On Sept. 3, just a few days after Donald Maiden Jr.'s 8th birthday, he was playing tag outside his apartment building when a 46-year-old stranger walked up and shot him in the face. When police asked accused Brian Cloninger, who is white, why he shot Donald, who is black, he said, "Because I wanted to."
At the time of the shooting, Cloninger was serving a 15-month probationary sentence for a DWI. He had also been charged with drunk driving in Florida in 2002. Cloninger was not allowed to drink alcohol while on probation, but police found a beer can in his truck after the alleged shooting.
That Cloninger was able to procure a gun despite his criminal history is shocking enough but, unbelievably, the story gets worse. Police refused to charge Cloninger with attempted murder, despite Donald's family's plea that they do so. And then, last week, the judge overseeing the case inexplicably reduced Cloninger's bail from $2.2 million to $1 million.
As a mother and an American, this horrific crime and subsequent acts of injustice make me weep -- for Donald's mother and family, for other American children who are senselessly victimized by gun violence, and for my country, which has lost its moral compass when it comes to guns.
How is it possible that such a crime could occur in America in 2013? What kind of a nation enables and allows such heinous acts against children? And why are so few media covering Donald's shocking story?
Despite our status as one of the most developed nations in the world, gun violence against children has become an everyday occurrence in our country. One American child or teen is shot and killed every 3 hours and 15 minutes. Twice as many children die from gun violence than from cancer. American children and teens are 17 times more likely to die from guns than their peers in other developed countries, and gun violence is the leading cause of death for African American children, according to the Children's Defense Fund.
Yet our legislators, who are elected to protect their most vulnerable constituents, sit idly by, kowtowing to a vengeful gun lobby. A man who is accused of and has admitted to a crime unparalleled in depravity is being given leniency from the court. And the media, seemingly numb and indifferent to endless reports of gun violence, ignore a story that every American should hear.
Our grassroots movement, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, is doing what it can to bring awareness to Donald's story. We have started a petition demanding the Dallas County District Attorney's office review and revoke Cloninger's bail, and publicly demonstrate their commitment to upholding justice in Donald's case. Members of our Texas chapter will deliver the petition to the District Attorney's office when it reaches 5,000 signatures.
Donald is expected to be out of the hospital by Halloween. In the past month, he has endured several surgeries to repair the damage to his face, and has many more ahead. He will likely never again have feeling in his jaw. Recently his grandmother said, "He don't want the kids to look at his face... He says, 'I look like a monster, granny.' I'm like, 'No, you don't.'"
Donald is not a monster; it's the man who shot him who deserves that label. Dangerous people like Cloninger not only deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but they should not have access to firearms in the first place. Until we fix these failings in our culture, our nation's children will continue to pay the highest price.
(The Maiden family has set up a fund to raise money for Donald's recovery.)