Kenna Gottschalk, Staff Writer
At least a dozen children in St. Louis have died from gun violence since April, ranging from ages 2 to 16. This brings the total number of youths fatally shot this year in and near the Missouri city to nearly two dozen. That two dozen is children alone, the number of those of any age dying by firearms in St. Louis this year is alarmingly high.
Eleven children have been victims of homicides in St. Louis since April, according to police. Six were 10 or younger; the youngest was 2. An additional two suspicious deaths of children are under investigation.
“It is certainly beyond the pale and heartbreaking when we lose a child anywhere in the communities we live in,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters.
Clearly, many St. Louis residents are feeling the weight of the violence, but children in particular are feeling the effects the violence has on the city, according to parents, school officials and nonprofit leaders.
CNN reporter Anita Hassan reports that, “This summer, they walked past makeshift memorials lined with candles and teddy bears. They started the school year missing classmates who would not return. Some have begun organizing protests against gun violence and other efforts to draw the attention of city officials.”
The latest child victim of this gun violence was 15-year-old Antione Brown Jr.
Brown was found shot in his home after the gunshot woke up his parents. The police officer who responded to the call tried to treat him but Brown died on the scene.
As detectives launched their investigation, St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell arrived at the home.
“They keep getting younger and younger; obviously tragic. It’s something we’re going to have to deal with as a region,” he said. “I’ve said this before — all hands on deck.”
The shootings fit into a larger problem with homicides in cities like St. Louis, which has reported the nation’s highest big-city murder rate every year since 2014. The recent murders are affecting black children and teenagers living in predominantly black neighborhoods, several of which struggle with high crime rates and poverty.
Many issues are being blamed for this current crisis. Some local politicians say the violence is partly fueled by Missouri’s “permitless carry” gun law, which allows adults to possess and carry firearms without training or a concealed carry permit if they have not been convicted of a felony. This raises some obvious concerns though. Just because someone hasn’t been convicted of a felony, doesn’t mean they won’t do something in the future that could lead them to.
Some would argue that local officials and police officers simply care less about the deaths of black children, leading police to not work as hard in trying to solve the cases. Law enforcement argues that the spate of killings is the result of emboldened criminals, and has been exacerbated by community members’ hesitance to share information with police. Residents counter that they don’t trust the police, because officers don’t solve cases that are happening in and affecting their communities, leaving them to believe they have to deal with situations on their own.
“These types of things wear on the community, and they’re a very heavy burden to the officers that are here, doing the best they can,” St. Louis County Police Sergeant Ben Granda said.
Nonetheless, children continue to be killed and there is not a set plan to help reduce the number of murders taking place. Families are grieving, children are scared, residents are worried, and action needs to be taken, not lives.