Dead kids and accidental shootouts: A September snapshot of gun violence in America

If you don't believe we live in a country with destructive attitudes toward guns, take a look at these five stories

By Joanna Rothkopf

Published September 29, 2014 5:58PM (EDT)

      (<a href=''>pio3</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(pio3 via Shutterstock)

How's this for a bleak assessment?

"For essentially the last 20 years, there has been almost no federal support for research on a health problem that kills upwards of 30,000 people a year," said Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis, in an interview yesterday with NPR.

The health problem he's talking about is, of course, gun violence.

Between 2000 and 2010, the rate of gun-related deaths in the United States was 10.21 per 100,000 people, according to a recent study in the journal BMJ Open. Over the 11 years covered by the study, at least 335,609 people were killed by guns in this country, and the researchers conclude that if trends continue, around 336,778 lives will be lost due to gun violence between 2011 and 2020.

Consider the following five stories:

  • A man fired his gun through his neighbor's window because he "didn't know another way" to unload the weapon. According to the Bucks County Courier Times, 31-year-old George Byrd IV, a convicted felon who is prohibited from owning weapons due to a burglary he committed at age 17, denied having fired the gun. When pressed, however, he admitted that he was "unfamiliar with guns and didn't know how to unload ammunition." When Byrd's house was searched, police found a .357 revolver, a 12-gauge double barrel shotgun, and an M77 long rifle.
  • A 5-day-old infant was struck in the head by a hunter's stray bullet while sitting on the couch with father. According to authorities, a bullet fired by a .308 hunting rifle penetrated the baby boy's head causing serious injuries. The gun was believed to have been fired by hunters from private property across the street. The hunters did not break any laws.
  • Cops shot grandmother Lilian Alonzo while she reached for her infant granddaughter during a DEA raid. According to Raw Story, Alonzo's daughters had recently been busted in an oxycodone distribution raid, and agents were following up on reports that the daughters had stashed money at Alonzo's home. As the agency had been investigating the case for over a year, they should have been aware that, in addition to the one-year-old, two other children also lived in the apartment. No drugs, weapons or cash were found.
  • Florida officers fatally shot a man for disobeying orders as his son tried to explain he was deaf. Cops were called to a towing lot after 52-year-old Edward Miller yelled at an employee, although his son says this was because of his hearing impairment. When officers arrived, they found Miller with a holstered gun and reportedly asked him to cooperate. When Miller didn't respond (again, because he is deaf), they fired their weapons. Authorities later concluded that Miller had a valid conceal-carry permit.
  • A child was shot while walking home from school in Brownsville, Brooklyn. 12-year old Levon Gillam was caught in the middle of a shootout around 4 p.m. when he collapsed on the ground, screaming for his mother. The two men ran away immediately after Gillam was hit, and there were no witnesses able to recount what happened.
In truth, these stories vary wildly. Some of them were deemed crimes, while others were not. Some were accidental, while others were not. The shooters were both private citizens and officers of the law. But what they all have in common is this: They represent only a fraction of the episodes of gun violence that have rocked America over just the past two weeks.

Joanna Rothkopf

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Deaths Gun Control Gun Violence Guns