The cover of Gary Younge’s book, Another day in the death of America, a happy white family in America from the 1950s, is in complete contrast to the bitter reality in America today.
Every day, on average, 7 children and teens seen their lives cut tragically short by gun violence in America. American teens are seventeen times more likely to die from gun violence than their peers in any other high income country. Gun violence disproportionately affects children of colour.
Gary Younge has picked a random day, 23 November, 2013, to present the cases of the ten young people who were shot at this particular day, in different parts of the country. The number of fatalities that day exceeded the national daily average for 2013, which was of 6.75. The youngest was 9 and the oldest, 19 years old. All were males, seven were black, two Hispanic, and one white.
For eighteen months, Gary Younge, tracked down the families of the young victims, he talked to parents and siblings, relatives and friends, teachers and community workers. He examines the circumstances of the deaths; some were deliberate, others tragic accidents, due to easy access to guns.
This is not a book about gun control though, but about what happens when you don’t have gun control, when guns are so easily available. It is not a book about race, though a disproportionate number of those who fell that particular day were black. Certain racial themes are, therefore unavoidable.
For eighteen months, Gary Younge, tracked down the families of the victims, he talked to parents and siblings, relatives and friends, teachers and community workers. He approaches the subject of the vulnerability of the young in America with great sensitivity and empathy. He sticks closely to his case studies, avoiding any kind of polemic. At the same time, he touches subjects more challenging and knotted than that. Poverty and inequality, poor education and lack of employment opportunities, drugs and gangs, create a desperate situation and have detrimental effects on life chances.
Gary Younge is not optimistic that this situation will change. Despite the fact that the number of Americans that support further guns’ regulation has been increased, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the principle gun lobbyist which advocates for gun ownership, has done “an excellent job of mythologizing gun-ownership as being a ‘right’ bequeathed to them by their revolutionary forbears, that could not be violated,” while continuously maintain a sense of the world as a dangerous, insecure place. NRA’s appeal goes beyond the weapon itself to the tested American tropes of rugged individualism, masculinity, small government and homestead. It “evokes a threat not only to an individual or a family, but to American civilization itself”, writes Gary Younge.
Gun violence can have a series of serious snowball effects in education, health, incarceration, family instability, and social capital. The distress, the trauma and the pain many poor, inner-city families experience, following the killing of a family member or close relative, deserves special attention. Better education, youth services, jobs that pay a living wage, mental health services, trauma counselling, a fair criminal justice system – “in short more opportunity”, writes Gary Younge, “would contribute to a climate where such deaths were less likely.”
Gary Younge has written a gripping, emotional and thought provoking book. It is a cry for the wealthiest country in the world that could and should do better for its children.