Florena Carter’s shattered life didn’t make national news. Her son was killed on his 28th birthday in 2009. Carter’s brother pulled the trigger. Her father shot himself soon afterward. The horrifying family tragedy that played out in Largo, Md., became one more private story in America’s plague of gun violence. That year, 9,146 other people nationwide lost their lives in shootings.
The vast majority died in the type of daily gun violence that does not grab national headlines in the same way as the December massacre of 20 young children and six teachers at an elementary school in Connecticut, or the mass shooting last July in a Colorado movie theater that killed 12 people and wounded 70.
Those attacks became the focus of a bitter national debate over guns, which culminated with the defeat in the Senate of several proposals backed by President Barack Obama to tighten gun control laws, including banning military-style assault weapons and expanding background checks to stop criminals and the mentally ill from buying firearms.
Often lost in America’s divisive gun control politics are the stories of people whose urban communities suffer the most from shootings every day. Although violent crime has been declining in the United States, it still far outstrips the rate of other developed countries. FBI figures show 8,583 people were killed by guns in 2011, the last year for which numbers were available. That is nearly 24 people a day.
The figure is far higher when counting the number of people who kill themselves with guns. The federal Centers for Disease Control listed 19,392 gun suicides in the United States in 2010, the latest figures available.