• LJ Punch, executive and medical director of Power4STL and trauma surgeon 
  • Brian Malte, executive director of Hope and Heal Fund 
  • Sukeena Gunner, mother of Jaylon Mckenzie, a 14-year-old boy who was murdered in 2019
  • Lindsay Clukies, a Washington University pediatrician and associate trauma medical director at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. 
  • Moderator: Cara Anthony, a Midwest correspondent for Kaiser Health News 

By Jonmaesha Beltran

Today, more children are dying from firearm injuries than motor vehicle crashes. 

Every two to three days, a child arrives at St. Louis Children's Hospital with a firearm injury, said Dr. Lindsay Clukies. And every time a child is shot or dies from a gunshot wound, it affects the entire community – including the team that cared for the child in the emergency room, Clukies said. 

Cara Anthony told reporters to start small and focus on humanity. She referenced a story she did for Kaiser Health News about where children go to hide when they hear gunshots. She said it empowered parents to speak about keeping their children safe. 

"People make cruel assumptions about what's going on in neighborhoods and what parents are doing to literally survive," Anthony said. 

The Hope and Heal Fund conducted a media analysis on gun violence in California in 2017. 

Brian Malte, the organization’s executive director, said the organization found that news outlets' stories relied heavily on the voices of law enforcement. 

"What's really critical is that we humanize everybody who is affected by gun violence or firearm suicide, and we have to lift up these solutions," Malte said. "If not, people are going to go on thinking, as a lot of people do, that gun violence is inevitable."  

Dr. LJ Punch explained that the phrase gun violence doesn't have a place in the examination room. He said there’s a focus on a politicized and stigmatized set of behaviors and actions and an assumption that every time a bullet enters someone's body, that person engaged in some form of violence. 

"Deciding that anybody who requires care for a bullet injury also requires some adjustment to their life to address the role of violence in it," Dr. Punch said, "is actually perpetually one of the deepest expressions of structural racism I have ever seen in medicine." 

Jonmaesha Beltran is a Roy W. Howard Investigative fellow at Wisconsin Watch & News 414. She was a 2023 Great Lakes fellow.