Every year, it’s inexplicably moving: the annual parade of kids back to school. Not the hype to sell notebooks and pencils, but the pedestrians, bikes, buses and cars arriving: a wide range of ages, ethnicities, sizes and backgrounds, all converging on schools. This year, it’s especially meaningful, since for many it’s the first full-time, in-person return since the lockdown began, approximately a year and a half ago.
It’s also a poignant time, because delivering children and teens to school doesn’t seem much safer than it did on April 21, 1999, the day of the Columbine shooting. In what kind of country are kids afraid to go to school? “You go to a movie theater in Aurora and all of a sudden your life is taken,” Columbine High School principal Frank DeAngelis said. “You’re at a shopping mall in Portland, Oregon, and your life is taken. It has to stop, these senseless deaths.”
Nearly 40,000 Americans die from gunshot wounds each year. Two million acts of violence occur in schools per year. The rate of suicide is skyrocketing. “’Since…1968, there have been more civilians killed by guns in the United States than soldiers have been killed on the battlefield in all the wars in American history,’ said David Hemenway, Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center, adding that this is a uniquely American problem among high-income countries.
It is urgent that the U.S. follow the lead of Canada, Australia, Japan, the UK, France and every other civilized nation, to abolish or severely restrict firearms. Other countries’ death rates by guns are miniscule compared to ours. U.S. residents aren’t inherently more violent; they simply have an unrestricted access to deadly weapons that astonishes residents of other countries. The tired platitudes that typically follow mass shootings must sputter out and be replaced by concrete legislation, grass roots efforts, and grounds for hope. This week and next, we’ll look at some evidence for those.
Grass Roots Groups
Moms Demand Action
When you fear your family might not be safe, doing nothing is not an option. “Women don’t do hopeless” is the mantra of Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, with its related group Students Demand Action. Website: https://momsdemandaction.org/
Pointing out that the gun violence crisis has gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re asking the Senate to take bipartisan action on background checks. They’ve also targeted “ghost guns” which “may be the scariest and fastest growing gun safety threat in the country, allowing anyone to make an untraceable weapon in less than an hour.” They’ve asked the public to voice their opposition to this proliferation via docket #ATF 2021R-05 through www.regulations.gov.
SAFE—Scrubs Addressing the Firearms Epidemic
On Sept. 16, 2019, healthcare providers across the country called for action to end the public health crisis of rampant firearms. Taking time from busy schedules, they proclaimed, “this is our lane.” They were responding to a 2018 NRA tweet, “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.” As one response from forensic pathologist Judy Melinek said colorfully: “Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn’t just my lane. It’s my f****** highway.”
Founded at the Stanford Medical School in 2018, SAFE has since spread to 50 medical schools. Their lobbying in DC led to the first research funding in 20 years, $25 million to CDC and NIH researchers providing scientific data on gun violence.
Even a glance at their website, (https://www.standsafe.org/) is hope-filled: healthcare providers and medical students of all ages and ethnicities wear white coats or blue scrubs with the prominent SAFE logo. SAFE has named the gun situation in the US “a medical threat of epidemic proportions.” On a personal note, a pediatrician and parent adds: “If one of my own children gets shot, I will have to live with the fact that I could have done more about the gun violence problem in this country, but didn’t.”
To be continued next week…
Recording of RCIA Adapted for Children – August 4, 2 021 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb1_IURrIh0