(NEW YORK) — Since fall sports returned, there have been over 20 incidents involving guns at youth sporting events in recent weeks, according to tracking by gun control advocate Everytown for Gun Safety.
The incidents, which were tallied based on local media reports, include several violent shootings, some of which resulted in fatalities. Other cases involved parents and spectators brandishing or firing guns at soccer fields.
“These are places where kids should feel safe, empowered,” Shannon Watts, founder of Everytown subsidiary Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told ABC News. “This is just one more way that guns are penetrating our kids’ schools and activities and traumatizing them.”
Between Aug. 20 and Sept. 25, Everytown tracked 22 incidents involving guns at football games and soccer matches, from Little League to college, in 14 states. Some turned deadly, including a college football game in Durham, North Carolina, on Sept. 18, where police said two people were fatally shot.
Those injured by gunfire included a man tailgating in the parking lot at a high school football game in Jefferson County, Alabama, on Sept. 24, authorities said.
Not all the incidents had casualties, but invoked fear and panic nonetheless. At a U.S. Youth Soccer tournament in Salt Lake City on Sept. 11, an attendee brandished a rifle during an argument, police said. No arrests have been made, but the investigation is ongoing.
The same day, a parent reportedly fired a gun into the air during an argument at soccer fields in Oxford, Alabama, police said. “This type of behavior is inexcusable and will not be tolerated! Learn how to act!” the local police chief tweeted.
As these incidents mount, Moms Demand Action is calling on state lawmakers to ban firearms in places such as playgrounds and youth sporting events and restrict permitless carry regulations that have led to a “guns everywhere” culture, Watts said.
The organization is also urging sports associations to prohibit weapons at games.
“It’s something … coaches, parents, kids — no one should worry about,” Watts said. “And it really is incumbent on businesses to take action when lawmakers haven’t.”
On Wednesday morning, Watts sent a letter — which was shared with ABC News — to U.S. Youth Soccer, asking that the association “take action to address the troubling phenomenon of gun violence at youth sporting events” and revise its policies to “ensure they prohibit guns at games, speak out against the presence of guns at youth sporting events, and proactively encourage our lawmakers to adopt policies that keep guns away from the places our children play.”
When contacted Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for U.S. Youth Soccer told ABC News they had not yet received the letter and could not comment on it.
After the Salt Lake City incident, U.S. Youth Soccer released a memo to the tournament teams saying it was “saddened by the traumatic experience for all involved,” had expelled the team associated with those involved and was considering additional steps.
“We do not take these decisions lightly, but given the current climate, we must make it clear that such behavior is not tolerated,” the association said.
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