Updated: Mar 17
In 2020, firearms claimed 45, 222 lives. While the exact number for 2021 has yet to be released, gun related deaths have been on an upward trend. Too frequently, these statistics become solely numbers as we forget there are humans behind the data. We forget that the number marks 45, 222 individuals with personalities that perished with them, families and friends that mourn them, pets that they never returned home too, and passions that they never pursued again. The following stories commemorate the lives behind the devastating statistics and reiterate the need for justice through the gun violence prevention movement.
The Link Between Gun Violence and Domestic Violence: Lashonda Sharreice Childs and Ka’Maya Lloyd
Lashonda Sharreice Childs, born October 5th, 2000, was passionate about all things beauty. Naturally, she grew up to be an esthetician and business owner. However, an abusive relationship ultimately claimed her life just two days before she would celebrate her 18th birthday. For years, her abuse ex-boyfriend terrorized her life. Arrested 15 times between 2011 and October 2018, he bit her, held her at gun point, stole her phone, and set her hair on fire. Less than two weeks before she was murdered, she took to social media to raise awarness for people like herself – declaring “domestic violence is real” on her Facebook page. In that same post, she described the terror she lived in, saying that she was not “even safe in [her] own house.”
On October 2nd, 2018, while out with her new boyfriend in Dayton, Ohio, her ex-boyfriend shot her in the head. She succumbed to her injuries the following day. On October 3rd, 2018, Lashonda became one of the 70 women, on average, who are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month.
Domestic violence claimed Lashonda’s life at just 17 years old, and she’s not alone. Including Lashonda, 39,740 people died by gun violence in 2018. Just like Lashonda, every individual behind the statistic had passions, friends, and families.
Domestic violence extends beyonds intimate partner relationships, as seen with Ka'Maya Lloyd. In 2017, when Ka’Maya was born, Ka’Marion Watson became a big brother as Milla Lloyd became a big sister. Ka’Maya’s short life was filled with baby dolls, smiles, and a signature dress/matching bow outfit.
When Ka’Maya was one year old, her mother filed a domestic violence petition against Ka’Maya’s father after he tried to kidnap Ka’Maya three times. On July 5th, 2018, he attempted to kidnap her for the third time and was successful. Deputies chased the car into a ditch, where he used a firearm to claim Ka’Maya’s life along with his own.
On that day, a mother lost her one year old baby because of reckless use of a firearm. Ka’Maya’s mother is not alone – nearly two thirds of domestic-violence related child fatalities were caused by a gun.
Guns Make Accidents Deadly: The Case of Ivan Gomez
Ivan Gomez was an energetic and bubbly seventh grader at Mendota Junior High School. Playing as a tight end and cornerback for a youth football team, Ivan was regarded as a star both in the classroom and on the football field. As his coach described, Ivan put his energy into cheering on his teammate and lifting up those around him. Described as one of the most loveable kids, his light especially shined through in his ability to keep people laughing and smiling.
On February 3rd, 2019, gun violence extinguished Ivan’s light when he and his friend got a hold of a .25 caliber handgun. The incident resulted in Ivan dying of an accidental gunshot wound, joining the 18,000 children and teens that lose their lives to gun violence each year.
Like Ivan’s case, guns make accidents fatal, especially when these accidents involve children. In 2019 – the year a gun claimed Ivan’s life – there were 306 unintentional shootings by children, resulting in 117 deaths and 203 injuries in the United States.
The three cases described are stories behind the statistics that we often fail to remember are not just numbers, but lives. Beyond domestic violence and unintentional shootings, gun violence infiltrates the world in a multitude of ways as it seeps into schools, places of worship, homes, movie theaters, and so many more aspects of everyday life. Though gun-related deaths may occur in a variety of contexts, all occurences have one thing in common: a gun made a situation deadly. The stories told in this article are just a glimpse of the faces behind the statistics that remind us to continue the fight for justice and gun violence prevention.