Every day in the United States, an average of seven children and teens are killed by guns.
It's a startling statistic, but it's just a number. Journalist Gary Younge wanted to put faces behind it. For his new book, "Another Day in the Death of America," he picked a day — a random day — and told the stories of those who were killed.
On Nov. 23, 2013, there were ten young victims. Higher than average.
The oldest was 19, the youngest was 9. They were spread across the country: New Jersey, Michigan, Texas, California. One was at a sleepover. Another was on the corner. A third was answering his front door.
Their stories are the chapters that make up Younge's book.
"I was struck by the statistics, and I thought: How do you make that statistic real?" Younge told MPR News host Kerri Miller. Younge was born in the U.K., but worked in the U.S. for many years. He married an American. His kids are American.
"I don't think Americans are any more criminal. I don't think American parents are any worse. I don't think American children are any worse," Younge said. For him, it's the "free and easy accessibility of firearms" that led to the deaths that fill his book.
"This is not a book about gun control, but it is a book made possible by the absence of gun control. Because in no other country in the Western world would this be possible."
Younge hopes that the book, and the stories of the dead, will create a sense of empathy in readers. Every story is different: Jaiden, Kenneth, Stanley, Pedro, Tyler, Edwin, Samuel, Tyson, Gary and Gustin.
For many of the victims, he found that parents had experienced backlash and blame. Why was your child out at night? Why did you let him walk home?
There was even a sense in the way some shootings were covered that the young people had done something to deserve it — whether by being where they shouldn't have been or spending time with the wrong people.
"I got this sense from African-American parents in particular: They felt they had to make a case for why their child should not have been shot. Very quickly, they would tell me: 'He wasn't in a gang. He'd never been in trouble with the police. He was always in by 10,'" he said. "This need to make sure I knew he wasn't one of those who 'deserved' it, who 'had it coming' — it is heartbreaking, really."
"If you're wealthy, if you're white, and certainly if you're wealthy and white, statistically these are unlikely to be your children," Younge said. "But are they so different from children you know?"
For the full interview with Gary Younge on "Another Day in the Death of America," use the audio player above.
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