The United States experienced a wave of gun violence over the Fourth of July weekend in which dozens of people were killed and injured in both cities and rural communities. Amid national protests over police violence, the shootings have reignited calls for gun control from elected officials and activists.
There were 63 shootings in New York City, at least nine of which were fatal. In Philadelphia, there were 20 people wounded and six killed, two of whom were children. The city of Chicago saw the most violence with a total of 75 people wounded and 13 people dead, including nine children under the age of eighteen.
The youngest person killed was seven-year-old Natalia Wallace, who was shot in the head at a family gathering on Saturday night. She was one of at least six children who were killed doing everyday things this weekend, most of whom were celebrating the holiday with family.
“Tonight, a 7-year-old girl in Austin joined a list of teenagers and children whose hopes and dreams were ended by the barrel of a gun,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lamented on Twitter. “As families gather to commemorate the founding of our nation, we must ask ourselves: is this who we are as a city or as a country? We cannot grow numb to this. We are making progress in slowing shootings, but we have to do better, every single one of us.”
There were also fatal shootings in Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Greenville, South Carolina, Jackson, Mississippi, San Francisco, and Washington, DC between Friday morning and Sunday night.
This surge of gun violence was particularly shocking in part because homicide and violent crime rates had dropped significantly since stay-at-home orders were passed in early April.
Violent crime has increased as restrictions have eased. This phenomenon has exacerbated the increase in homicides that typically occur at the beginning of the summer.
The wave of shootings has been immediately politicized amid protests against the police killings of Black Americans. Those who support the police have argued that the murders illustrate why defunding police departments endangers people living in high-crime communities and why the police need more support rather than less.
Simultaneously, critics are arguing that the shootings are proof of the need to support community-based programs that address underlying problems contributing to violent crimes, including homelessness, unemployment, mental illness, and drug use. Many have attributed the increased violence to the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color.
Activist Aniya Spears told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the recent uptick in gun violence is a clear indication that the police are failing the public.
“Police come after the crime has happened,” she said. “They don’t prevent crime. They can’t help us.”
Sources: CNN 7/6/2020; New York Times 7/6/2020; ABC News 7/5/2020; Chicago Tribune 7/5/2020