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Turning Grief Into Power



According to Everytown Research, “More people die from gun violence by early February in the U.S. than during an entire calendar year in other high-income countries” (Everytown Research & Policy, n.d.). We recently marked a week of remembrance for those who have been impacted by the gun violence epidemic. January 22 through January 26 was National Gun Violence Survivors Week. One may argue that the mere fact that we have to have a week of remembrance on this topic is incomprehensible and unacceptable. How many days of remembrance and calls to action will be enough for this senseless and preventable epidemic to end?


The Epidemic

Star Ballroom Dance Studio, Virginia Tech, Emmanuel African American Methodist Episcopal Church, Tree of Life Synagogue, Columbine High School, SandyHook Elementary, El Paso Walmart, Pulse nightclub, Robb Elementary, Tops supermarket, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Century 16 Movie Theater, and Mandalay Bay Las Vegas. These names represent just some of the scenes where horrific acts of violence took place in the form of mass shootings.


The victims and survivors represent a broad spectrum of innocent people. Some attacks were motivated by hate based on ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation, while the overarching theme is undeniably evil in nature. This epidemic of violence spans decades and has only worsened in recent years with more mass shootings occurring than there were days in the year last year. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the US surpassed 500 mass shootings in 2023 (Gun Violence Archive, 2023).


Many advocates, survivors, and families of victims have argued that the proliferation of guns is the problem. They have argued that gun manufacturers and gun lobbyists have made it too easy for these types of massacres to occur due to both the access and the types of weapons available to maximize the level of carnage left behind. Whether we are discussing street crimes or mass shootings, guns in our society are a problem. Instead of recognizing that and taking proactive measures to curb the upward trend, many are lobbying to keep gun rights and uphold their constitutional right to bear arms.


Gun violence has become a public health emergency. It is an epidemic and public health emergency that has no limits on who can be impacted. As demonstrated in just some of the places where mass shootings have occurred, no one is immune to this epidemic. Whether you are out shopping, at a place of worship, a club, a concert, or attending school, this hideous epidemic has infiltrated our ability to feel safe. It has most recently impacted our ability to keep our most vulnerable members of society safe. According to the CDC, gun violence became the leading cause of death for children in 2021 and again in 2022 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022).


The Cure

There are many survivors of both direct victims and family or loved ones who lost someone to the epidemic. Many survivors have managed to turn their pain into purpose and use grassroots efforts to demand more from elected officials and gun manufacturers. Recently, there has been precedence set to even charge parents of perpetrators for being at fault by purchasing firearms used in shootings. This troubling trend further highlights that often young adults and minors are the ones implicated in these shootings.


Parent accountability is just as critical and necessary in efforts to cure this epidemic. Some advocates argue that it is the duty of a parent, caregiver, loved one, or adult in a person’s life to be able to identify behaviors that are harmful to both the individual and others. Far too often we hear stories of troubled perpetrators or those who suffer from mental illness that are involved in carrying out acts of violence. At times, people in the perpetrators' lives or concerned community members have tried to intervene to sound the alarm only for it to fall on deaf ears or be intercepted by inappropriate laws.


The truth is there is no easy cure to stopping the gun violence epidemic. It has become so pervasive in our society that we have lost focus of the common unifying element to the problem. The element being, the right to feel safe in our neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, places of worship, and all public and private spaces. This can be achieved if we do not become complacent and divisive among each other. While taking away certain types of firearms seems to stop any good-willed discussions, perhaps an exploration and deep dive study on how weapons of mass destruction keep ending up in the hands of those with ill intent or who are mentally ill.


There may not be any easy answers to this epidemic, however, survivors and their loved ones deserve more. They deserve leaders who are willing to sit down and do what we expect them to do, which is serve, protect, and lead. It is also necessary for community and national leaders to acknowledge the mental trauma and pain left behind for both survivors and their support systems. Failure to acknowledge this and future repercussions can leave catastrophic results.


Having increased lockdown drills or active shooter training without addressing the impacts of this on one’s mental health can be interpreted as being complacent and irresponsible in doing our due diligence to end the epidemic. What remains clear is that simply just putting a bandaid on a much broader problem ignores real-world fear or anxiety especially for those closely impacted by gun violence. It is imperative that we show up for our many community members across the country who continue to suffer from this tragic epidemic. As Civil Rights Activist Malcolm X stated, “A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”



Sources

Everytown Research & Policy. (n.d.). “Gun Violence in America.”

Gun Violence Archive. (2023). “General Mass Shooting Information.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2022). “Leading Causes of Death Reports.”


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