On April 13, 2023, Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old Black teenager, was shot and wounded after ringing the doorbell of the wrong house in Kansas City, Missouri.
Yarl was picking up his younger twin brothers in an unfamiliar area when he mistakenly rang the doorbell to the wrong house. Andrew Lester, an 84-year-old white man, in response to the harmless mistake, shot Yarl twice: once in the head and once in the arm.
Thankfully, Yarl is alive and has been released from the hospital. CBS News revealed he is still recovering physically, but his mother, Cleo Nagbe, said the trauma is evident.
Lester was detained by law enforcement for only two hours after the shooting before being promptly released. He was then charged with assault in the first degree and armed criminal action the following Monday after protests spread throughout the community, and his bail was set at $200,000.
He turned himself in the following day, posted his own bail, and was released once again. The conditions of his bail prohibit him from having contact with Yarl and his family, as well as owning any kind of weapon.
An innocent Black boy should not have to come face-to-face with death for a belligerent and murderous man such as Lester to be prohibited from owning a gun.
Ralph Yarl’s story speaks to not only the violent racism which persists in the United States today, but also the lack of attention received by the call for gun control. Had Lester not been in possession of a gun, his hostility toward Yarl may have manifested in a much less physical way. Yet, Lester had immediate access to a firearm and was able to use it in a situation that posed no real threat to him. Yarl could have made it out with little to no repercussions, but instead, he almost died.
While Black and Brown people are especially vulnerable to attacks such as these, gun violence is not limited by race.
Just two days after Yarl was shot, 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis was shot for pulling into the wrong driveway in upstate New York. Gillis was killed in the process.
Then, on April 19, two teenage cheerleaders, Payton Washington and Heather Roth, were shot for mistakenly opening the door on the wrong vehicle in Texas.
That same day, 6-year-old Kinsley White and her parents were shot in North Carolina after their basketball rolled into their neighbors lawn.
It seems that everywhere we turn, someone is suffering for the ignorance of the Federal government, and the violence of gun wielders. How many people must suffer, be afraid, and die before we recognize and put an end to gun violence in the U.S.?
Recent stories such as these have sparked outrage and fear across the entire country. Councilmembers in the afflicted cities have begun to distrust police and law enforcement, believing that the shooters are not being properly brought to justice.
Civilians, on the other hand, are riddled with anger and a constant worry that they, too, may meet the same fate as the five victims described previously, for something as small as approaching the wrong house or forgetting where they parked their car.
I have also felt the dreadful reality of living in America. I am 17 years old. I have already come to terms with the possibility of being shot and killed in school. I have come to terms with the constant threat of a spontaneous shooting in my local Walmart or 7-Eleven. I have accepted that one small mistake, or even none at all, is enough to get me killed in a country that values the right to bear arms more than the right to live.
This is unacceptable. Gun violence is not just a problem, it is a preventable public health problem. Gun access must be reduced, especially to those at risk of harming others with no justifiable reason. Training and licensing should be mandatory. Gun storage should be secure and safe within households and vehicles. Links between impulsive anger and gun violence should be researched and properly addressed by the firearm industry.
It’s heartening to see that the victims of these attacks have received so much attention from their communities, but yet, emotional support is not enough. Young people deserve to live, and be assured of their right to do so. Young people deserve safety. All people deserve a life free from the threat of gun violence.