It’s been another deadly week of gun violence in America. As the nation is still reeling from the aftermath of mass shootings in Nashville, Louisville, and Dadeville, daily acts of gun violence have continued to devastate communities around the country. The impact has been particularly dangerous for young Americans. Late last Thursday, Ralph Yarl, a Black teenager and Staley High School junior was shot and severely wounded in Kansas City, Missouri after mistakenly going to the wrong house to pick up his younger siblings. The homeowner, a white man, shot him twice, once in the arm and once in the head. According to reports, no words were exchanged before shots were fired.
Two days later in upstate New York, Kaylin Gillis, a 20-year old woman, was shot and killed when she and a group of friends mistakenly turned down the wrong driveway while looking for a friend’s house. The homeowner shot twice from the house, hitting and killing Kaylin. No one ever stepped foot outside the car or interacted with the shooter in any way.
Yesterday, in Elgin, Texas, two high school students and Woodland Elite cheerleaders, Payton Washington and Heather Roth, were shot and wounded outside a H-E-B supermarket when their group of friends mistakenly tried to open the door of the wrong car on the way home from practice. As the owner of the car approached their vehicle, the girls rolled down a window to apologize for their mistake. The shooter opened fire into their car, shooting multiple times. Payton was critically wounded after being shot in the back and the leg.
This is the shameful American reality that the gun lobby has created — one where paranoid adults, armed with deadly weapons, can shoot and kill children with no warning. As the gun lobby continues to stoke fear and push a narrative that more guns make us safer, as the gun industry continues to irresponsibly market weapons that are only getting deadlier, and as gun-lobby backed lawmakers continue to weaken gun laws and allow more guns in more places — more violence is the logical conclusion.
These shootings have also reignited the national conversation about Shoot First laws, also known as ‘Stand Your Ground,’ a deadly policy that gives people a license to kill by allowing them to use deadly force as a first option rather than the last. The combination of Shoot First Laws and paranoid extremism promoted by the gun lobby have created a vigilante gun culture that encourages people to seek out dangerous situations and emboldens them to preemptively shoot others and then claim self-defense.
Guns are the number one killer of American youth. But as young people continue to be disproportionately impacted by gun violence, they are also leading the fight to end it. Advocates, volunteers, and survivors with Students Demand Action have been showing up around the country to send a clear message to lawmakers: young people are fed up with living in fear of gun violence, and legislators at every level must take action to keep communities safe.
If you would like to speak to a volunteer with Students Demand Action, please do not hesitate to reach out.