My sign for Newark’s #MarchForOurLives had several names and ages of children killed with firearms in New Jersey. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but I wanted to include a range of places and ages. Please find details, from oldest to youngest by area, for each of the children listed.
Aquilla Flood, 17, East Orange: Aquilla was shot in her bedroom and left for dead. The killer was her ex-boyfriend, with whom she’d broken up a few weeks before. The most dangerous time for those in domestic violence relationships is when they try to or do leave. See #16 in the link.
Kasson Morman, 15, and Zainee Hailey, 13, Newark: These Newark teens were shot and killed on Christmas night; a 14-year old boy was also shot, but survived. Another young teen felt “disrespected” by the boys, and access to a firearm turned his anger deadly. Zainee was taking out the trash when she was struck and killed by a stray bullet. Senseless and tragic.
Nazerah Bugg, 14, Paterson: Nazerah and a friend had just left a take-out restaurant when they were both shot in a hail of gunfire. Neither was the intended target. Nazerah’s death came just two months after 12-year old Genesis Rincon was shot and killed while riding her scooter home. This is a good time to remind New Jersey that 80% of the guns used in NJ crimes are trafficked in from states with weaker gun laws.
Yovanni Banos Merino, 10, Asbury Park: Yovanni was where he was supposed to be safe, at home, when he was shot and killed. His mother was also injured in the shooting. Neither was the intended target. There is a GoFundMe to help pay for expenses related to the shooting.
Gabrielle Hill Carter, 8, Camden: My name error on the sign shows the depth of dangers that children in some zip codes face. Like Yovanni, Gabrielle Hill Carter was shot and killed because she lived in the same area as someone who was the intended target of gun violence. She ran for cover. RAN FOR COVER. Some would call this collateral damage, but it’s not. It’s valuing some children over others. If living with the constant threat of danger and gun violence isn’t okay for your kids, it’s not okay for any kids. Lela Cruz, also 8, was killed when hit by an SUV as she rode her bike.
Brandon Beharry, 7, and Brian Beharry, 4, Long Branch: Brandon and Brian were shot and killed, along with their mother, when their father shot and killed them before setting fire to the house and turning the gun on himself. The responses of the friends and family in this article show just how completely abuse can be buried for those outside of the home. We all know someone in a domestic violence situation.
Brandon Holt, 6, Toms River: Brandon Holt was playing with his neighbor, a 4-year old, as many of our children might do every day. The family of the 4-year old kept unsecured firearms, and the 4-year old found one, and shot Brandon in the head as he played. ASK neighbors and friends about guns in the home, and follow-up with whether or not they are secured properly. This is also very important for teens and young adults.
Marcus Milien, 21 months old, Orange: The toddler was on his front porch with family when he was shot and killed mid-afternoon, as neighborhood children were getting out of school. Three other people on the porch were also shot, and Morlens Milice, 21, Marcus’ uncle also died.
There are many more examples of children and teens being shot as they go about their business. Suicides using a firearm are extremely difficult to find information on due to a respect for families in a time of great sorrow. However, across the nation, EASY ACCESS to firearms means that more than half of the USA’s gun deaths are suicides. These deaths matter too!
There are, of course, also tragic stories about loss of life that do not involve firearms, like Lela Cruz. However, the pushback by gun advocates and the gun lobby (ironically, in the name of Liberty) on firearms has made it almost impossible to pass effective legislation and to create a cultural sea change (like driving drunk, smoking in public places and near children, wearing a seatbelt) that will positively affect the most vulnerable of our neighborhoods and communities.
The bottom line is that access matters. Whether it’s negligent storage of a legally owned firearm or lax laws encouraging the trafficking of firearms across state lines, the end result is trauma, danger, and death for whole communities. By the way, there is no federal law against trafficking firearms; the onus weighs on the states that suffer from a lack of common sense laws in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia, and North Carolina.
The Giffords Law Center has excellent resources to educate yourself about gun laws and their effects on states and communities. This link is about Trafficking & Straw Purchases. Giffords Courage and the Giffords Law Center are doing excellent work, spin-free and focused on change, and often unnoticed by the public behind the scenes. And they deserve your support.
Speak up for communities that feel disenfranchised and forgotten. Call and write your Members of Congress AND your state representatives to say you CARE about the often nameless and publicly ignored deaths of teenagers who are shot by other teenagers. If it’s not acceptable for YOUR children, it’s not acceptable for ANY children. Mention gun trafficking as a concern, and say you want a federal anti-trafficking law. Mention lax gun laws in other states as killing young people in states like New Jersey, and say you want UNIVERSAL background checks for ALL gun sales. Mention the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) legislation, and say you want it for your state. (And ask the lawmakers NOT to refer to ERPO as a “red flag law.” It’s misleading, stigmatizing, and lazy.)
Don’t feel comfortable calling? Use one of these tools below to write, text, fax, or to get more comfortable with a phone call. (It’s usually an intern answering. And they do it for hours! You will not stand out, believe me!)