of progress, I say double down! Double down in voicing your disdain with ineffective leadership in Jefferson City. Double down in advocating for more commonsense gun laws. Double down in your commitment to your community by reporting suspicious activity and/or engaging with the myriad of organizations that we have in Kansas City working to make our communities safer.
Mothers in Charge, Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action and AdHoc Group Against Crime are just some of the groups working day in and day out on this issue, all of which could use our support. You can start by showing your support today (Thursday, June 2nd) at 5:00 p.m. with the Kansas City Chapter of Moms Demand Action at 5200 Wornall to recognize National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Show your support by wearing orange.
I long for the day that these types of demonstrations aren’t necessary. It will take all of us working together–and doubling down– to make that happen. But, we owe that and more to Tyra Brown, Jorge Delgado, and Emorye Spriggs and all of the other victims of senseless gun violence.