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03/19/2013

Another day another tragic killing in America. But this one is different

Gordley HomeCaleb Gordley's family is comforted by friends at their home in Loudoun County Va. on March 19. (AP Photo)

 

Every death by gunfire is tragic – no matter what the circumstances.

But some pull even more tightly at the heartstrings because of their absolute senselessness.

Of course there are many, many of these every day in America.

Even still, the death of 16-year-old Caleb Gordley, a well-loved high school student from Virginia, stands out.

Tragically.

Although grounded by his parents Saturday night for failing to clean his room, Caleb decided to sneak out to a party anyway.

To return on early Sunday, he had to sneak back in.

But he had been drinking – and got the wrong house.

He was shot to death by a neighbour at 2:30 a.m.

The houses in the subdivision in suburban Loudoun County are strikingly similar and difficult to distinguish from behind. Caleb’s friends had driven him home and helped him over a back fence. Then, he climbed through an unlocked window and proceeded up the carpeted staircase that led – he thought – to his bedroom.

But his entry had triggered a burglar alarm and, as he mounted the darkened staircase, he met his neighbour, who had grabbed a gun and was making his way down.

“Caleb and his friend hopped the fence into the wrong backyard,” his father Shawn explained later on Twitter. His son, he said, had “staggered up the staircase which is identical to mine.”

Caleb was declared dead at the scene.

No charges have yet been laid, and reports suggest that none will. The metro pages of the Washington Post report that the law in Virginia appears to give “wide latitude” to people who fear for their safety.

Caleb was known as a ‘life of the party’ kid who loved to rap – he called himself “Prince George” – and play varsity basketball, football and baseball.

“Everyone loved being around Caleb and felt better when around him,” his coaches Jermaine Walker and Mike Koscinski said in tribute.

But Caleb wasn’t the only one to be shot in gun-rich America over the weekend.

In Calumet, Ill. 15-year-old Ashaya Miller died while visiting at a friend’s when gunfire burst through the kitchen window.

In Chicago, a 3-year-old boy is struggling for his life after he was shot in the stomach at a relative’s home in circumstances police have yet to explain.

And in Oklahoma, a gun enthusiast shot himself to death at the H & H Gun Range in Oklahoma.City.

According to Slate’s gun-death tracker, more people have died in America since the Dec. 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, than died in the 9/11 attacks.

Some 2,793 Americans have died as a result of gun violence since Sandy Hook, while 2,752 perished in the 9/11 attacks.

One key difference though, as the New York Times and others have pointed out: the deaths at 9/11 were executed by forces hostile to America. The gun deaths that occur every single day are almost all Americans killing Americans.

Bill Schiller has held bureau postings for the Toronto Star in Johannesburg, Berlin, London and Beijing. He is a NNA and Amnesty International Award winner, and a Harvard Nieman Fellow from the class of '06. Follow him on Twitter @wschiller

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