ONC reporting – Gun-related deaths among children and teens are growing, and no state is exempt from the effects of the growing epidemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ohio is one of 10 states where gun-related deaths among youths are highest. Children from affected communities recently visited the Ohio Statehouse to meet with lawmakers on the issue.

Jake Streeter, executive director of the East Cleveland Neighborhood Center, said his kids, many of whom come from neighborhoods where regular gun violence is a reality, drew posters and wrote letters with ideas and solutions now displayed throughout the statehouse.

“Many of our students have a feeling about gun violence that they believe we as adults aren’t taking the situation as seriously as we could,” Streeter explained. “It doesn’t seem to be a priority.”

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, nationwide in 2021, more than 4,700 children and teens were killed with guns, up 40% from 2017, and half of all child and teen gun deaths occurred in just 10 states, including Ohio, North Carolina and Tennessee. Black children and teens were six times as likely to die from gun violence as their white peers.

Streeter added the grassroots organizations working with children need funding to be able to provide positive alternatives to keep kids off the streets. He hopes state representatives work to ensure summer and after-school programming is available to all Ohio kids.

“The people who have these stories, these narratives that they need to hear our place in a position to be able to share these stories to do this mentoring to build these long-lasting relationships,” Streeter outlined. “So that ‘the students don’t have to look to the streets or violence.'”

Taking its name from the Mississippi Freedom Summer project of 1964, the six-week Freedom Schools program focuses on literacy and cultural enrichment, and is aimed at serving children and youths in grades K-12 in communities where quality academic programming is lacking.