If you think you are hearing more about gun violence and school shootings, you are right. According to our assemblyman, Marc Levine, every day in the United States almost 300 people are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, suicide attempts and unintentional shootings, and almost 90 people die as a result of gun violence. A new study from Clemson University in South Carolina shows that more people have died or been injured in mass school shootings in the U.S. in the past 18 years than in the entire 20th century. This finding was published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.
The recent killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida is not an isolated occurrence, but part of a deadly epidemic that needs to be addressed. During the 20th century, mass school shootings killed 55 people and injured 260 others at schools, especially in the West. Most of the 25 shooters involved were white males who acted alone, and only nine were diagnosed as suffering from mental illnesses at the time. Sixty percent of shooters were between 11 and 18 years old.
Since the start of the 21st century, there have already been 13 incidents involving lone shooters; they have killed 66 people and injured 81 others. One alarming trend is that the overwhelming majority of 21st-century shooters were adolescents, suggesting it is now easier for them to access guns—and that they more frequently suffer from mental-health issues or have limited conflict resolution skills.
The authors of the Clemson University study explain that such violence can be mitigated through deliberate and sensible policy and legislative actions. These include expanded background checks of potential gun owners, and a ban on assault weapons. Mental-health issues among adolescent students and adults should also be addressed more thoroughly. School personnel should implement tiered models of support and school-based mental health services to support students’ social, emotional and behavioral well-being in order to prevent school violence.
Preventive efforts not only require policy and legislative action, but also increased and targeted funding across federal, state, local and private sectors, according to the authors.
Assemblyman Marc Levine, State Senator Mike McGuire, Congressman Jared Huffman and California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris are all actively in favor of gun control. You can call them to voice your support, and support students nationwide who are demonstrating for gun control by working to register voters.
Here are some national organizations to support with donations if you are able: The Brady Campaign (honoring Jim Brady, shot and left disabled after an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan), Americans for Responsible Solutions (honoring former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot and left disabled while giving a talk in Arizona in 2011), Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (a group of religious, labor and educational nonprofits with thoughtful stands on stopping gun violence), Everytown for Gun Safety (an organization started by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg to counter the strength of the N.R.A. and promote gun violence prevention nationwide). Please look them up and decide how to give your support. Any amount is helpful.
Sadja Greenwood is a Bolinas resident and retired physician formerly active at the University of California, San Francisco. Read more of her work at sadjascolumns.blogspot.com.