The most recent victim of stray bullets here in D.C. was a beloved 52-year-old mother of three boys, Angela White-Hooks. She was in the 5400 block of J Street NE on Saturday night when she was hit by a bullet not meant for her.
She had a boy who had just graduated from college and got married, one who was working in D.C. and one who planned to head off to college next fall. She posted positive messages to friends specific to their travails. And a yummy caramel apple recipe she wanted to make for Halloween.
I found all this looking at her social media, looking for friends and family to interview. And I was thinking about all the times “stray bullets” accompany crime stories.
And at that moment, I saw an email pop up in my inbox. It was about the Firearms Policy Coalition effort to raise money to challenge gun safety legislation across the country.
They want to challenge a whole slate of states for banning handgun carrying by those under 21. They want to challenge assault weapons bans. And they’re furious about California’s “rationing ban,” which allows the purchase of only one firearm every 30 days.
Oh, and my favorite part of their fundraising efforts — the controversial security-for-hire outfit Blackwater International has offered to donate $1 to the coalition for every box of their “Heavy Hitter” 12-gauge shotgun ammunition sold in California through the end of the year.
We need more bullets?
Tell that to the people hit by bullets in their cars, in their homes, on the patio of a fancy hotel in a charming seaside city, people who were never in the places you’d think bad stuff and gunfire goes down.
Melanie Yates, 23, was reading the Bible to her daughter, putting her to bed in her home in Zion, Ill., when a bullet flew through the house and into her head, killing her on Oct. 19. Stray bullets, news accounts said.
A 54-year-old woman was inside her home in Syracuse, N.Y., on Sunday evening when a bullet fired outside her home flew through the window and hit her in the midsection. Stray bullet.
Lance Cpl. Gabe Heefner, 20, was visiting his grandparents in Iowa City on Oct. 17 before his first deployment with the Marine Corps to Okinawa, Japan, when he was hit in the left temple by a — stray bullet. He was driving back from a Panda Express. He is in critical condition, with a portion of his skull removed.
Kyla Sobers, 16, had just ended her school day Oct. 1 when she was hit in the head by a, yup, stray bullet in a Brooklyn park. She survived and had surgery to remove it.
Sally Rose Strelecki, 27, was in her apartment in Centennial, Colo., on the morning of Oct. 2, when a bullet tore through the wall and lodged into her brain. She’s in an induced coma.
These are not bullets flying magically from their ammo boxes, they aren’t mishaps of trained, skilled, licensed and legal marksmen who somehow missed their legal targets.
My God, there was the Sandra Parks, 13, who had just won an essay contest for a piece she wrote about gun violence in her neighborhood before she was gunned down by a stray bullet in her Milwaukee bedroom in 2018.
Or just Google “6-year-old” and “stray bullet” and you’ll find stories of kids hit by gunfire as they sat in cars, homes or garages in D.C., Philadelphia, West Fargo, N.D., Canton, Miss., Chicago and Harris County, Tex. All this year. All of them 6 years old.
Each of the shooters whose stray bullets maimed or killed these people were targeting others, but they might as well have been pointing the gun right at them.
Here’s what you may not know: A .22 caliber bullet can travel as far as 1.5 miles. So any time someone fires a gun in a neighborhood, a park, a street, a highway, they are committing attempted murder upon every person within a mile and a half of them.
The morning before White-Hooks was killed in D.C., she posted a flurry of uplifting messages on her Facebook page. One of them was a little cartoon drawing of how we envision our life — a smooth, straight bike ride to a triumphant end. And the other was a rocky path full of gullies and ditches, rainstorms and mountains.
“Sometimes, God doesn’t do things the way we think he should. But God has a perfect plan for your life. Trust God.”
I know God never intended a stray bullet for this wonderful woman.
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