Women must be the agents of change in the fight over gun violence

Jennifer Wells is a career prosecutor who handles domestic violence and other violent crimes cases in the Upstate. She sees the results of gun violence every day. She spoke passionately about the toll gun violence takes in our state where domestic violence is frequent and guns are often a factor. These were her remarks.

By Jennifer Wells

On December 14, 2012, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and killed 20 children and six adults before taking his own life.  Moms Demand Action was born the next day, a cry from mothers that all Americans can and should do more to reduce gun violence. What began as an online conversation on Facebook grew into a national group that campaigns for new and stronger solutions to lax gun laws and loopholes that jeopardize the safety of our families. Moms Demand Action has established a chapter in every state of the country and is the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country.

Why does this matter to us?  If you are like me, you own guns.  You might hunt.  Your partner might hunt.  You might have grown up around guns and you might be a better shot than every man you know. But here are the numbers:

Forty-six percent of gun owners who live with children do not keep their firearms locked.  Around 30 percent of gun owners keep their weapons loaded at all times and stored in an easily accessible location. On average, 19 children will die or receive emergency treatment for a gunshot wound TODAY in America. Ninety-one percent of all children who die from firearms in high-income countries across the world come from the United States. Guns are the third leading cause of death for all children between ages 1 and 17.  It’s highly likely there are people here today who have had a child hurt or killed as a result of an accidental shooting.

From 2009 to 2017, there were at least 173 mass shootings in the United States.  In at least one-third of mass shootings, the shooter was legally prohibited from possessing firearms at the time of the shooting. In half of those shootings, the shooter exhibited warning signs indicating that they posed a danger to themselves and others before the shooting. Mass shootings that involved the use of high-capacity magazines resulted in more than twice as many fatalities and fourteen times as many injuries on average compared to those that did not. The majority of mass shootings were related to domestic or family violence.  These incidents were responsible for 86 percent of mass shooting child fatalities. With the Townville and Mother Emmanuel shootings so close to home, it is likely that someone here has been impacted by a mass shooting.

Eighteen hundred women killed by intimate partners in 2016 (last year for data.)

Forty two of the 48 women murdered during 2016 in South Carolina were murdered by someone they knew.  Twenty-nine of these women (69 percent) were wives, ex-wives or girlfriends of the offenders. Sixty-six percent of those women were shot to death.

Since the Violence Policy Center started tracking domestic homicide statistics 20 years ago, South Carolina has never dropped out of the top 10 in the country for women killed at the hands of people who purport to love them.  Look around. Someone standing near you in this crowd has been affected by domestic violence.

Firearm suicides make up two-thirds of all gun deaths in the United States – on average, 59 people die from suicide-by-firearm every single day across this country. Access to firearms – meaning personal or household gun ownership, increases the risk of suicide by three times. Look around.  Someone close enough for you to touch in this crowd has been affected by suicide by gun.

Who buries these children?  Who sits in mourning? Who bears the brunt of this violence? Women.  Women do.  Our children die from gun violence, at home, at school, in the street. Our daughters learn that daddy hitting mama is how relationships work.  Our grandmothers raise the grandchildren after their mama dies from domestic violence.  And we, women, we can CHANGE IT ALL.

For the first time in history, the most powerful voting block is women.  In 2017, well over half the population was women, a trend that is only slated to continue.  Use your voice.  Use your VOTE.  Join us at Moms Demand Action.  Or join any one of the groups here today that speaks to your heart and use your passion and your voice and your vote to change what our lives look like on the ground here in South Carolina, what the lives of women and children look like across our county.

Moved to make a difference? Gun Sense Advocacy Day is coming up on March 5 in Columbia. Join hundreds of other gun violence activists – moms, dads, children, sisters, and survivors – to speak your truth to elected officials. Get info and register. 

Be the change you want to see: Help the party with a much-needed donation or volunteer to help!