Every day, we awaken to the shocking news of another mass shooting in America. What amplifies the shock is the frequency with which children are murdered, either within or outside their schools. Sometimes, gun deaths happen in homes and communities.
Shootings in U.S. schools have reached unimaginable numbers. There have been 376 since 1999, killing 175 people and exposing 348,000 children to gun violence. The cycle continued with six murders, including three nine-year-old children, at the Covenant School, a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut suffered from 20 children and six adults murdered. In Nashville, Tennessee, among the murdered were three children and three adults in gun violence in a Christian School.
Children who witness these tragedies are traumatized. The traumatization adds to the damage caused by the shootings.
One parent states:
I feel paralyzing terror as a parent. But paralysis won’t solve this problem. My professional life is dedicated to numbers, and here’s one that every American should consider: 31,780.
Thirty-one thousand seven hundred eighty children who will never get to hug their mom again and never had time to grow up.
Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children in the United States.
Mass shootings can significantly affect children who directly experience and hear about the event through media or other sources. The effects can be both short-term and long-term and manifest in various ways.
Children directly affected by a mass shooting may experience various physical and emotional symptoms, including anxiety, fear, sadness, and anger. They may also have difficulty sleeping, have nightmares, and experience physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches.
Children who are not directly involved but hear about the event may also experience similar emotional and physical symptoms. They may become fearful, have difficulty concentrating in school, or become withdrawn.
Children who have experienced trauma may be at an increased risk of developing conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or anxiety. They may also be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, like substance abuse or self-harm. Besides these immediate effects, mass shootings can have long-term effects on children’s mental health.
Overall, the impact of mass shootings on children can be profound and long-lasting. Parents, teachers, and other caregivers must provide support and resources to help children cope with the aftermath of such events. Please seek professional help, encourage open communication, and provide a safe and supportive environment for children to express their feelings and concerns.
There are myths associated with gun violence. One of these myths is that the people who commit these murders are mentally ill. In reality, the mentally are more likely to be murdered than to commit a murder. Another myth is that these shootings take place only in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. It is a false belief that the perpetrators are strictly from minority people.
At one time, gun advocates were fighting against gun control. The opponents of gun control firmly believed it was the first step towards disarming the American people. Today, gun advocates believe it is their constitutional right to own their chosen guns. According to this thinking, everyone can own assault weapons such as AR-15s.
Mass shootings can have a profound and lasting impact on children, even if they are not directly involved in the incident. Depending on the child’s age and developmental stage, they may react differently to the event.
Younger children may need parents to help them understand what has happened. They may become frightened or confused and have trouble sleeping, eating, or behaving normally. However, they can still pick up on the emotions and reactions of the adults around them.
Older children and teenagers may have a better understanding of what has happened. They may become more cautious, and they may struggle with feelings of anger, sadness, or grief. Still, they may also feel a sense of vulnerability and helplessness.
Regardless of their age, children may also experience long-term psychological effects from exposure to mass shootings. They may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. These effects can persist into adulthood and affect their ability to function in daily life.
Parents, teachers, and other caregivers must provide emotional support and reassurance to children after a mass shooting. They should be encouraged to talk about their feelings and given age-appropriate information about the event. Professional help may also be necessary for children struggling to cope with the trauma.
The following is taken from SAMHSA, and that is Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
Signs of Child Traumatic Stress
The signs of traumatic stress are different in each child. Young children react differently than older children.
- Fearing separation from parents or caregivers
- Crying and screaming a lot
- Eating poorly and losing weight
- Having nightmares
Elementary School Children
- Becoming fearful
- Feeling guilt or shame
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Having difficulty sleeping
Middle and High School Children
- Feeling depressed or alone
- Developing eating disorders and self-harming behaviors
- Beginning to abuse alcohol or drugs
- Becoming sexually active
For some children, these reactions can interfere with daily life and their ability to function and interact with others.
Impact of Child Traumatic Stress
The impact of child traumatic stress can last well beyond childhood. Research shows that child trauma survivors are more likely to have:
- Learning problems, including lower grades and more suspensions and expulsions
- Increased use of health services, including mental health services
- Increased involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems
- Long-term health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease
Trauma is a risk factor for nearly all behavioral health and substance use disorders.
How do we solve the problem of gun violence in the United States? Do we ban all guns? Do we ban assault rifles?
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