A post about gun violence
I'm so sad. Here's some data.
Please skip this post if you’re already doomscrolling too much or just don't want to deal with any of this right now. Go take a walk, watch something funny and trivial, call a friend, spend time with family… whatever you need to take care of yourself.
“There are no words,” he said, pausing, “except the same words as the time before that and the time before that and the time before that.” - Alex Wind, Parkland survivor, interviewed in the Washington Post after the Uvalde school shooting
In elementary school a classmate of mine died after he found a loaded gun in his home and accidentally shot himself. I was in sixth grade when Columbine happened; when I came home from school, I found my mother watching the news and crying. I was in graduate school when Sandy Hook happened. I had nightmares for days. Just last month, a student of mine was living with a friend because she didn’t feel safe to go home: her neighbor had been cleaning a gun he didn’t know was loaded and shot a bullet into her kitchen (luckily, no one was home). The list goes on and on and on. Now, I'll remember Uvalde as the first school shooting I experienced as a parent.
I'm not okay. None of this is okay.
I have a habit of making lists and sifting through data as a means of trying to deal with things that are out of my control. This is what this is.
Addressing gun violence is a mental health issue, but not in the way the media would have you believe
On the whole, people with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are not violent. People with serious mental illness are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violence than others. They are also at risk of police violence: One in four deaths caused by police involve someone with serious mental illness (see the 2015 Treatment Advocacy Center report and the 2020 Washington Post police shooting database). Such social stigma around mental illness can lead to other types of harm: When people perceive those with mental health concerns as violent, they are more likely to support coercive policies such as forcing people into psychiatric treatment against their will (e.g., Pescosolido et al., 2019, Health Affairs).
Anecdotally, in my 10+ years working clinically with people with serious mental illness, many are afraid to go out in public after an incidence of mass violence for fear that they will be falsely blamed and victimized. Others feel so much shame and guilt about their diagnosis, associating it with these horrible acts. They are scapegoats, used by some to avoid talking about how mass violence is more a white male problem and a gun problem than a mental health problem.
People with mental health concerns should not have easy access to firearms not for fear of harming others, but for fear of harming themselves. Firearms continue to be the most common method of suicide for men across all age groups (according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center). Reducing overall gun availability appears to be an effective suicide prevention strategy, particularly for men (e.g., Andrés & Hempstead, 2011, Health Policy).
Addressing gun violence is a perinatal health issue
Wallace and colleagues (2021) in Obstetrics & Gynecology (Nature News summary here) conducted the first comprehensive study in the United States on homicide against pregnant people and those in the immediate postpartum period. From 2018-2019, homicide was the leading cause of death for these women, with the majority of homicides involving a firearm. Pregnant women are twice as likely to die from homicide than bleeding or placental disorders, with the majority of homicides taking place in the home (suggesting intimate partner violence). Pregnant (or recently-pregnant) Black women were three times more likely to die by homicide compared to nonpregnant women.
This is in line with research conducted in 2019 by the California Law Review showing that perpetrators of mass violence (mostly men) frequently have a history of domestic violence (with mostly women as victims). Women and children are more likely to be victims of mass violence, and women are twice as likely to die in a school shooting in the US, than men.
Addressing gun violence is a parenting issue
The New England Journal of Medicine recently reported that, as of 2020, firearm-related injuries are now the leading cause of death for children 1-19 years of age.
There are no words. Except all the words that have been said before. Except all the words we should keep saying, until someone will listen.
Moms Demand Action is a grassroots movement fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence
Everytown is a gun violence prevention organization. Among other things, you can use their website look up how your state ranks on gun safety policies
Project ChildSafe distributes free gun safety kits, including a cable-style gun lock and safety instructions
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has resources for parents on discussing school shootings with their children
Health psychologist Jide Bamishigbin, Ph.D., has a useful Twitter thread including multiple resources for how to talk to children about violence/mass shootings