As of July 5, as many as 21,932 people have died from gun violence in 2023 according to the Gun Violence Archive. At this rate, it would mean 2023 would have fewer gun violence deaths than both 2022 and 2021 — despite the numerous mass shootings this year.
While much of the debate revolves around gun control measures, some people are taking matters into their own hands to reduce the number of deaths before it is too late, hoping to create better outcomes for kids and teens.
According to the Pew Research Center, gun deaths among U.S. children and teens rose 50% between 2019 and 2021.
In 2021, firearms accounted for nearly 19% of childhood deaths (ages 1-18). Car accidents accounted for roughly 16% of childhood deaths.
In Philadelphia, Maleek Jackson is hoping to do what he can to prevent those deaths from becoming more prevalent. The owner of a boxing gym in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of the city, Jackson trains kids twice a week so they can learn the valuable skill of self-defense while also cultivating purpose and community.
"For me, boxing has always been a vehicle for me to move through my hardships and my issues," said Jackson. "I'm from the inner city of America — an untraditional upbringing — you know, so these things aren't cultivated. We use sports to garner discipline and structure and understand life."
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, gun violence has been the leading cause of death among Black children since 2006.
Jackson can attest. 30 years ago, he lost his brother to gun violence before ultimately losing two more brothers and a nephew to it in later years. He says it is the reason he started the Maleek Jackson Fitness Boxing Gym, so he can save other kids from the same fate.
Jackson says kids yearn for belonging, and if they cannot get it from home, they will get it from somewhere else, many times gangs.
"These programs are a direct answer to the pain and situations that I've been through," said Jackson. "That's my way of processing those emotions. When those kids come in and they look like [my brother] Isiah, I can save them."
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