A year ago this week, news headlines were filled with the story of Hadiya Pendleton. She was a 15-year-old band majorette from Chicago, who would march in the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Parade with her school. Just days after marching in the nation’s capital, Hadiya returned to Chicago’s south side where she was murdered by gunfire in Marsh Park after seeking shelter from a rainstorm. First Lady Michelle Obama attended the funeral, and Hadiya’s parents turned advocates and supporters of commonsense gun laws. The murder of Hadiya Pendleton became a painful representation of the nation’s broken gun laws and the effect that gun violence has had on the millennial generation.
Generation Progress and The Center for American Progress recently released a report: “Young Guns: How Gun Violence is Devastating the Millennial Generation.” According to the report, “American children and teenagers are 4 times more likely to die by gunfire than their counterparts in Canada, 7 times more likely than young people in Israel, and 65 times more likely to be killed with a gun than children and teenagers in the United Kingdom.” These statistics are startling and call for renewed attention to what this study has called a public health crisis.
Gun violence has become an epidemic for young Americans who have to live every day with the effects of gun violence. A person under the age of 25 dies every 70 minutes by gunfire. Not only is the victim’s life taken, but so is that of the young person who pulled the trigger. Just days after Hadiya’s death, murder charges were filed against Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20.
In the report released, Generation Progress and the Center for American Progress found three key findings:
1. People 15-24 are the victims of gun violence at higher rates than older Americans. According to the report, the second most frequent cause of death in 2010 in this age group was homicide and 83 percent of those homicides were committed with a gun. If this trend continues, it is estimated that the number of death to gun violence will pass motor vehicle traffic deaths.
2. Young people are perpetrators of gun violence in high numbers. Due to weak gun laws, young people have easier access to guns. Ultimately, the easy accessibility of guns by young people leads to fatal confrontations. In 2012, 75,049 young people 10-29 were arrested for weapon offenses, making up 65 percent of total arrests for weapon offenses that year. Furthermore, in most gun violence cases there are two losses: the victim and the perpetrator. It is estimated that incarcerating a young person 20 years of age for life costs roughly $2 million.
3. Young people are not ignorant about the effects that gun violence has had on their generation. A 2013 poll commissioned by the Center for American Progress, Generation Progress, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that 70 percent of respondents under the age of 30 agreed: “the gun culture in our society has gotten out of control.”
This report highlights an often overlooked demographic that is significantly affected by gun violence in the debate over commonsense gun laws. Gun violence devastates communities. Currently, there are roughly 21 million young people between the ages of 14 and18 in the United States. If the current tread of gun violence by young people continues, 1,700 of them will be the fatal victim of gun violence. The tragic murder of Hadiya is a reminder of the millennial generation and the effects that gun violence has taken on our young people in this country.
Shakei Haynes is Campaigns Assistant at Sojourners. He majored in Political Science at Howard University and is currently a student at Wesley Theological Seminary pursuing his Master of Divinity.
Image: Gun sketch, Aleks Melnik / Shutterstock.com