Chapter 1: America’s Gun Violence Epidemic: The Big Picture in Big Pictures CHAPTER 1AMERICA’S GUN VIOLENCE EPIDEMIC: THE BIG PICTURE IN BIG PICTURES COLUMBINE… VIRGINIA TECH… SANDY HOOK… AURORA… SAN BERNADINO… ORLANDO… LAS VEGAS… PARKLAND…
We all recognize these names. We know what this list means. It’s a very short list of some of the deadliest mass shootings in recent US history. The sad part is that this list stretches back further than you would think. America’s first mass shooting happened in 1949 when a man strolled around his Camden, New Jersey, neighborhood gunning down thirteen of his neighbors. The sadder part is that, without our action, this list will continue to stretch out into the future, as more mass shootings are added to it.
How bad is gun violence in America today? Take a look at the big picture… IT’S BAD
100 AMERICANS ARE KILLED BY GUNS EVERY DAY IN AMERICA.1
15,593 AMERICANS WERE KILLED BY GUNS IN ONE YEAR (2017).2
$229 BILLION! THAT’S THE COST OF GUN VIOLENCE IN THE US EACH YEAR.3
MORE AMERICANS HAVE BEEN KILLED BY GUN VIOLENCE SINCE 1968 THAN IN ALL US WARS COMBINED!
US WAR DEATHS SINCE THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR: 1.2 MILLION
US GUN VIOLENCE DEATHS SINCE 1968: 1.5 MILLION4 DEATHS FROM WARS VS. DEATHS FROM FIREARMS, 1968–2017
FIREARM-RELATED DEATHS 1968–2017 1.5 MILLION
DEATHS IN WARS 1775–2017 1.2 MILLION
WAR OF 1812
AMERICA INDIAN WARS
WORLD WAR I
WORLD WAR II
DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM
GLOBAL WAR IN TERROR
“National Center for Health Statistics,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, section “Mortality: All Firearm Deaths,” last modified May 3, 2017, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/injury.htm
; war casualties come from Department of Veterans Affairs, accessed March 12, 2019, https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/fs_americas_wars.pdf
, and iCasualties.org
, accessed February 10, 2019, http://icasualties.org
. SCHOOL AND MASS SHOOTINGS ARE GETTING WORSE
THERE HAVE BEEN MORE MASS SHOOTINGS AT US SCHOOLS IN THE LAST EIGHTEEN YEARS THAN IN THE ENTIRE TWENTIETH CENTURY (1900–1999).5
INCREASE OF AMERICANS KILLED IN MASS SCHOOL SHOOTINGS Source:
Antonis Katsiyannis, Denise K. Whitford, and Robin Parks, “Historical Examination of United States Intentional Mass School Shootings in the 20th and 21st Centuries,” Journal of Child and Family Studies
, April 19, 2018, https://mijn.bsl.nl/historical-examination-of-united-states-intentional-mass-school-/15708240
AMERICA HAS A MASS SHOOTING 9 OUT OF 10 DAYS, ON AVERAGE.6
AFTER THE MASSACRE OF CHILDREN AT SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN 2012, POLITICIANS SAID “NEVER AGAIN.” BUT THERE HAVE BEEN 1,977 MASS SHOOTINGS IN AMERICA IN THE 2,272 DAYS SINCE THEN.7
THAT NUMBER KEEPS GOING UP EVERY WEEK. YOU CAN CHECK THE CURRENT GUN DEATH AND INJURY TOLL AT THE GUN VIOLENCE ARCHIVE (GUNVIOLENCEARCHIVE.ORG
WHAT IS A MASS SHOOTING?
When you read mass shooting
in the media, it usually means a shooting where four or more people are injured or killed, not including the shooter. Mass shootings don’t include all the other shootings with fewer than four people.8AMERICA IS DROWNING IN A SEA OF GUNS
There are 393 million guns in America. That’s more than one gun per man, woman, and child.9
3% of gun owners own more than 50% of those guns.10
All these mass shootings can numb us. We forget that each gun death statistic was a unique individual with friends, family, and a story. Teen journalists across America are helping us remember through sinceparkland.org
, a website they’ve created where they are sharing stories about the American kids who have been killed by gun violence.THE CONCENTRATION OF GUN OWNERSHIP IN AMERICA Source:
Deborah Azrael, Lisa Hepburn, David Hemenway, and Matthew Miller, “The Stock and Flow of US Firearms: Results from the 2015 National Firearms Survey,” Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences
, February 12, 2019, https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/10.7758/rsf.2017.3.5.02.pdf
. YOUNG PEOPLE (YOU) GET HIT THE HARDEST
1,297 AMERICAN CHILDREN ARE KILLED BY GUNS EACH YEAR. 5,790 MORE ARE INJURED.11
GUN VIOLENCE IS THE #2 KILLER OF YOUNG PEOPLE, NOW KILLING MORE KIDS THAN CAR ACCIDENTS.12 GUN VIOLENCE OVERTAKES CAR ACCIDENTS AS LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH FOR AMERICANS AGES 15–29 Source:
“Fatal Injury Reports, National, Regional and State, 1981–2017,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
, last accessed February 9, 2019, https://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate.html
150,000+ STUDENTS HAVE EXPERIENCED A SHOOTING AT THEIR SCHOOL SINCE 199713
57% OF TEENS LIVE IN FEAR THAT THERE WILL BE A SHOOTING AT THEIR SCHOOL.14
YOUNG PEOPLE (AGES 15–29) ARE HURT BY GUN VIOLENCE MORE THAN ANY OTHER AGE GROUP. 31% OF ALL GUN DEATHS AND NEARLY 50% OF GUN HOMICIDES ARE YOUNG PEOPLE.15 IT’S WORSE FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR
YOUNG HISPANICS (AGES 15–19) ARE 4 TIMES MORE LIKELY THAN YOUNG WHITES TO BE MURDERED BY GUNS.16
YOUNG BLACK AMERICANS (AGES 15–19) ARE 18 TIMES MORE LIKELY THAN YOUNG WHITE AMERICANS TO BE MURDERED BY GUNS.17
POLICE SHOOTINGS KILL 9 TIMES MORE YOUNG BLACK AMERICAN MEN (AGES 15–34) THAN YOUNG WHITE AMERICAN MEN.18 THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY HAS PLENTY TO FEAR FROM GUNS
10% OF LGBTQ+ STUDENTS WERE THREATENED OR INJURED WITH A WEAPON AT SCHOOL IN 2015.19
GUN VIOLENCE WAS THE #1 CAUSE OF DEATH FOR LGBTQ+ VICTIMS OF HATE CRIMES, RESPONSIBLE FOR 52% OF MURDERS IN 2016.20
NEARLY 25% OF LGBTQ+ YOUTH ATTEMPTED SUICIDE AT LEAST ONCE IN THE PRIOR YEAR, COMPARED TO 6% OF HETEROSEXUAL YOUTH. ACCESS TO GUNS MAKES SUICIDE MORE LETHAL FOR AT-RISK LBGTQ+ YOUTH.21 GUNS ARE DEADLY FOR WOMEN
6,313 WOMEN WERE MURDERED IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INVOLVING A GUN FROM 2004 TO 2015.22
AMERICAN WOMEN ARE 16 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE KILLED WITH A GUN THAN ARE WOMEN IN OTHER HIGH-INCOME COUNTRIES.23
IN HOUSEHOLDS EXPERIENCING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, WOMEN ARE 5 TIMES LIKELIER TO BE MURDERED IF THERE IS A GUN IN THE HOUSE THAN IF THERE IS NOT.24 SOME STATES ARE DEADLIER THAN OTHERS
STATES WITH WEAKER GUN LAWS HAVE MORE GUN DEATHS. STATES WITH STRICTER GUN LAWS HAVE FEWER GUN DEATHS. PERIOD.25 GUN DEATHS ARE HIGHER IN STATES WITH WEAK GUN LAWS Source:
“2018 Annual Gun Law Scorecard,” Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, accessed February 9, 2019, https://lawcenter.giffords.org/scorecard/ AMERICA IS THE GUN-CRAZIEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD
AMERICA HAS THE MOST GUN VIOLENCE OF ANY DEVELOPED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.
6 TIMES HIGHER THAN CANADA
7 TIMES HIGHER THAN SWEDEN
16 TIMES HIGHER THAN GERMANY
21 TIMES HIGHER THAN AUSTRALIA
EVEN AMONG THE MOST VIOLENT COUNTRIES ON THE PLANET, AMERICA RANKS #2 FOR MOST GUN DEATHS.26 TOP 20 COUNTRIES FOR TOTAL FIREARM DEATHS IN 2016 Source:
GBD 2016 Injury Collaborators, “Global Mortality from Firearms, 1990–2016,” Journal of American Medical Association
, August 28, 2018, http://www.healthdata.org/research-article/global-mortality-firearms-1990%E2%88%922016
THE US HAD THE SECOND-HIGHEST GUN SUICIDE RATE IN THE WORLD IN 2016. ONLY GREENLAND HAD MORE SUICIDES PER CAPITA.27
AMERICA HAS LESS THAN 5% OF THE WORLD’S POPULATION BUT HAS 31% OF THE WORLD’S MASS SHOOTINGS.28
91% OF CHILDREN KILLED BY GUNS IN HIGH-INCOME COUNTRIES ARE AMERICAN.29
AMERICA HAS LESS THAN 5% OF THE WORLD’S POPULATION BUT OWNS 45% OF THE WORLD’S GUNS.30
YEMEN HAS THE SECOND-HIGHEST GUN OWNERSHIP IN THE WORLD. IT IS A WAR-TORN, DEVELOPING COUNTRY, YET AMERICA HAS MORE THAN TWICE AS MANY GUNS PER CAPITA.31 THERE’S HOPE!
OVER 90% OF AMERICANS SUPPORT EXPANDING BACKGROUND CHECKS, INCLUDING MOST GUN OWNERS.32
2/3 OF AMERICANS UNDER AGE 30 WANT TO STRENGTHEN OUR GUN LAWS.33
MORE THAN 2 MILLION AMERICANS JOINED THE 2018 MARCH FOR OUR LIVES PROTESTS, DEMANDING GUN LAW REFORM.34
A Final Word
Although America’s gun problem looks enormous, there are lots of good solutions on the table and smart people working to change things. Progress is already being made. The next chapters will give you deeper information about each of these gun problems, the proposed solutions, and how you
STUDENTS TAKING A STAND
HUNTER YUILLE, AGE 19, GUN VIOLENCE SURVIVOR AND PUBLIC SPEAKER1
“Thank you all for being here. It means a lot to me.” Hunter speaks quietly into the microphone, his eyes scanning the hundreds of supporters who have come to this somber event. It is silent for a long moment, until a friend in the front row yells, “Go, Hunter!” The crowd laughs with relief, and Hunter flashes a grin and continues.
“Five years ago, my mother was shot and killed in a mass shooting…”
It happened on December 11, 2012. Hunter Yuille was 13 years old and just home from school. He opened the fridge and groaned. No milk.
“That’s a big thing for me,” he says. “I love milk. I can drink milk all day long.” He was planning to make a quesadilla, but it wouldn’t be as good without a glass of milk. So, he called his mom, Cindy.
“Hey, we’re outta milk,” he complained.
“I’m on my way home now,” she told him. “I just have to stop at the mall; then I’ll pick up some milk.”
Hunter remembers the last words he said to her: “See you when you get home. I love you.”
Hunter ate his quesadilla (without milk, which was a bummer), then went to gymnastics practice. Afterward, his dad picked him up, which was weird because his dad never
picked him up from gymnastics. It was always his mom. But Cindy wasn’t home yet. Nobody was worried—it was December, and the malls were packed with holiday shoppers. They figured Cindy’s errands took longer than expected. Hunter tried calling her but got no answer.
Hunter and his dad ate dinner. Then, because of the season, they turned on A Christmas Story
. Near the end of the movie, the doorbell rang. Hunter was sure it was his mom—maybe she’d lost her house keys.
NEVER FORGET: CLACKAMAS TOWN CENTER SHOOTING When:
December 11, 2012 Where:
Clackamas, Oregon How many died?
Two What happened?
During the busy holiday shopping season, a shooter opened fire on shoppers and employees at this mall outside of Portland, killing two people and wounding a third. The shooter had stolen the semiautomatic rifle from a friend’s apartment earlier that day, where it had been left out, unlocked and loaded.
But it wasn’t Cindy. It was a police officer. And a therapist. Hunter’s dad told him to stay in the house while he stepped outside. “I knew something was wrong. I could feel it,” said Hunter.
His dad came back in with tears in his eyes. “It was the first time I’d ever seen my dad cry,” Hunter remembers. His dad told him that his mom wouldn’t be coming home. She had been shot. There had been a shooting at Clackamas Town Center—a young man opened fire in the food court. Two people had been shot and killed—Hunter’s mom was one of them.
When Hunter heard the news, he froze. He didn’t believe what he was hearing. “No, she’s not dead,” he said to himself. “She’s on her way home. She’s caught in traffic. This is not happening.” He didn’t cry. He didn’t feel anything at all.
Hunter went a couple months like that, expecting his mom to come home, expecting life to go back to normal. Hunter’s life didn’t go back to normal, however. In fact, it got worse. “I’m a 19-year-old addict in recovery trying to figure out how I’m supposed to grow up,” he says now.
Cindy Yuille, who Hunter calls Mom, was his adoptive dad’s wife—so, stepmom might be a more accurate term, technically. But for Hunter, Cindy was just Mom—the most stable, loving person in his life. She was a hospice nurse and the best parent he’d ever had. “Cindy was an amazing mom. She took me in, always treated me like her own. She cooked dinner, helped me clean my room, helped me do my homework. She was one hell of a person.”
After Cindy was shot and killed, Hunter’s life spun out of control. Less than a year later, 14-year-old Hunter was chain-smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, and smoking pot regularly. “It seemed like what every other teenager was doing. But my drug use progressed a lot quicker than other kids.”
Before long, Hunter found his way to more dangerous drugs and got addicted. He tried to get himself clean, but without Cindy’s support, it was all too much, and he found himself homeless, living on the streets. The summer after his junior year, Hunter dropped out of school. He thought about killing himself.
Today, Hunter is doing a lot better. “Drugs and alcohol didn’t get me anywhere. They got me homeless, on the streets. I had to make a change.” He got himself into a treatment program and into “sober housing.” He’s been clean and sober for nine months and plans to go back and finish high school soon. “My mom put that in my head: ‘You need to go to school.’?”
Hunter has also started speaking out, telling his story to help educate and inspire. A few months after getting clean, he went to the five-year remembrance of the Clackamas Town Center shooting. He wasn’t planning to speak, but when he heard others speaking, he thought, “Why not? I’ve got something to say too.” His words moved the crowd—the applause was loud and long. “It felt good. It felt really good. I was really nervous, but I made it through.”
In July 2018, he won a Giffords Courage Fellowship and flew to Washington, DC, where he joined twenty-eight other young people from across the country. They gathered to discuss the gun violence crisis and brainstorm solutions. Hunter was honored. “I never thought I would have this kind of opportunity. I think that we actually have a chance to change something.”2
Considering what he’s lost to gun violence, he is surprisingly open-minded about possible solutions. “Before the shooting, I loved guns. Lots of people I know have guns, and I think that’s fine. We shouldn’t take guns away from law-abiding citizens. We should focus on taking guns away from convicted felons. There’s a huge black market for guns,” he says. “And we should focus more on gun control. Background checks. Making sure gun owners are not mentally ill. Making sure people who have the guns lock them up.”
Hunter is working on forgiving his mom’s killer. “I can’t hate him anymore. You have to learn to forgive—you can’t hold on to stuff like that.”
Hunter’s advice for young activists:
“LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD.” Learn more about what Hunter is working on and get involved at momsdemandaction.org.