In 1998, the organization I founded, Stop Handgun Violence, hung a 252' X 20' billboard over the Mass Turnpike in Boston with the phrase "Bullets Leave Holes" on it. It included a picture of four young boys at their first communion, with a fifth boy's, Brian Crowell, silhouette cut out of the board. Brian was twelve years old when his best friend accidentally killed him. The two were fooling around with the friend's mother's gun that unbeknownst to them had a bullet in the chamber when he was shot. Fifteen years later, bullets are still leaving holes in innocent victims, countless family members, schools and communities across the country at the rate of 210 shot and 88 killed every day by firearms in the United States.
Last week, in the latest school shooting, two more inescapable and all-consuming holes were created in a Washington State high school when two freshman girls, Zoe Galasso and Gia Soriano, were killed. There is no doubt that Zoe and Gia's deaths will be felt by their families, their friends and their classmates, but the holes created by the deaths of these young women extend well beyond those who knew them. All over the state and all over the nation parents are following the advice of another school shooting victim's grieving mother to "Hug your kids every day" because they don't know if they will have another chance. Given the increasing epidemic of mass shootings of innocent children in schools, parents have every right to be worried.
Since the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012, there have been eighty-seven other school shootings, an average of one school shooting every single week. This means that there are 87 more communities grieving the loss of innocent children's lives, the loss of safety and security where children should feel safe to learn and grow. Eighty-seven more communities trying to find a way to cope and prevent another tragedy while maneuvering the gaping hole that was left in their community.
But these publicized school shootings are not the only ones creating holes in families and communities. Every 30 minutes , a child or teen is shot and over eighteen children and young adults die each day in the U.S. from a gunshot wound. We don't hear about many of these deaths or the gaping holes that they leave in their loved-ones' lives. Like the hole left by the death of Willie Turner. Willie was the oldest of six kids raised by his single mom and a father of three when he died. As the oldest child, he and his mother were the primary caretakers for his ailing grandmother that lived in the home with them. After spending the day with his sons, he was shot by two complete strangers in a case of mistaken identity. His grandmother, mother, partner, younger siblings and his children were left without the emotional, physical and mental support they desperately relied on. The police say he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but that serves to dismiss the reality that due to national gun policy that allows unrestricted access to guns without even a criminal background check in 33 states, the "right place at the right time" is getting harder to find.
Each year, more than 30,000 Americans die from gun violence. Since 1968, more Americans were killed by guns in the U.S. than all U.S. service men and women killed in all foreign wars combined. Yet Congress and most state legislators do nothing other than collect special interest campaign contributions from the uniquely unregulated gun industry and oppose common sense gun laws, such as those that have successfully saved lives in Massachusetts. Urban industrial Massachusetts simply requires accountability and responsibility on the part of gun owners, dealers, manufacturers and law enforcement. Gun owners must safely store weapons, gun sellers must run a current criminal background check for all gun sales and operate out of bonifide stores vs. car trunks and backpacks, gun manufacturers must comply with first in the nation gun manufacturing and marketing standards, law enforcement must use suitability standards for gun buyers and must enforce renewable licensing and registration, like automobiles, and a permanent ban on military style assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines. It's no surprise that year after year, including 2012, the most recent year in which federal data is available, Massachusetts has the lowest firearm fatality rate per capita in the United States!
There are so many families and communities with far too many painful and preventable holes. No parent has the gene to bury their children and ever be the same. Massachusetts has proven that reasonable gun laws work to prevent gun violence without undue restrictions on law-abiding gun owners. It's time we held our elected officials accountable for their negligence and selfish cowardice that has left nearly 1,400,000 deadly holes in our family members, friends and communities over the past 45 years.