Before 20 small children were massacred at school by a gunman in Newtown, Connecticut, Luke Schuster, 6, was shot to death in New Town, North Dakota. Six-year-olds John Devine Jr and Jayden Thompson were similarly killed in Kentucky and Texas.
Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6, died in a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, while six-year-old Kammia Perry was slain by her father outside her Cleveland home, according to an Associated Press (AP) review of 2012 media reports.
Yet there was no gunman on the loose when Julio Segura-McIntosh died in Tacoma, Washington. The three-year-old accidentally shot himself in the head while playing with a gun he found inside a car.
As he mourned with the families of Newtown, US President Barack Obama said the US cannot accept such violent deaths of children as routine. However, hundreds of young child deaths by gunfire suggest it might already have.
Between 2006 and 2010, 561 children aged 12 and under were killed by firearms, according to the FBI’s most recent Uniform Crime Reports. The FBI’s count does not include gun-related child deaths that authorities have ruled accidental.
“This happens on way too regular a basis and it affects families and communities — not at once, so we don’t see it and we don’t understand it as part of our national experience,” said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.
In response to what happened in Newtown, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the nation’s largest gun lobby, suggested shielding children from gun violence by putting an armed police officer in every school.
“Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones ... They post signs advertising them and in doing so they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said.
Webster said children are more likely to die by gunfire at home or in the street. They tend to be safer when they are in school, he said.
None of the 61 deaths reviewed by the AP happened at school.
Children die by many other methods as well. However, the gruesome recounts of gun deaths, sometimes just a few paragraphs in a newspaper or on a Web site, a few minutes on television or radio, bear witness that firearms are cutting short many youngsters’ lives.
One week before the Newtown slayings, Alyssa Celaya, 8, bled to death after being shot by her father with a .38 caliber gun at the Tule River Indian Reservation in California. Her grandmother and two brothers also were killed, a younger sister and brother were shot and wounded. The father shot and killed himself.
Delric Miller’s life ended at 9 months and Angel Mauro Cortez Nava’s at 14 months.
Delric was in the living room of a home on Detroit’s west side on Feb. 20 when someone sprayed it with gunfire from an AK-47.
Angel was cradled in his father’s arms on a sidewalk near their home in Los Angeles when a bicyclist rode by on June 4 and opened fire, killing the infant.
Gun violence and the toll it is taking on children has been an issue raised for years in minority communities. The NAACP, a civil rights group, failed in its attempt to hold gun makers accountable through a lawsuit filed in 1999. Some in the community raised the issue during the campaign and asked Obama after he was re-elected to make reducing gun violence part of his second-term agenda.
“Now that it’s clear that no community in this country is invulnerable from gun violence, from its children being stolen ... we can finally have the national conversation we all need to have,” NAACP president Ben Jealous said.
The problem is not confined to the inner city or is simply the result of gang or drug violence, as often is the perception.
Faith Ehlen, 22 months, Autumn Cochran, 10, and Alyssa Cochran, 11, all died on Sept. 6. Their mother killed them with a shotgun before turning it on herself in DeSoto, Missouri, a community of about 6,300.
In Dundee, Oregon, Randall Engels used a gun to kill his estranged wife Amy Engels and son Jackson, 11, as they ate pizza on July 4. An older sibling of Jackson’s also was killed. Engels then committed suicide.
Many of the children who died this year were shot with guns that belonged to their parents, relatives or baby sitters, or were simply in the home. Webster said children’s accidental deaths by guns have fallen since states passed laws requiring that guns be locked away from youths or have safeties to keep them from firing.
The Obama administration will push to tighten gun laws, many that have faced resistance in Congress for years. The solutions may include reinstating a ban on assault-style rifles, closing gun buying background check loopholes and restricting high-capacity magazines.
Those may have limited effect for children like Amari Markel-Purrel Perkins, of Clinton, Maryland. He shot himself in the chest on April 9 with a gun that an adult had stashed inside a Spiderman backpack.
Like most of the child victims at Newtown, Amari was 6.