One-year-old Maleah Williams was in her mother’s arms on Christmas Day in a parking lot where other children were playing with their new toys when she was shot in the head in a drive-by shooting. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina, toddler died three days later. What made her death even more hideous is that it wasn’t an anomaly.
Twenty-six other people — including the owner of a barbershop in Alabama, a Texas grandfather and a young couple in Ohio — were shot and killed on Christmas Day 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It counted 63 other people injured by gun violence in a tally that didn’t include suicides. In all, as The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham observed, more people died in the United States on Christmas Day from shootings than the number of people killed in gun homicides in an entire year in Austria, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Estonia, Bermuda, Hong Kong and Iceland combined.
What sets the United States apart from these other countries is, of course, our irresponsibly lax policies on gun ownership. Weapons with military features that are designed for war are legally available to civilians. Any controls that do exist are weak and easy to circumvent.
That Maleah was one of nearly 700 children younger than 12 who were killed or injured in gun violence in 2015 is a national disgrace. That there were 2,671 other children between ages 12 and 17 who were killed or injured is a further abomination.
2016 is starting; we hope for meaningful action so that it won’t end like other years, with another grim year-end tally cataloging the lives needlessly lost because of guns and easy access to them.