Author Q&A:
Gary Younge

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Guardian journalist Gary Younge chose 23 November 2013, found all the young people shot dead in the US that day – 10 – contacted their family and friends, and extensively chronicled their stories. The result, Another Day in the Death of America (Guardian Faber, £16.99 hardback, £12.99 ebook) is a moving, gripping account of gun crime and its disproportionate effect on the working class of the country.

What did you aim to achieve with the book?
To generate some empathy. One of the reasons these kids can get killed with so little coverage is because an overwhelming proportion of those charged with telling their stories, pursuing their cases and making a difference (journalists, police, voters) think they couldn’t be their kids. Statistically they’re right. It’s disproportionately poor and non-white kids who get killed by guns. But once you’ve read their stories I think it’s possible to understand that it’s not some different species. These kids aren’t so different from kids you might know; the parents aren’t so different from other parents you might know.

Did the cross-section of the deaths on the day you chose surprise you?
Not in so far as I knew it would be random. I thought there’d be more white kids and that there might have been a toddler. But if you pick a different day you would get different stories.

What, if anything, did they have in common?
They are all boys. And they are all working class. Not all poor, though a few are. But all working class.

You had to do a lot of research to establish stories that could have been told in local media. Why do you think that was?
Because so long as these deaths are restricted to certain areas and populations local media think that these are not big stories. It’s just the kind of thing that happens in certain parts of a city. In other words there are areas in America where kids are not supposed to get shot – cinemas, schools, malls – and areas where if they are shot it doesn’t challenge the way the country understands itself but confirms it.

Were victims’ family and friends generally content to tell their stories, and, if so, why?
Not all but most. I think they were glad that someone wanted to know about their son and tell their stories generously. I have two kids. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose one in such horrific circumstances and think that their passing went unnoticed by the wider community.

Why has there been so little progress on gun control?
The National Rifle Association, which lobbies for the gun industry, is very strong and determined and has a lot of money. The gun control movement, such as it is, has less money and has a less clear focus in what it is for and how it should engage. Gun rights people vote on gun issues. People who back gun control rarely make it their number one do-or-die priority. Those that would are in the kind of working class black and Latino communities that have great grassroots organisations but insufficient support from the national gun control movement.

Do you hold out hope for any progress under the next president?
Some, yes, if it’s Hillary. Since Newtown, Connecticut, Democrats have become more energised about gun control and understand that the people who are against it are probably never going to vote for them anyway. Hillary Clinton is much more vocal about it than Obama was during his campaigns. If Trump wins, then I hold precious little hope for precious little, including guns.

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Gary Younge

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