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Fatal Shooting of Topeka West Student a Tragic Reminder That Gun Violence Continues Amid the Pandemic

On Tuesday, a Topeka West high school senior, Joheem Meredith, was shot in the parking lot of White Lakes Plaza Apartments. According to police, Meredith was taken to a hospital and later died from his injuries. Meredith’s death marks the ninth homicide in Topeka this year. 

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the lives of Americans around the country, daily gun violence has continued  — and Kansas is no exception. Due to historical systemic inequities, both public health crises disproportionately affect Black communities.

“Gun violence has not stopped during the coronavirus pandemic,” said LaTonya Boyd, a volunteer with the Kansas chapter of Moms Demand Action and member of the Everytown Survivor Network whose daughter, Tyesha, was shot and killed by her ex-partner in 2009. “Joheem’s family should be celebrating his high school graduation — not mourning his death.” 

“Even during a preoccupation with COVID-19, gun violence is still a prominent issue,” said Luciana De Anda, a volunteer with the Olathe East High Students Demand Action. “Joheem Meredith should’ve been thinking only how to protect himself against a virus, not a gun.”

According to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the number of background checks conducted in Kansas during April 2020 was nearly 60 percent higher than in April 2019. An Everytown analysis of the NICS numbers also estimates that gun sales rose 87 percent during the same time period. 

Here’s more on gun violence in Kansas:

  • On average, over 375 people die by gun violence every year in the state
  • In Kansas, gun deaths have increased 36 percent in the last decade, compared to an 18 percent increase nationwide. Gun homicide has increased 31 percent, compared to a 19 percent increase nationwide, in the same time period. 
  • Black people are 9 times as likely as white people to die by gun homicide in the state. Of all homicides in Kansas, 75 percent involve a gun.

Statistics about gun violence in Kansas are available here, and information on how Kansas’s gun laws compare to other states’ overall is available here