By Dr. Mundeep K. Kainth
I write to you today not as a doctor or as a researcher. I write to you as a mother. My two boys attend daycare in a school that is housed 5 minute drive away from my home. My eldest’s future kindergarten class in a building that is a 5 minute walk away from my home. But in both of these cases, I feel that every day, I endanger my children every minute they are out of my sight. Why? Because we have a rampant problem in our country today: gun violence.
Gun violence takes many forms. It can occur in your community, in your home, in your workplace. Most frightening is when gun violence enters a school. Traditionally, one thinks of a tranquil schoolhouse sitting on a stretch of land with no metal detectors, no security guards, and no ‘shooter’ evacuation drills. But our children live in a different era, where there are teenagers who are taking to the streets after a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. These young individuals are using their voices to call our legislators and leaders to action. The requests appear to be simple. Stricter gun laws. More background checks. Make it harder to obtain a weapon. Restrict access to assault rifles. However, these requests are met with chagrin from large lobby groups and investors in the production and use of firearms. These practical measures are thought to be a violation of basic inalienable rights of our country’s constitution. It is clear that this is no longer about the victims of gun violence. It is about who is best at making a point and winning a decades-old debate.
But why is my community any different from the others that have faced gun violence? Why is your school down the road any different? There are 45 reported instances of guns fired on school grounds in 2018 alone. The rapid rise of gun violence in schools over the last 5 years is eerily focused on towns and cities that are usually already known for violence. The number of children killed in one year by gun related injuries can fill 134 classrooms. But the schools that land on the front page of the newspaper are the ones from communities like Newtown, CT. Young children. Massive shootings with multiple casualties. The massive media coverage overcrowds the heart of the issue – why is this happening and how do we stop it?
Maybe we can teach our fellow parents how to keep their firearms locked and stored separately from their ammunition, as well as hiding the keys. 33% of households contain a gun, approximately HALF of them do not lock them in a safe place. Our fellow parents may seek out advice about how to handle a situation where a gun has been picked up by a child in a home. Approximately 7.4 people per day are killed unintentionally by a gun. As a concerned mother, I would suggest that within those households where this is the norm, a respect for the power and danger a weapon holds should be emphasized over and over again.
Perhaps the answer lies in the children themselves. Perhaps we ask too much of adults to provide laws and rules to follow. Perhaps what we really need to be doing is listening to our children. Providing mental health assistance to those facing depression and anxiety is as important as counseling those who have witnessed or experience gun violence. Finding out what their daily lives really feel like to them. Seek out and meet the people who spend 8 hours of their day with them, 5 days a week. Perhaps the answer to is create a community again. The atmosphere of a neighborhood. The freedom to walk down a block with no fear of gunshots or violence.