US gun violence crisis hits home for DC mother: 'When they took him, they took me'

The U.S. Surgeon General issued a stark warning Tuesday, identifying gun violence as a national health crisis — a reality that resonates deeply with many residents of the D.C. area. 

The advisory highlights that gun violence is now the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the country, surpassing car accidents and drug overdoses.

In a statement, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy emphasized the severity of the situation, comparing it to the smoking epidemic of the 1960s. 

"Our children should not have to live in fear that they’re going to get shot when they go to school. None of us should have to worry that going to the mall or a concert or a house of worship means putting our lives at risk or that we'll get a call that a loved one, in a moment of crisis, is taking their own life with a firearm," Murthy said.

Toloria Gant, a D.C. resident, understands the personal toll of gun violence. 

Her 23-year-old son Brandon was shot and killed on September 6, 2023, at the corner of Minnesota Avenue and 18 Street, Southeast. 


Surgeon general declares gun violence in US a public health crisis

Dr. Vivek Murthy issued the advisory Tuesday outlining the "urgent threat firearm violence poses to the health and well-being of our country."

The motive remains unknown, and the killer has not been caught. 

"Somebody's got to get control over what's going on in the city. It is in a crisis to me. It really is in a crisis," Gant said.

The Surgeon General's advisory notes that gun death rates are 27 percent higher in poorer communities. 

Cass Crifasi, Director of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at Johns Hopkins University, highlighted the broader context of the issue. 

"A crime perspective would think about bad people doing bad things. A public health perspective says there are people in a set of circumstances—communities, societal circumstances, policy choices—that we have made that individuals don’t often have control over but are operating in," Crifasi explained. "Factors like education, poverty, unemployment, poor quality housing all drive fire and violence, so it’s important to be thinking about this as a public health perspective because it broadens our potential solutions."

For Gant, the emotional and psychological impacts of losing her son are profound. 

"I suffer from so many anxieties, PTSD and things like that, 'cause this is all I have left of him. This is all I've got. So when they took him, they took me. They just need to know that," she said.

Local officials are also speaking out about the Surgeon General's warning. 

Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who is running for the U.S. Senate, emphasized the need for more effective gun control as part of any comprehensive solution.

"The level of gun violence we experience on a daily basis is a uniquely American tragedy; and what we know is that gun violence is absolutely a public health crisis," Alsobrooks said in a statement. Instead of leaders standing up to the gun lobby and banning assault weapons or getting ghost guns off the street, they have asked children to shoulder this burden by learning how to hide under a desk in a classroom."The fact that our kids are now expected to endure this crisis by learning to cope with the trauma sparked by even witnessing senseless acts of gun violence is wholly unacceptable. In the Senate, I will be a fierce advocate for sensible gun legislation that bans assault weapons, that eliminates ghost guns, and institutes stronger background checks. Our children deserve nothing less."

The Surgeon General's advisory calls for urgent action to address gun violence as a public health emergency, underscoring the need for immediate and comprehensive measures to protect communities across the nation.