More than 1,200 children were killed by gun violence in last year

Lexus Skyy posted a picture of her two-year-old son David Jermaine “DJ” Hall, dressed in a miniature bow tie and suspenders, on Facebook on November 3, 2018. 

“It is with heavy hearts that we honor and say goodbye to our previous Prince David Jermaine Hall,” the post read. 

Hall died after being shot on October 29, 2018, in Montgomery, Alabama. 

Skyy later told a student reporter at Since Parkland, a website documenting a year of child victims of gun violence, that her son rarely left her side. 

“You see me out shopping, you see DJ. You see me getting my hair done, you see DJ,” she was quoted as saying. “I realised that God kept you close so I could cherish every moment.”

Hall is one of at least 1,200 children killed by a gun over the past year – more than 80 of whom were under the age of three.

Since Parkland, a project involving more than 200 teen reporters nationwide who worked with The Trace, The Miami Herald and other McClatchy news group newspapers, tells their stories.

The project was started the summer after a gunman opened fire in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018. Seventeen students and educators were killed. 

Since Parkland was “conceived as an antidote to” the imbalance between the large-scale media coverage of mass shootings and little attention paid to “chronic gun violence that exposes children in some city neighbourhoods to danger everyday”, the website said. 

Students start movement, make gains

While mass shootings have plagued the country for years, the Parkland shooting marked a pivotal moment in the US as students-turned-activists led a nationwide movement to end gun violence. 

Parkland shooting survivors David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, among others, remain national figures.

After the shooting, they immediately organised and planned the March For Our Lives, held on March 24, 2018 to call for a ban on assault weapons, a halt to the sale of high-capacity magazines, tightening of the background check process, the limiting of firing power on the streets, the disarmament of domestic abusers and an end to gun trafficking.

Shooting survivors Tyra Hemans, centre-left, and Emma Gonzalez, centre-right, from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, hug as Hemans addresses the conclusion of the ‘March for Our Lives’ event demanding gun control [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Millions of people across 800 cities took part in a global protest under the banner #NeverAgain to end gun violence and demanded action from Congress, according to March for Our Lives website.

“Just because a bullet has not touched your life does not mean you or any of our American communities are safe,” reads the March for Our Lives mission statement.

“Our country must make the safety of its citizens a number one priority, and we must hold those in power accountable for perpetuating the root causes of this violence.”

Students hold a rally in Janesville, Wisconsin, to demand stricter gun control [Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP]

Since the march, the students have travelled the country by bus to amplify their message, made countless television appearances and taken to social media to call out politicians and groups for not doing more to support stricter gun control laws. 

Their efforts prompted a number of companies, including First National Bank and Enterprise, to end partnerships with the National Rifle Association (NRA). 

Polls show Americans favour tougher gun laws after decades of mass shootings. But the political might of the NRA made supporting gun restrictions a risky proposition for many officials.

On the political front, the administration of US President Donald Trump moved to ban bump stocks, a device that allows a semiautomatic rifle to fire at the rate of a machine gun. 

A bump stock was used in the October 2017 Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people. The ban takes effect next month. 

According to the Reuters news agency, at least 20 states are set to examine gun safety bills this year. And with the Democrats back in control of US House of Representatives, politicians recently introduced legislation that would regulate ammunition magazines that accept more than 10 rounds and prohibits their future manufacture for civilian use.

Nearly 40,000 people killed from US gun violence

The most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that gun violence is on the rise.

The CDC recorded 39,773 gun deaths in 2017 across the country, an increase of more than 1,000 from the previous year. The number is the largest in the CDC’s 50-year long database.

Nearly 24,000 of the gun deaths in 2017 were suicides, while about 14,500 were homicides. Data from 2018 is not available. 

In May 2018, a gunman opened fire at a school in Texas, killing 10 people and wounding 13 others. 

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were more than 300 mass shootings – defined by the FBI as an incident in which four or more people are killed – in 2018, including in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Thousand Oaks, California, and Annapolis, Maryland. 

But Since Parkland hopes to highlight the stories of gun violence that often do not land in the headlines, giving an “an unprecedented account of the full scale and contours of gun violence as it impacts American children”.

Four-year-old Ava Grace Field and her two-year-old brother, Ashen, along with their mother were shot dead by their father in March 2018. Ava “lived in a world of pigtails and constant smiles,” the website reported

Onjeray “OJ” Devereaux-Hale, 14, was killed in August 2018 when he and his friend were playing with a gun. He was a “kind-hearted athlete,” the website said. 

Nequacia Porsha Jacobs-Lewis, 18, was shot dead on February 24 while looking outside her window in Dallas, Texas. She had planned to go to the University of Texas. 

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