Antiq Hennis Shooting: The Numbers Behind a Tragedy


At around 7:15 p.m. on Sunday, 16-month-old Antiq Hennis was shot and killed while sitting in his stroller in Brownsville. Police have said the gunman was targeting his father, who was not hit.

By the Daily News‘s counting, Hennis’s death marked the 16th time in the last three months that a child under 15 years old was shot. At least three of those victims were three years old or younger. The stories are painful to read about and difficult to put onto wider context.

A 2012 study by the Children’s Defense Fund found that in 2009–the most recent year the organization has calculated–1,212 kids under 15 were shot; 354 of them died. Of those deaths, 85 victims were younger than five.

These numbers are both big and small. One reason the recent shootings of youth have gotten headlines is because the incidents are relatively rare–at least compared to the total scope of gun violence in America, where around 30,000 people are fatally shot every year. Kids under 15 make up around 22 percent of the population and around 4 percent of the country’s shooting fatalities. Kids under five are 10 percent of the population and 1 percent of the country’s shooting fatalities.

But the other way to frame numbers: Every month, seven children under five years old die from firearms.

Of course, stats have nothing to do with the public outrage. Every shooting death is tragic. But Antiq Hennis’ death was front page on the tabloids, shown top-of-the-hour on the local TV news, and received follow-up reporting in the New York Times because it’s unconscionable that a one-year-old take a bullet in the most developed nation in the world. Even the most ignorant, racist, Internet-commenting victim-blamer would agree that a child in a stroller is as innocent as a bystander can get.

In the six months following the Newtown massacre in December, according to a tallying by Mother Jones, 71 kids under 12 were fatally shot. Forty of them died in apparent accidents, incidents similar to the in-home gun discharge that nearly took the life of three-year-old Tharell Edward in August. Thirty-one of the kids were killed in alleged homicides, like Hennis’s shooting or like when a one-year-old was killed by his off-duty NYPD officer mother in April.

In other instances, the shootings of kids underscore a chilling randomness. In May, 14-year-old D’aja Robinson was fatally struck while she sat on a bus in Queens. That same month, 11-year-old Tayloni Mazyck was paralyzed by a bullet that struck her while she was outside her apartment with her mother and niece. On Friday, a three-year-old caught a stray bullet in the arm while he ran around a Bronx park.

Each time makes the grown-ups feel more helpless.