In June we honored Gun Violence Awareness month. Just one month later we know that many lives are still being lost to this public health crisis and proliferation of guns in our society. People from all races, color, religion, and economic backgrounds are being impacted daily. What started as an inner city problem which many felt was left to fester in communities often forgotten about such as in Chicago, Detroit, Mississippi, Baltimore, or Arkansas to name a few, has now impacted almost every facet of modern society.
The true impact, however, has never been more relevant than now after the COVID-19 pandemic. The ease at which people pick up guns and take the lives of others has grown increasingly alarming. The impacts of this trauma on those directly and indirectly affected has often gone ignored. Two recent stories sparked an interest in examining this issue. The astounding thing about this is the lack of discussion of the implications both stories will have on those left behind.
There was a recent case of a mother and her 14 year old son being charged murder for an act that some weighed in on as being self defense. Video showed a man mercilessly punching a woman. After the altercation, the son shot and killed the man. There were allegations being made that the mother instructed the son to do the shooting, however, video surfaced that supports the parent and child’s initial claims of self defense. Hence, the charges were dropped. Social media remarks on this case are what make this potentially disturbing. The mother’s gun was licensed and the fact that a 14 year old child had to take another life to save his mother is not something to necessarily celebrate.
The fact that a man would assault a woman with witnesses around and in front of her child is also disturbing. The repercussions of what this young man had to do is not something to celebrate. He was eventually exonerated by law, however, the impact and trauma left behind will not magically disappear. This child witnessed his mother being brutalized and in turn took another person’s life. Regardless of it being self defense, this is not something you just get over. This is a tragedy that can potentially stay with him for life.
The comments on social media were disturbing because the trauma was ignored. The celebratory attitude instead took over and most applauded the fact that another person was killed. Something is truly wrong when children now have to defend their parents out of fear. It is time that society does its job of determining what is causing this level of violence and how to treat it. Instead, it is easier for community and society leaders to blame multiple entities, throw money around, and yet fail to deliver results. Decades of discussions involving mental health have yielded nothing substantial in a long term solution. Similarly, abuse whether by a stranger or someone familiar is often a crime ignored as well leaving people to take matters in their own hands.
In an entirely different situation, a young mother was shot and killed with her children next to her by a white neighbor. The neighbor shot her threw her door and also claimed self defense. She was recently acquitted of the most serious charge of murder. Two very different situations but both with similar repercussions for the children. In this situation, a woman allegedly had a history of conflict with the neighbor and her children. Many believe this may have been a targeted racial attack. The common thread here is a person not a member of law enforcement shooting someone else in alleged self defense. The other similarity is a child impacted by the aftermath and the trauma that will be part of his life moving forward. In this instance, the child may wonder if they were the cause of what they could have done to save their mother.
All of society bears the burden of finding a common sense solution to this issue. The fact that our society has a crisis that shows no signs of getting better is a cause of concern for all. There is no one size approach, however, there are plenty of organizations that are trying to do more to make changes. In the heat of the debate on the role firearms play in our society, we cannot leave out a discussion on trauma and those impacts. Whether the trauma is from a direct incident or indirect, it must be addressed and acknowledged in order to fully heal. A person dying even for what may seem justifiable is still an act the person who takes the life has to process.
As a society, we cannot become unsympathetic to victims of gun violence. We cannot afford to ignore the impact this has on our children. As a society we should protect our most vulnerable members and to date we are failing miserably at doing so. There is a chance to change the trajectory. Instead of celebrating just the victory of a young man being acquitted of criminal charges for protecting his mother, we should also be making sure that the child has full access to support such as grief and trauma counseling. The same holds true for the family that watched their mother shot. The nightmare does not end when the criminal is locked away or killed. For our most vulnerable, that is when the nightmare begins. The next time someone feels the need to comment on any platform, be mindful of doing a mental wellness check and offering words of encouragement.