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Moms Demand Action volunteer advocating for gun safety after recent youth violence in Tulsa

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A photo of illegal guns recovered by Tulsa police. Taken by the Tulsa Police Department on May 10, 2022.

For years, motor-vehicle accidents have been the number one cause of death in U.S. children. But since 2020, firearms have become the leading cause.

Over the weekend an 18-year-old girl was shot and killed at Tulsa's Center of the Universe. Just two months before, a person was killed by "kids" who were engaged in a gun battle near a local movie theatre.

Kay Malan, a volunteer with the Oklahoma chapter of Moms Demand Action, said the rash of gun violence in the United States, especially in America's youth, is unprecedented.

Malan said she grew up in South Africa during the change of the new administration from the Apartheid Government to the presidency of Nelson Mandella.

"We did not experience gun violence like this," Malan said. "I mean people had guns, my parents, my family... They all had guns at one stage or another. However, we weren't exposed to these mass shootings."

Malan said over the years, the Oklahoma Legislature has systematically weakened existing gun laws and loosened gun restrictions.

"Dangerous gun laws, lack of public safety, and an irresponsible approach to gun ownership trickles down — and it's affecting our most vulnerable population," Malan explained.

In 2019, lawmakers passed a law allowing Oklahomans over the age of 21 to carry a gun without receiving training or having a permit.

"As a result, more people started carrying guns in their vehicles, and openly carrying them into sensitive places likes zoos and parks," Malan said.

2020 saw a surge in gun sales across the country during the pandemic — putting more firearms into circulation.

Malan said that, paired with the state's gun law restrictions, only makes it easier for these firearms to fall into the hands of teens and children — who shouldn't have them.

Before making her way to Public Radio Tulsa, KWGS News Director Cassidy Mudd worked as an assignment editor and digital producer at a local news station. Her work has appeared on ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates across the country.