Gun Violence Survivors Week


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Around 4000 high school students walked out of school and marched to the Minnesota capitol to demand that legislators make changes to gun control laws.

Naomi Penner, Reporter

The first week of February (2/1-2/7) is annual Gun Violence Survivors Week in the United States, a time during which the nation reflects upon the toll of gun violence. Since 2019, individuals have gathered to share stories about their experiences with gun violence, honor those whose lives were tragically cut short by firearms, and advocate for reform to reduce the prevalence of gun violence in the United States.

It can be difficult and devastating to look at the impact of gun violence in regards to the staggering statistics but it is essential to understand the gravity of the situation. It’s an important step in reckoning with the number of individuals whose futures were cut short and the grievous mental, emotional, and physical wounds left among those who survive.

Gun Violence Survivors Week occurs during the first week of February because that is the approximate time the number of gun deaths in America passes the total yearly number of gun deaths in surrounding countries. According to research by the Everytown Organization, a organization formed to work towards ending gun violence, “110 people die of gun violence and over 200 survive gunshot wounds everyday in the U.S.” Sandy Hook, the second deadliest school shooting, was a wake up call in the hearts of many parents and government officials but not enough has been to prevent deaths by gun violence. One million people have died just in the U.S. since Sandy Hook and there has been a 75 percent increase in gun violence from 2010-2020 (CDC). 

It can be easy to assume that most the individuals whose lives were cut short were victims of murders, which is somewhat true, but, tragically, firearm suicide is actually the leading cause in death by gun violence. According to the CDC, that suicide accounts more than 1/2 of gun deaths in the US and 35 percent of global firearm suicides. These statistics are heartbreaking.

It is important to remember that behind every gun statistic are untold stories of heartbroken families who never got to say goodbye, devastated by gun suicide, witnesses of gun violence who live with trauma, gunshots victims with physical and emotional wounds. Parents whose lives are turned upside down after losing their children. Three million children are directly exposed to gun violence each year, resulting in death, injury, and lasting trauma. Survivors tend to be concentrated in underserved communities of color, especially black and brown communities, in American cities.

That is why the purpose of Gun Violence Survivors Week, to share stories of survivors especially those who are minorities, is so important. It shows survivors that there is a community of people behind them and that they are not alone in their struggles. Community organizations or advocates help lead survivors through complex healthcare and criminal justice systems as well as gain mental healthcare and financial assistance.

Moms Demand Action, a movement of American citizens fighting for gun safety laws and responsible gun ownership, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of mayors fighting to end gun violence, who formed together to create Everytown are examples of organizations built to support survivors and prevent further gun violence. 

Survivors play a big part in these organizations, not only do their stories inspire and push for change, but their experiences fill them with a passion and understanding outsiders can’t quite grasp.

“Survivors are the foundation of the gun violence prevention movement. They are in the forefront, out in the community making sure no one walks a day in their shoes. And the grief they suffer with every single day,” said Katie Hathway, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action. Many survivors are the driving forces in the fight against gun violence, fighting to lessen the number of people losing a loved one tragically or facing the mental and physical trauma many experienced.

During Gun Violence Survivors Week, vigils are held and gun safety acts and bills are discussed. Some of the legislation block gun access by people who pose a threat with a firearm, while others focus on limiting gun violence in public. Some seek to increase police accountability and protect civil rights. California has the strongest gun law strength, while Mississippi has the highest gun violence rate. California has a 37 percent lower gun death rate than the national average due to the strong laws passed, such as Senate Bill 2, which strengthens policies regarding licensing, protecting children, training requirements, and identifying sensitive public places.

In June 2022 Biden signed into the law the first major gun safety legislation passed by Congress in 30 years. This legislation included incentives that allowed groups to petition courts to remove weapons from people considered a threat, expanded background checks, expanded a law relating to people convicted of domestic abuse. There are many attempts being made to increase gun safety and decrease the yearly amount of gun related deaths.

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