On guns, violence, and the irreversible: 13-year-old accidentally kills himself on Instagram Live


Sammie Seamon, Our Voices Editor

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

On April 10th, 13-year-old Malachi Hemphill accidentally shot and killed himself in his room on Instagram Live, a live video feature on the popular social media app Instagram. He had received the gun from a friend at Babbs Middle School, where he attended near Atlanta, Georgia.


On Instagram Live, a viewer allegedly advised him to put a clip in the gun. Upon attempting to do so, the gun went off. His mother, Shaniqua Stephens, and her 12-year-old daughter rushed upstairs and kicked in the door. They discovered him immediately and also saw that his phone was still open to Instagram Live. Hemphill’s sister screamed to turn the video off. Several children who attended his school were watching the accident in real-time on their phones, and ran to his house after the incident.


He was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta where he died hours later.


Nearly 200 people attended the candlelight vigil held in Malachi’s memory three days after his death. Counselors have been brought to Babbs Middle School, where peers grieve and make farewell cards for Malachi.


Nine kids are shot or shoot themselves accidentally every single day in their own homes across the globe. Often, this is because they either were playing with a gun kept in the house or with one, as in Malachi’s case, brought from school. There are currently 300 million guns in all kept in average households across America, and many of these accidents could be prevented with smart-gun block technologies and increased attention from the parent or guardian.


However, these domestic preventative measures unfortunately could not be applied to Malachi’s case. The ease with which he was able to obtain the gun in the first place reflects on the current gun issues that our country faces today.


It is still easier today to buy a gun than it is to board a plane. As a student in a world riddled with shootings in schools, theaters, churches and malls, I want to be able to feel secure in the knowledge that adequate gun control legislation is passed to keep my community and I safe. But this is still not always the case, as too often Congressmen put the interests of corporate gun lobbyist and the National Rifle Association (NRA) in front of public security for the sake of appeasing 2nd Amendment advocates and keeping economic ties.


Common ground can be found between pro-gun and anti-gun crowds, as we all want to make an effort to keep guns out of dangerous hands. Although the two groups want different things in terms of laws passed, mostly everyone respects the necessity of preventing people like violent criminals, alcohol/drug addicts, and the severely mentally ill from being able to purchase and use a gun. In 20 years alone, Brady background checks that scan for these things have blocked 2.4 million gun sales to potentially dangerous buyers.


Shootings in schools should be far less in number than they are. Since 2013, there have been over 220 school shootings across America. Just five years ago, Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary school and shot and killed 20 first graders and kindergartners and 6 adult staff. The Hemphill family’s tragedy is directly linked to the presence of guns in schools. Policies in learning environments, including the recent campus-carry laws passed for Texas universities, as well as others across the United States, should be refocused to make sure that all students and staff feel comfortable in their classrooms without the fear that the chances of a school shooting are elevated due to the greater presence of weapons.


Along with this, students should be educated on how to identify signs of someone planning a school shooting and be able to report suspicious activity seen in person and on social media. Organizations like the Sandy Hook Promise Organization and the Gun Violence Archive are working to educate teachers, parents, and students on how shocking the statistics of gun violence in schools are, and how to best prevent them.  


Guns do hold a tradition of sport and community that goes back to the foundation of our country, and 64% of American citizens believe that a gun can be used properly for self-defense. And because of these things, many people support the commonplace buying and selling of guns and rifles in stores and online. However, we as a country must draw significant restrictions to being able to purchase and use a gun. Although we have improved background checks, a person can walk into a store empty handed and walk out with a fully capable weapon; there are bound to be loopholes and mistakes leading to irreversible damage.


Let’s try to reduce the 55 U.S. school shootings a year, the yearly 900 teen and child suicides across the globe, the countless number of families affected by those injured or killed by irresponsible gun use. We as the public, even through all of the recent political adversity, still have a chance to advocate for greater gun control legislation so that less tragedies like Malachi’s blare in the evening news.

Check out the links below for more statistics and interactive infographics on shootings in America:




PSA on preventing school shootings (from Sandy Hook Promise Organization)