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Some Shooting Victims Neglected Amid Focus On Fatalities

Though the death toll from mass shootings and gun violence across the U.S. grab the most attention, those events have left a far greater number of people struggling with lifelong physical injuries. Government agencies, including the Justice Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, do not track the number of people disabled by gun violence. A 2020 study by public health researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University estimated that there are more than 300 firearms injuries on average in the U.S. every day, leaving twice as many survivors as fatalities, the New York Times reports. Although the severity of those injuries varies greatly, advocates and medical professionals say the number of survivors with long-term disabilities is large and growing. “We measure death, but we don’t always measure those who can’t be recorded,” said Emily Miller of the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Over the past decade, as the number of disabled survivors has grown, so have support networks like the one run by the Rochester, N.Y. Spinal Association, allowing victims and their families to lean on a community that understands the grief and pain of a life altered in a hail of gunfire. “It feels like a forgotten sector of people,” said DeAndra Yates-Dycus, a mother from Indianapolis who started a support group after her son was shot and paralyzed by a stray bullet during a children’s birthday party. In Chicago, which has one of the nation's highest rates of concentrated gun violence, a chapter of Healing Hurt People assists a range of disabled survivors. “Society does not value their lives in the ways that they should,” said Andy Wheeler, one of the group’s coordinators, “and it’s horrible.” Part of the reason they are often overlooked, Wheeler said, is that so many disabled survivors are young Black men, a group that society often neglects. Shooting injury rates are highest among Black Americans, according to Everytown. “A lot of Black men accept they’ll be shot at some point, and they’ll either die or survive it,” said Mike Patterson, who was shot 21 years ago and uses a wheelchair. “No one realizes there’s this third option, paralyzation, that can change your life forever.” The rising tide of gun violence in Rochester, a city with an industrial past and newly swelling population, led Mayor Malik Evans to declare a state of emergency in July after a string of shootings.

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