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Gun Violence at Sporting Events is Leaving Kids and Parents Traumatized, Adding to the List of Places No Longer Safe

September 20, 2021

Kids across the country are returning to school and fall sports are kicking into gear, but so too are incidents of gun violence at sporting events. Just last weekend, a spectator brandished a gun at a soccer tournament in Utah, a parent fired his gun during a soccer game in Alabama, and there were violent incidents involving guns at at least three football games in ColoradoFlorida and New Jersey, bringing the total number of violent incidents involving a gun at U.S. youth sporting events in just the last month to at least thirteen. 

To protect kids and make sporting events safer for everyone, state lawmakers should prohibit firearms in places where children congregate, such as youth sporting events and playgrounds. They can also improve public safety by closing the loophole that allows the open carry of firearms and require permits and safety training to obtain a concealed carry license. Additionally, sports associations can prohibit weapons from games and speak out against armed intimidation and the lax gun laws that have created a “guns everywhere” culture.

In Utah, a spectator at a kids’ Salt Lake City soccer tournament brandished a gun, following an altercation, sending kids and parents running for cover. According to reports, “No shots were fired, but witnesses said the fear and panic was still very real.” While the parent has been identified, no arrests have been made. Utah does not prohibit firearms at youth events in public spaces and has no laws prohibiting the open carry of firearms and earlier this year, the Utah state legislature passed a permitless carry bill gutting the state’s permitting and training requirements for carrying a concealed firearm.

In Alabama, a parent was placed in police custody Saturday evening after firing his gun during an argument at the soccer fields inside Choccolocco Park. Alabama has the second highest rate of gun deaths in the country and some of the weakest gun laws, including allowing the open carry of firearms, a Stand Your Ground law, and no law prohibiting guns in public spaces where children congregate.

Additional violent incidents involving a gun at youth sporting events from the last month:

  • A football game at Berkley High School in California was shut down after a man and a 14-year-old were arrested in connection to reports of a gun when a large fight broke out on September 12.
  • On Saturday, September 11, a fight between two parents ended with gunshots while their children were playing a youth football game on the field in Fort Myers, Florida
  • In Arvada, Colorado, shots were fired by someone seen leaning out the window of a car with a gun during a high school football game at an athletic complex on September 10. 
  • The stands were cleared at a New Jersey high school football game on September 10 when a fight broke out during halftime and someone was found with a gun.
  • In Euclid, Ohio on September 4, a gun was discharged in the parking lot after a fight broke out near the concession stand and police used pepper spray to disperse the group.
  • A football game in North Carolina ended early on September 3 after gunshots were heard during the game.
  • On Friday, August 27, there were at least three incidents, including: 
    • A 7-year-old girl was killed, and two other juveniles were wounded, by gunfire that erupted during a high school football game in Philadelphia. 
    • A 15-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl were shot in a high school parking lot after a football game in Woodbridge, Virginia. 
    • In Kentucky, one person was shot in the parking lot of a high school following an altercation toward the end of a football game. 
  • A fight broke out between coaches and shots were fired at an elementary school youth football game in Toledo, Ohio on August 26. 
  • On August 21, six shots were fired about five minutes after a football game between rival schools ended in Northwest Fresno.

To speak to Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, a local volunteer with Moms Demand Action, a volunteer with Students Demand Action, or a policy expert, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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