A Mother’s View

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Last week I sat through a conference focused on shootings in the United States. It was held by the Center for American Progress and featured, over several days, mothers of victims killed by gunfire. 

For almost six years, I have been the managing editor at American Witness, supervising writers, editors and other staff as they have worked to provide better transparency of criminal justice surrounding homicide and non-fatal shooting incidents in Washington, DC and Baltimore, Md. My heart has always been connected to the families of the victims, but this year, as a new mother, the stories each mother told hit closer to home.  

All I could do, while listening to their stories, memories, was think about my infant. At one point it was hard to breathe because of this sudden sense of worry and anxiety that swept over me. I don’t know how these mothers have continued to be so strong and deal with so much anguish.

The scariest thing of all, listening to these mother’s stories, hearing how they lost their children, was that the focus of violence has turned into a political talking point, used by politicians to divert focus away from the severity of the crimes that are occurring on our streets.

As of December 13, there have been 262 homicides in DC, 52 more than the same time last year. Even though homicides in Baltimore decreased from 330 in 2022 to 244 homicides in 2023. The overall perception remains that the city is a very violent place where people, especially juveniles are not being held accountable. 

This year, in DC, 26 individuals under the age of 18 died from fatal shootings. In Baltimore, a city that has seen a decrease in homicides, as of December 13, 131 youth have been shot with 16 dying. The incidents show an ever present gun culture on our streets. 

And low conviction rates aren’t helping to reduce that culture. According to Baltimore Witness data, only 63 murder suspects have been arrested in 2023 as of December 13. 

And the follow through in court is even more staggering. Thus far in 2023, 139 cases received a guilty verdict by plea or jury trial in DC and 247 in Baltimore. This is out of the more than 3400 cases in DC and nearly 1500 cases in Baltimore. 

Just as  those mothers show, the world doesn’t make sense without my child. And just like those mothers, I have to acknowledge that I can’t protect her forever. She will start to walk, need to go to school to learn, and be exposed to a culture outside of our home. My work has always felt important but now even more so.  Now I feel an urgency, that the evidence-based transparency we bring, has to help change the gun culture defining our streets. As a new mother, it has to.

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