By Jueseppi B.
On Sept. 3, just a few days after Donald Maiden Jr.’s 8th birthday, he was playing tag outside his apartment building when a 46-year-old stranger walked up and shot him in the face. When police asked accused Brian Cloninger, who is white, why he shot Donald, who is black, he said, “Because I wanted to.”
At the time of the shooting, Cloninger was serving a 15-month probationary sentence for a DWI. He had also been charged with drunk driving in Florida in 2002. Cloninger was not allowed to drink alcohol while on probation, but police found a beer can in his truck after the alleged shooting.
That Cloninger was able to procure a gun despite his criminal history is shocking enough but, unbelievably, the story gets worse. Police refused to charge Cloninger with attempted murder, despite Donald’s family’s plea that they do so. And then, last week, the judge overseeing the case inexplicably reduced Cloninger’s bail from $2.2 million to $1 million.
As a mother and an American, this horrific crime and subsequent acts of injustice make me weep — for Donald’s mother and family, for other American children who are senselessly victimized by gun violence, and for my country, which has lost its moral compass when it comes to guns.
How is it possible that such a crime could occur in America in 2013? What kind of a nation enables and allows such heinous acts against children? And why are so few media covering Donald’s shocking story?
Despite our status as one of the most developed nations in the world, gun violence against children has become an everyday occurrence in our country. One American child or teen is shot and killed every 3 hours and 15 minutes. Twice as many children die from gun violence than from cancer. American children and teens are 17 times more likely to die from guns than their peers in other developed countries, and gun violence is the leading cause of death for African American children, according to the Children’s Defense Fund.
Yet our legislators, who are elected to protect their most vulnerable constituents, sit idly by, kowtowing to a vengeful gun lobby. A man who is accused of and has admitted to a crime unparalleled in depravity is being given leniency from the court. And the media, seemingly numb and indifferent to endless reports of gun violence, ignore a story that every American should hear.
Our grassroots movement, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, is doing what it can to bring awareness to Donald’s story. We have started a petition demanding the Dallas County District Attorney’s office review and revoke Cloninger’s bail, and publicly demonstrate their commitment to upholding justice in Donald’s case. Members of our Texas chapter will deliver the petition to the District Attorney‘s office when it reaches 5,000 signatures.
Donald is expected to be out of the hospital by Halloween. In the past month, he has endured several surgeries to repair the damage to his face, and has many more ahead. He will likely never again have feeling in his jaw. Recently his grandmother said, “He don’t want the kids to look at his face… He says, ‘I look like a monster, granny.’ I’m like, ‘No, you don’t.'”
Donald is not a monster; it’s the man who shot him who deserves that label. Dangerous people like Cloninger not only deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but they should not have access to firearms in the first place. Until we fix these failings in our culture, our nation’s children will continue to pay the highest price.
How Many People Have Been Killed by Guns Since Newtown?
The answer to the simple question in that headline is surprisingly hard to come by. So Slate is collecting data for our crowd sourced interactive. This data is necessarily incomplete (click here to see why, and to learn more about @GunDeaths, the Twitter user who helped us create this interactive). But the more people who are paying attention, the better the data will be. You can help us draw a more complete picture of gun violence in America. If you know about a gun death in your community that isn’t represented here, please email a link to a news report to firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’d like to use this data yourself for your own projects, it’s open. You can download it here.
Update, October 18th, 2013: As time goes on, our count gets further and further away from the likely actual number of gun deaths in America—because roughly 60 percent of deaths by gun are due to suicides, which are very rarely reported. When discussing this issue, please note that our number is by design not accurate and represents only the number of gun deaths that the media can find out about contemporaneously. Part of the purpose of this interactive is to point out how difficult it is to get accurate real-time numbers on this issue.
Using the most recent CDC estimates for yearly deaths by guns in the United States, it is likely that as of today, 10/18/2013, roughly 27,677 people have died from guns in the U.S. since the Newtown shootings. Compare that number to the number of deaths reported in the news: 9,528, and you can see how under told the story of gun violence in America actually is.