07/26/2013 04:13 pm ET | Updated Sep 25, 2013

We Must Do Better: Look at the Facts

Nearly 2,000 people attended Molly Conley’s funeral lastmonth to mourn the young humanitarian who was the victim of a random drive-byshooting the day after her 15th birthday. She was shot in the neck whilewalking with friends to a sleepover in a residential neighborhood in LakeStevens, Washington. Molly was a 4.0 student best known for her kindness, whichshe used to encourage her parents to care for infants waiting for fosterfamilies and to start a group called “Mother’s Helper” that raised money to aidvictims of domestic abuse.

Caldwell County, Missouri sheriff’s deputies went tothe home of the Curtis family after receiving an emergency call on January 11,2012. Their 12-year-old son Steven had mishandled a gun and accidentally shothimself in the head. Steven loved playing football and being outside. He alsospent a great deal of time hunting and grew up learning about gun safety andhad a hunter’s safety certification from the Conservation Department. InBreckenridge, Missouri -- a town of just 450 people -- hunting safety is an importantpart of the middle school’s agricultural curriculum. Steven’s father didn’tknow how his son got the gun from a locked cabinet that was in their livingroom.

Eleven-year-old Tayloni Mazyck was walkingnear her apartment building in Brooklyn on May 31, 2013 with her mother andniece when she was caught in gang-related crossfire. A bullet crashed intoinnocent Tayloni’s chin and lodged in her spine. According to Brooklynprosecutor Jordan Rossman, she will be paralyzed for life. Instead of walkingin her fifth-grade graduation ceremony, Tayloni was transferred to RuskInstitute of Rehabilitation Medicine for the summer. Her mother says some daysTayloni is in intense pain and easily frustrated because she can’t do simplethings such as scratch her nose; other days she is convinced she will walk someday in the future. Tayloni suffers from post traumatic stress, says she is tooscared to go home, and wakes up crying from flashbacks of that terrible night.

These are three of the child and youth stories shared in the Children’sDefense Fund (CDF)’s new report ProtectChildren, Not Guns 2013—three of the 18,270 children and teens killed orinjured by guns in America each year. Like Molly, Steven, and Tayloni, everyone of these children deserved to live their whole lives. We can and must do better. CDF’s new report documents the truthabout guns and the facts about the preventable gun violence epidemic in ournation including the economic cost of gun violence; a state-by-state breakdownon gun deaths among children and teens; comparisons on gun violence ratesbetween the United States and other high income countries; positive and negativestate actions on gun violence prevention, and more. It also documents the progressmade since the Newtown massacre and lists steps for continuing action withurgency and persistence.

What can you do? Urge your members of Congress toprotect children from gun violence by supporting this year common sense gunviolence prevention measures including universal background checks and limitson assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. We also needpolicies that support consumer product safety standards for all guns, publicfunding for gun violence prevention research, and resources and authority forlaw enforcement agencies to properly enforce gun safety laws. Parents, considerremoving guns from your home and be vigilant about where your children play.Boycott products and places that glamorize and normalize dangerous weapons andviolence.

Have we been fighting the wrong wars to keep ourchildren safe? Nearly five times more children and teens were killed by guns in2010 than U.S. soldiers killed in action that year in Iraq and Afghanistan. America’smilitary and law enforcement agencies have four million guns. Our citizens have310 million. And we have no idea how many of those guns were purchased withouta background check. The gun lobby has been enriching gun manufacturers at theexpense of our children’s safety for far too long. For years the National RifleAssociation has blocked the truth and actively fought against the passage andenforcement of gun safety laws. Please use the resources in Protect Children, Not Guns 2013 to findthe latest research and actions you can take to protect children, not guns, inyour home, in your community, and as a citizen to help create a better, saferAmerica for all children. Together we can—and must—do better right now. So manychild lives depend on it.