By Marian Wright Edelman
Thirteen-year-old Michael Graham, an eighth grader at Henry H. Wells Middle School in Brewster, New York, was popular with his classmates and played football, basketball, and lacrosse. But this year on January 14th, Michael committed suicide using a pistol he had found in his home. Michael’s father had three unregistered handguns in the house: a .40 caliber, a 9mm, and a .44 Magnum.
On February 5th, the grandmother of 15-year-old Steven Keele reported her grandson missing. She went to take a bath and came out to find him gone. Authorities found Steven the next day, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the edge of a field behind his grandmother’s home in Limestone County, Alabama. His grandmother doesn’t know where Steven got the gun.
On March 11th, a New Hampshire police chief left his service gun on top of the safe in his closet when he went to run some errands. It was there that his girlfriend’s son, 15-year-old Jacob Carver, found it. Later that day, Jacob shot himself in the stomach with the gun. Jacob was a freshman at Timberlane Regional High School where he was a member of the school’s football and freshman wrestling teams. He was remembered as “a goofball and a free spirit who had a great sense of humor and always made people laugh.”
To some people each of these boys probably seemed like any other teenager in their communities — young people with ups and downs, but who should have had the rest of their lives ahead of them. No one but them might have been able to predict when those ups and downs would become too much. But when that moment came, Michael, Steven, and Jacob all sadly had something in common: access to a gun. Now all three are among this year’s child victims of a quiet but widespread American epidemic.