The Worst Year in Decades: Gun Violence


Graphic made by A. Guo

News about gun violence feels never ending, but it’s even worse than we think.

One student killed in a Winston Salem high school just one month after the full in-person school returned. Three different threats within the span of October in North Carolina high and middle schools. Seven people hurt after six gunshots in Southpoint Mall on Black Friday. Four dead and seven injured at a shooting at a high school in Oxford, Michigan. 

Just a few days after and ten minutes away, rumors about an unknown student and a gun circulate at Green Hope High School, where many Green Level students and staff formerly attended. Friends, children, and peers of the Green Level community have stayed home in fear of potential gun violence. The Cary Police department and WCPSS Security were contacted and are now on the school site. 

The most recent school shooting to make headlines is the 29th of this year and the 21st of this school year. In 2021, there has been at least 651 mass shootings, in which four or more people are shot or killed (excluding the shooter).
The news of gun violence may feel never ending despite social isolation from the pandemic. In fact, rates of gun violence in the United States increased more than 30% during the first year of the pandemic. In North Carolina, the firearm offenses among kids aged 16-17 doubled when comparing 2019-20 to 2020-21. This was largely due to the increase of first time gun owners, and consequently an increase in unsafely stored weapons. There was also a steep increase in guns stolen by children within the time period. On December 2nd at W.H. Knuckles Elementary School, 95 miles south of Raleigh, a second grader was suspended for bringing a gun with bullets inside to show off during recess. A loaded gun was found in an elementary school within the same district earlier this year.

But the fear of mass shootings is disproportionate in relation to factual recordings: public mass shootings only make up 0.2% of firearm deaths. Gun control is often only advocated for and heavily reported on when the violence occurs in white and wealthy communities.

The large majority, 60%, of firearm deaths is suicide. Fire arm deaths from homicide, 37%, follows. Furthermore, Black men hold the highest risk of firearm homicides deaths while poor and low-income communities hold a strong correlation with firearm violence. Homicide risk with guns in the home is also greater for women than men and non-whites than whites.

It goes without question that gun control laws need to be established and advocated for. The CDC, with more than 30 years of public health research, states that guns are a greater hazard than benefit and it has been repeatedly found that gun ownership is associated with increased risk of firearm death in the home. Homicides are most often committed by family members and acquaintances, not strangers.

It must also be acknowledged the question of guns is highly racialized. For conservatives and the NRA actually supported gun control when armed resistance was supported by the Black Panther party and Black Power Movement. The question is often not whether people should be allowed access to guns, but which people should be allowed access to guns.

The debate over gun violence is more complex than politicians often make it out to be, but if anything is certain, it is that something must be done about it. There have already been more than 41,000 people who died from gun violence this year and while it has not even ended, 2021 has already been the worst years for gun violence in decades.