Each day in this nation, on average, nearly 100 lives are lost to gun violence. The statistics are terrifying: Every year since 2015, more than 36,000 Americans have been killed in acts of gun violence (including suicides), and many more have been shot and injured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These are husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends and colleagues. They are daughters and sons. They were our future leaders and citizens.
In Cumberland County alone, there have been, on average, 46 victims of shootings, both fatal and nonfatal, annually since 2015. The number of possession of firearm charges for juveniles in Cumberland County increased 91% from 2014 to 2017 (11 to 21); and the juvenile imitation firearm charges increased an astounding 150%from 2014 to 2018 (2 to 5).
What’s more, of 400 Cumberland County youth surveyed, 62% said that they could get a gun, and more than 20% said that it would be “easy.”
The issue of guns and violence is as complex, as it is unsettling. Almost half of the homes in the U.S. have at least one gun.
Most kindergartners can pull an average handgun’s trigger, and more than half of accidental shooting deaths of youth under 15 occur in a friend’s home.
Two-thirds of fatal shootings of those under 18 occur by way of a family member or friend. Guns are prevalent.
As a community, what can we do?
1. Join hands in raising awareness. In 2016, the Cumberland County Positive Youth Development Coalition (CCPYDC) — a countywide juvenile delinquency prevention effort funded by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and Cumberland County Freeholders — worked with youth from the Boys and Girls Club of Vineland to create a video highlighting the effects of gun violence.
They shared this video with officials from throughout the county, urging them to make June a monthlong campaign to raise awareness of gun safety and violence.
Eleven of 14 municipalities and the county adopted June as Gun Safety and Violence Awareness month. Each year, a host of activities are planned to connect local residents with resources, community supports and connections to law enforcement.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 15, Countywide Coffee with a Cop returns to the Cumberland Mall for a family-friendly event of fun activities and educational displays about gun safety and violence prevention measures. Come out to meet Chase and Skye from Paw Patrol, see a police K-9 dog in action, pick up a free child’s bike helmet, and more.
Several corner store events throughout the county will provide free gun safety kits, health screenings, lead testing kits and more.
These Health and Safety Events take place on Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m.: June 14 at Abbarotes Los Puentes, 147 Irving Ave., Bridgeton; June 21 at Downtown Deli, 705 E. Wood St., Vineland; and June 28 at Laurel Food Market, 120 N. Laurel St., Bridgeton.
Make a resolution to join this effort and view the full list of activities at CCPYDC.com.
2. Speak up. CCPYDC recently joined the national movement against gun violence called Wear Orange. This campaign began in 2013 when a young teen was gunned down in Chicago. Her friends wore the color orange to demand action and raise awareness. Since then, it has served as the defining color of the gun violence prevention movement.
The more voices that we bring to this issue through social media, and beyond, we will have greater impact in the fight to end gun violence in our neighborhoods and communities.
You can visit wearorange.org and create your own #wearorange image to share on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to show your support. You can also sign the pledge to end gun violence at the home page of CCPYDC.com.
3. Offer support. CCPYDC is a community-based coalition made up of a wide cross-section of public and nonprofit organizations, along with young people, who give of their time and talents to help ensure that youth and families thrive. People can learn more at CCPYDC.com or follow us on Facebook.
Together, we can put an end to senseless gun violence and take back the neighborhoods and communities we know and love, so that our children have a future that is bright, and free from violence.
Jennifer Webb-McRae is Cumberland County prosecutor.