One hundred thirty-two Missourians lost their lives, and 164 have been injured during the first 3 months of 2017 due to gun violence. Nine of the deaths were children, five of them from St. Louis.
Why do I know this? As a member of the Common-Sense Gun Solutions Committee for Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, I monitor the on-line Gun Violence Archive to report on the number of people who have died as the result of gun violence. I learn their names. I find their photos. I gather information on their lives. Where did they go to school? Where did they work? What impact did they have on their friends, family and co-workers?
Women’s Voices is more widely known in the community as an organization that attends community health fairs to distribute gun safety information and gun locks to families with unsecured firearms in their homes. And that is a good thing; more than 1,500 locks are now with St. Louis area families. But we do more. We advocate for gun violence prevention.
When our elected officials and the public read a crime report that a 25-year-old woman was shot to death in Columbia, or that a 12-year-old in Otterville was killed by a bullet to his head, they may skim the article and move on. But if they see a photo of the proud, smiling young woman in her Hardee’s uniform and learn she had worked her way into a management position and leaves behind two young children; or if they learn the boy from Otterville played summer baseball, loved the outdoors and dinosaurs, they may take a few more moments and ask themselves: why did this happen, and how could it have been prevented?
When we read one day that a six-year-old killed herself with a gun left loaded and unlocked, but we never learn where she went to school or see a photo, how can we have any empathy for her grieving family? When a 15-year-old is shot down in a blaze of bullets and an eight-year-old is critically wounded, and the following day the story is dropped, what are we to understand?
Has gun violence become so common that just reporting when and where it happens and giving the number of dead and injured is enough?
We believe readers need and deserve more. We believe in vigils where people remember the victims. We believe in marches with posters of those lost. We believe the lives of the victims matter and their stories should matter to all of us.
If the print news media would give us a glimpse into their lives, tell us their stories, perhaps more of us will work to end the violence.