In the wake of the beyond devastating events of last Friday (http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/us/connecticut-school-shooting/index.html), wherein a young man entered an elementary school heavily armed and proceeded to kill 6 adults and 20 children, I am forced to mourn again the case of firearms ending up in the wrong hands. In my work, I encounter story after story where children acquire guns, sometimes with fatal consequences. I remember talking to one young man and asking him where he got the gun he used in his crime, his response was,”Where do you get a gun? You just get a gun.” While vague, his statement reflects the ease with which a person, even a child, can access a deadly weapon. In Connecticut, the gunman, a 20-year-old man, used three of his mother’s guns in the massacre.
This is all leaves me wondering, what can we do? And how do we encourage passing gun legislation? In an article on the New Yorker from the day after the shooting in Connecticut, Patrick Keene writes, “In the 2012 election cycle, N.R.A. spending on lobbying outranked spending by gun control groups by a factor of ten to one. What that means in practice is that in the aftermath of contemporary gun tragedies, we don’t see new gun legislation. What we do see is a spike in gun sales.” (Read the entire article here: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/12/making-gun-control-happen.html#ixzz2FF7O4lQ3) In the same article, Keene writes that there are several legislative changes we can and must pass: mandatory criminal background checks for all gun purchases and ban high-capacity magazines.
We must also remember the importance of adequate mental health resources. Many of the gun men involved in the mass murders in the U.S of the last few years are young men in their twenties with mental health issues. As I do in my work with incarcerated juveniles, we must ask, how are we treating our most vulnerable populations? Are we providing adequate and accessible mental health resources for those who need it most? We must work harder for all who become involved in gun violence in any way. I am reminded of the “Wall of Shame” at the Miami-Dade Regional Youth Detention Center:
The “Wall of Shame” is a wall where mug shots hang of kids that been killed by guns on the streets. The wall reminds staff of their failures, and helps them remember the criticality of their mission help these kids. The Wall reminds us what guns have done for us… nothing.
Right now, while we grieve and mourn for the victims and their families in Connecticut, is the best time to get in touch with your elected officials. Now, while we feel the outrage and passion that needs to be heard in government. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence can help you find an elected official in your area here: http://www.csgv.org/get-involved/elected-officials-search. As the Coalition wrote in a press release on Friday, “Thoughts and prayers are not enough.”