5 books that try to explain the unexplained: The prevalence of gun violence in America

As of May 31, there have been 233 mass shootings in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an independent group that collects data from more than 7,500 sources. These include last week’s massacre at Rob Elementary School in Uwald, Texas, that killed 19 children and two adults and injured many more.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently reported that more than 45,000 people in the U.S. were killed by firearms in 2020. This year, guns became the leading cause of death among children in the United States. On average, nine children die every day from gun violence.
As startling as these statistics are, they dull the senses, and solutions seem increasingly difficult to find. Here are five books that help us look beyond the numbers, tell the stories of victims of gun violence in America, and explain how we got here and how we got out of it.
Another Day America Died: Ten Short-lived Chronicles of Gary Young
Eleven-year-old Taylor likes to fish in the creek behind his home. He was accidentally shot by his best friend during a sleepover. Gary Anderson is an 18-year-old who loves fixing things—especially bikes. He was killed while walking to his mother’s apartment in what his father said was a case of wrongful identity. The baseball coaches on his team all refer to 9-year-old Jayden as “Smiley.” He was murdered by his mother’s ex-boyfriend.

Another Day of Death in America documents the lives and deaths of 10 boys aged 9 to 19 who were shot in one day on November 23, 2013. The randomly chosen dates reflect troubling statistics on American life.
But these kids aren’t just data points. Through meticulous research, interviews with family members, and accounts of gun violence across the country, Younge stitches up devastating monuments to each victim while explaining the circumstances that led to their deaths.

From Higher Towers: The Rise of Seamus McGraw’s American Mass Shooter

In 1966, after murdering his wife and mother, a student climbed a tower at the University of Texas and began filming. In the end he killed 17 people. At the time, it was the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Now the 10th.

From a Taller Tower traces the stories of American mass shooters — set in Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland — without succumbing to the notoriety many of them aspired to. With few exceptions, the killer has never been named. Instead, the book examines how many Americans think about guns, mass shootings, and mental illness, and confronts the circumstances that allow these catastrophes to continue.
A silver lining: How tragedy sparked a movement from ‘For Our Lives’ founders
Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, organize after one of the deadliest school shootings in America. Now, the For Our Lives movement and nonprofits are working to end gun violence through civic engagement, education, and direct action.

This anthology chronicles the stories of 25 student founders through excerpts from poetry, personal essays, dialogues and speeches. It describes the fear they felt on February 14, 2018, the countless hours it took to make the campaign a success, and the trauma that haunted survivors long after the news footage began. While it’s easy to forget how young these activists are, a glimpse of their extraordinary work also reminds them that they shouldn’t have been in it in the first place.

All net proceeds from this book go to the Action for Our Lives Fund.

Misfire: Tim Mak on the decline of the NRA

Using classified documents, testimony, and more than 100 interviews with NRA employees and colleagues, NPR investigative reporter Tim Mak documents Wayne LaPierre’s (continued) oversight of the organization’s incompetence, corruption, and wanton embezzlement, And outlines how the NRA’s outdated teaching on gun laws was used to undermine bipartisan legislation supporting background checks in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre.

Stand Your Ground: America’s Deadly Self-Defense Love Story Caroline Light

Through astute legal analysis, Caroline Light examines the history of violence from the 17th century to the present, rooted in steadfast law and America’s “DIY safe” civic consciousness. While every American has a right to assert themselves in theory, Wright argues that in practice these laws are rooted in the need to protect white honor.

Looking back at influential court cases and pivotal moments in American history, she shows how these laws have consistently failed to protect women, the poor, gender-nonconforming and minority groups—and as they tried to assert themselves in their lands often target them.

A thought-provoking read, Light illuminates how America’s gun control debate is deeply rooted in the inequalities that have shaped our nation’s history.

Stand-up law complicates problem for black gun owners
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