[Note from BenIndy Contributor Nathalie Christian: You can follow the links or scroll to the bottom to see a list of nearby ‘Wear Orange’ events occurring the weekend of June 2-4, including one in Vallejo. If you’re of the opinion that wearing orange won’t solve anything soon, I would respond that any light we can shine on this horrific topic is good light, and worth shining.]
Wear orange this Friday and through the weekend to honor victims of gun violence
From the Wear Orange and Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund
Every year on the first Friday in June, members of our movement come together to honor survivors of gun violence and demand a future free from this crisis. We wear orange throughout the weekend to show our support—in every state and every community across the country.
Wear Orange originated on June 2, 2015—what would have been Hadiya Pendleton’s 18th birthday. Just one week after performing at President Obama’s 2nd inaugural parade in 2013, she was shot and killed at the age of 15. In the aftermath, teenagers in Chicago who wanted to honor their friend wore orange to raise awareness around gun violence.
The U.S. is suffering a horrific and increasing level of gun violence over the last three weeks. The Gun Violence Archive (GVA) has become the nation’s best source of information on mass shootings. These numbers came from the GVA on April 30 listing mass shootings over the previous 20 days.
The numbers can’t begin to tell the stories of heartache and loss among families and friends and whole communities. But the numbers do tell the story of a nation in crisis. I put the details into a spreadsheet format:
After a police official finished a briefing on the deadly school shooting that left three 9 year olds and three adults dead, Ashbey Beasley stepped in front of the microphones.
“How is this still happening? How are our children still dying and why are we failing them? Gun violence is the number one killer of children and teens — it has overtaken cars,” Beasley said March 27.
Beasley told PolitiFact that she was in Washington, D.C., on March 24 to attend the Generation Lockdown rally, where activists and lawmakers gathered to support an assault weapons ban, and then traveled to Nashville to see family and a friend. Beasley became a gun safety activist after she and her son, then 6 years old, survived the Highland Park mass shooting during a July 4 parade.
After previous mass shootings, including at a school in Uvalde, Texas, we fact-checked U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who said that “the leading cause of death among children is a firearm.” We rated his statement Mostly True based on analyses of 2020 federal data. The same finding holds true for 2021 data on children and teenagers ages 1 to 19.
Data shows firearm deaths surpassed motor vehicle deaths
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes data on the leading causes of death among different demographic groups.
CDC data for 2021 shows that 23,198 people ages 1 to 19 died in 2021. Firearm deaths, 4,733, were the No. 1 cause. Motor vehicle traffic deaths ranked second at 4,048.
This data is similar to what researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions found when they analyzed CDC data for 2020 deaths. The lead researcher for that report confirmed that the same point held true for 2021.
Beasley told us she is careful to say “children and teens” because she has heard people dispute the statement when someone refers only to “children.” She told us she got the 2021 statistic from Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group.
Generally, researchers say they don’t include infants in their analyses because of certain conditions unique to babies.
It is technically correct to say that firearms are the leading cause of death for people aged 1 to 19 when they are combined into a single group, said Veronica Pear, an assistant professor in the Violence Prevention Research Program at University of California, Davis.
“This is an eye-catching and powerful statistic, so I get why people use it,” Pear said.
But Pear warned that someone could wrongly interpret the statement to mean that firearms are the leading cause of death for each individual age within the 1 to 19 range.
Firearm-related deaths are exceedingly rare among babies and young children, while teenagers, especially older teenagers, have very high rates of dying from firearm-related injuries, Pear said.
“When all these ages are pooled together, the very high rates among teens are swamping the very low rate among young kids, such that firearms are the leading cause of death for the group as a whole,” Pear said.
The Nashville shooting occurred at The Covenant School, a small private Christian school serving preschool through sixth grade. If we look at death data for ages 3 to 12, it shows firearms as the sixth leading cause.
However, researchers we interviewed said it is valid to look at firearm deaths for ages 1 to 19. David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, told us there is no official definition of “children.”
Hemenway co-wrote a perspective article for the New England Journal of Medicine about causes of death for people ages 1 to 24.
“For more than 60 years, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of injury-related death among young people. Beginning in 2017, however, firearm-related injuries took their place to become the most common cause of death from injury,” the article said. “This change occurred because of both the rising number of firearm-related deaths in this age group and the nearly continuous reduction in deaths from motor vehicle crashes.”
The CDC cites the 15 leading causes of death for people ages 1 to 19, but it does not pluck out firearm deaths. This data shows the top causes of death are accidents, homicide and suicide — all cagetories that include some firearm-related deaths.
The CDC does not classify firearms as a cause of death, but rather as a mechanism by which death occurs. “So, while our data does not allow us to say that firearms are the leading cause of death for this age group, it does show that firearms are the leading mechanism of injury mortality,” Brian Tsai, a CDC National Center of Health Statistics spokesperson, told PolitiFact.
Patrick M. Carter, co-director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention at the University of Michigan, and Philip Cook, a professor emeritus at Duke University and gun researcher, both told us they agree it is accurate to say that in the 1 to 19 age category firearms are the leading cause of death.
Beasley said, “Gun violence is the number one killer of children and teens — it has overtaken cars.”
CDC data for 2021 shows that for people ages 1 to 19, firearm-related deaths ranked No. 1, followed by deaths from car accidents.
That’s for the age range as a whole; it is not the leading cause of death for each age in that group. Firearm-related deaths are far more common among older teenagers than among young children.
FAIRFIELD — The 2021-2022 academic year has only just begun but already the Fairfield-Suisun School District has dozens of reported Covid-19 cases.
Nancy Dunn, president of the Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teachers Association, reported Thursday that 50 students and staff had called into the district’s schools reporting positive test results for Covid-19.
Dunn made her report Thursday night during the school board meeting.
She said the numbers reflected 16 in-person instructional days with an average of a little more than three notices per day. Those numbers had increased by Saturday to 52 students and 11 staff members.
Those numbers are updated on the district’s new Covid-19 dashboard, which was created to keep track of reported cases of the disease. The dashboard went live Sept. 3, according to Jaden Baird, executive director of Administrative Services and Community Engagement.
It is easily available for anyone to view on the district’s website.
The dashboard is updated as soon as the information is added to the system. The district has two staff members working on the updates, including one for students and one for staff.
A disclaimer on the dashboard reads:
“The statistics displayed on this dashboard for students are, for the majority, self-reported cases. We are relying on our parent community to notify us as to whether or not a student is positive for Covid. There have been a few cases in which a student has come to school symptomatic and were tested immediately and found to be positive. Even in these few circumstances, due to staff and students following our protocols, no transmission at school occurred. Once a parent notifies us of a positive case, contact tracing begins and all close contacts are notified.”
Dunn said it is a difficult time for teachers and students who want to feel safe while attending school. She said the dashboard is a positive because it makes the information readily available to parents, staff and to the community.
“These numbers are in spite of masks indoors and vaccinations,” she said.
Dunn also reported that not a lot of reports of mask violations have been made but those that were reported were swiftly dealt with.
“Because of the quick action of staff, I believe it has kept the numbers from being higher,” she said.
Dunn said staff are concerned about the expiration Sept. 30 of the Covid Leave Act. Employees currently are eligible for 10 days of Covid leave with pay.
Many staff members don’t have personal leave because they haven’t been in the district long enough to have paid leave, Dunn said. She said some teachers are already stretched to make it to the end of the month. She said if this is not renegotiated, it could mean a lot of financial hardship for teachers who contract the disease.
“So far student cases have all been reported from parents and none of those cases was from exposure within the school,” Superintendent Kris Corey said. “It is parents calling in saying the child is positive. We don’t ask for a note from the doctor for the students but take them at their word.”
Corey spoke Thursday about contact tracing, which is required for anyone who reports being positive for Covid-19. She said it is “a monstrosity.” It takes many hours to determine close contacts and who needs to be notified, and who has been vaccinated or not, she said.
“It takes a lot of time to do the contract tracing,” Corey said. “It is different for teachers than students.”
It’s different for employees because they need a doctor’s note. The district then goes through a different process with them.
Students or staff who are vaccinated or who want to remain on modified quarantine and continue to come to work or school need to be tested for Covid-19 during that time period, she said.
“It takes a lot of time during the day to test students, so we are working (on) refining process and working on testing outside of the school day,” Corey said. “They will need to come at those times to be tested.”
Corey asked for volunteers to assist with the testing. They will be compensated for their time, she said.