United States Of America map on white background; tiered 3d render of empty USA territory. Via iStockPhoto.
News + Advocacy

Conversations About Gun Safety in America

Less than two weeks ago, the deadliest school shooting in over a decade occurred at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas; bringing the ongoing, deeply partisan gun control debate in America to the forefront of the world’s attention in heartbreaking detail. 

Since I moved to the U.S. a little under nine years ago, there have been over 250 instances of gun violence at schools, colleges and universities; most of which didn’t make the news. The ones given widespread coverage are like Uvalde, Texas, where nineteen students aged 8 to 11-years old and two teachers were gunned down in their classrooms; an eerie reminder of Sandy Hook in 2012 which should have been the “never again” watershed moment for gun reform.

As expected, shock and pain reverberated across the country when news broke that the nation’s children were yet again murdered in their place of learning; this time in a small Southwest Texas town. Schools are meant to be a place where education meets exploration; it’s where joy, friendships and future success are fueled by ham sandwiches, peach slices and recess games; all wrapped up in a sense of community and safety.

Foreground Text: Conversations About Gun Safety in America (a post on Transatlantic Notes). Background Image: A white, tiered 3d map of the United States via iStockPhoto.

The frequency with which mass shootings and gun violence occurs in this country (and not just in schools) places the U.S. as a global outlier. Compared to peer countries (those with developed economies and populations over 10 million), America maintains the highest rate of firearm homicides. Despite leading in this kind of horror, the problem of gun violence is unlikely to be addressed at a federal level in any meaningful way.

Several misleading talking points are frequently used to stifle or distract discussions around enacting common sense gun control laws. While defending the right to gun ownership is perfectly reasonable because nobody is actually advocating for the second amendment to disappear; not resolving anything in the light of such devastation disconnects this nation from its humanity. America isn’t the superpower it thinks it is if it’s unwilling to prevent its children from dying in this way; firearms are currently the leading cause of death for U.S. children and teenagers with a staggering 65% of those gun deaths being homicide-related (the rest are suicide; which also urgently needs to be addressed).   

The data doesn’t back up the belief, for example, that easier access to guns make people safer. There is a direct correlation between higher rates of gun-related homicides, suicides and accidental killings in states where gun laws are weaker.

The much touted “good guy with a gun” isn’t the self-defense answer to gun violence that the National Rifle Association (NRA) would like people to believe. Despite it clearly being an effective slogan that’s seamlessly integrated into the lexicon of anti-gun reform talking points, armed civilians very rarely effectively intervene during mass shootings. Studies have even shown that armed victims of an assault/crime can be up to four times more likely to be shot during an interaction with a perpetrator. Everyone who buys or owns a gun is a “good guy” until they decide to weaponize their hatred or anger. Human behaviour is flawed; gun safety laws shouldn’t be.

A 2018 March For Our Lives protest sign that reads, Kids Are The Future Not Guns. Photo by Natalie Chaney via Unsplash.
via Natalie Chaney

Additionally, placing the blame for mass shootings on access to illegal firearms is evasive and unsupported up by facts. Meticulous and consistent data collected over the past few decades clearly reveal that the vast majority of guns used in this type of violence were lawfully obtained

Arguing that “guns don’t kill; people do”, does nothing to advance firearm safety laws (a convenient loop of causation to distract people into). Any tool that requires human manipulation to make it work is inherently unable to complete its intended function — that’s not up for debate. A pencil will not write until the thoughts and actions of its user take it from inanimate object to useful device. The primary function of a gun is to injure, maim or kill; those who choose to operate them to threaten, attack or murder other people are committing a horrifying crime; improved barriers that could potentially reduce the occurrences of this are quite literally life-saving.

Asserting that proposed gun control policies won’t prevent firearm-related violence in America utilizes the enormity of the issue to sustain indifference. Advocates are fully cognizant of the fact that those deliberately looking to cause terror and harm with a gun will find a way; what common sense reform aims to do is make it as hard as possible for this to happen. Potentially hindering gun violence, including mass shootings is not the pointless undertaking that some in society wish you’d accept. It’s time for thoughts and prayers to join forces with progress and action.

A woman at a 2018 March For Our Lives protest holds a sign that reads, Book Bags Not Body Bags. Photo by Heather Mount via Unsplash.
The ongoing issue of school shootings; a protester at the 2018 March For Our Lives — via Heather Mount

The general consensus among Americans is that some form of gun reform is needed. An overall majority, for example, approve of things like universal background checks; permits for concealed carry; red-flag laws and banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. The problem with this data — although accurate — is that politics, laws and policies on this issue comes down to state-by-state control. Republican-led constituencies overwhelmingly oppose gun control laws, so their representatives in Congress frequently vote them down. In the 50/50 split Senate, the Democrats would need at least 10 Republican senators voting with them to meet the 60 votes necessary to break the filibuster. A feat made even more unlikely by the NRA’s financial contributions to (mostly Republican) House and Senate members that effectively incentivizes them to protect gun lobby interests. 

Update June 8th 2022: A recent poll of Republican voters found that 44% of them believe that the U.S. should just get used to living with mass shootings.  

While it may seem futile; advocating for common-sense gun safety laws remains a pressing issue. Here are a number of organizations and initiatives to follow/support that will help you remain motivated, well-informed and working towards change:

Do you have strong gun safety laws where you live? What are your thoughts about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas?


Further Info:

Remembering the Victims of the Uvalde, Texas School Shooting – PBS

NAMI Helpline – a free, nationwide U.S. resource that offers experienced peer-support guidance and advice

CheckPoint – global (by country) resources for mental health and trauma support

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40 thoughts on “Conversations About Gun Safety in America”

  1. I’m from the UK and have always lived here, so it’s constantly shocking to me to hear about all the shootings in the US and I can’t quite wrap my head around gun laws. I’m not sure what the answer is but I do hope something is put in place soon.

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    1. In the UK when something like this happened at Dunblane there was swift action; unfortunately here in the U.S. there has been decades of inaction so the answer has been allowed to become buried in politics, power and money. Something has to shift soon — I hope. Thanks for reading.

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  2. What a timely post! I can not imagine losing a child or loved one to an event. There have also been over 200 instances of mass shootings in the US in 2022 – that’s greater than one per day. Most don’t make the news. Americans need to do something now. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Molly, this was an incredibly well-written post. I just wish people would listen. The ignorance and selfishness in this country angers and saddens me. If not for wanting votes and campaign money maybe some of those votes would cross the aisle. I sometimes feel like if it actually impacted their lives they might think otherwise. People behave like it’s happening to other people and they are immune. But, that’s sadly not the case. Guns don’t discriminate. We need to take action to protect ourselves and our kids in a more effective, decisive and meaningful way. I really hope something moves in a positive direction. I don’t want to worry about sending my kid to school. I don’t want “active shooter drills” to be a part of her life. Sad mom here.

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    1. I think you’re right; there’s a certain amount of ‘it won’t happen to me’ but we are getting to the point where this is not a way of thinking based in fact; not when guns are the number one cause of death in 0 to 19-year olds in this country. There is no excuse to do nothing; America has to really look at itself and decide what this country really stands for.

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  4. It’s absolutely heartbreaking and unacceptable what’s been happening. I had no idea that there have been so many this year alone. Thank you for sharing these resources, I pray that something will change because no one should fear going to school, the grocery store, movies, church, or anywhere else.

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing this important post. We are firm believers that society must have a real discussion about this topic. While the U.S. Supreme Court in D.C. v. Heller solidified every U.S. citizen’s right to own a firearm, we firmly believe that the Second Amendment does not prevent the federal government from implementing regulations that limit access to military-grade firearms and ammunition and initiating universal background checks. Even on the state level, Congress can implement block grants and conditions of expenditures to incentivize states to implement legislation that makes it harder for THE WRONG PEOPLE from obtaining a firearm. One of our close friends wrote a policy paper on this topic in college, arguing that while Heller and McDonald v. Chicago have solidified the right to bear arms as an individual rights, public safety and welfare are legitimate means for Congress to implement real change to ensure that something like last week does not happen again. It would also spur conversation about gun safety and sensible ownership and protection.

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  6. I’m genuinely shocked that 65% of U.S. children’s deaths are homicide-related.
    Being from the U.K. I can’t get my head around the fact that you can walk into a store in the U.S. and buy a gun so easily. The laws need to change before another massacre happens.
    Thank you for your insights.

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    1. Unfortunately more mass shootings have occurred since Uvalde, one in a medical facility where a doctor, receptionist and two visitors were killed. It’s literally out of control here and something has to change; the alternative (where this is all heading) is too much to comprehend. Thanks for reading.

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  7. It breaks my heart that all these children lost their lives. I can’t even begin to imagine what their poor parents must be going through. Gun violence gone on for too long now, they need to do something about it. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. I don’t live in US, and as an outsider, it is heartbreaking for me to read about so many shooting incidents. It is equally shocking to see the government do so little (or nothing) to put a stop to this violence. I genuinely hope that the leaders see that easy access to guns is the root cause for these incidents. All other causes (mental health, etc), though important are secondary.

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    1. Sadly, those who are holding up the vote for gun reform see the cause of this trauma as anything but guns (they are bought by the NRA). I hope enough Republicans vote for it to make it pass, but sadly they won’t. A truly awful situation.

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  9. This is a very well-written and informative blog. The need for gun control is imperative. I believe most of the people that oppose reform are worried about not being able to pass mental health evaluations and stricter background checks. They have benefited from the weak laws and loopholes that need to be closed.

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  10. Ever since I remember watching the news it always shocked me to see attacks in US schools and most of the times made by students. Something must definitely happen. Schools should be a safe place for kids not a place where their lives is in danger. This is another important topic Molly!

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  11. I live in the UK where we don’t have access to guns like in America and it seems insane to me that they do in the US. I hope one day they do stop guns being legal as it’s clear there is a big problem with them. No other country has this issue of school shootings.

    Corinne x

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  12. I live in the UK and the last time there was an incident of a mass shooting at a school was several years ago in Dunblane. Legislation followed swiftly and there have been no more such incidents. I only wish it could be the same in America too. Thinking of you all x

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    1. I remember Dunblane happening; it was good to see such swift action being taken in it’s aftermath. It makes you proud of what our government at the time could achieve; it’s so sad that America does not do the same.

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  13. I have lived in the UK my whole life where hun laws are far stricter and I still don’t understand why after deadly shooting after deadly shooting, more isn’t done to make it safer and more checks done so guns do not fall into the wrong hands. I think it is so sad. I would not want to be a school or college student in America, I would be terrified.

    Lauren

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    1. It is terrifying here and almost beyond comprehension as to why so many government representatives do nothing. I recently saw that 44% of Republican voters feel that America should just get used to children dying in this way — truly horrific.

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  14. It’s so sad that we live in a country where children’s lives matter so little to one political party. We hate that they start talking about “mental health” only after a shooting. They clearly don’t care about it at any other point.

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  15. I cannot imagine sending my children off to school every day, worrying that they may never come home. If this was in the UK, the schools would be empty – parents would simply not send their kids to school. It’s horrific that any society can have a percentage of the population that thinks a mass shooting in a school is an acceptable risk. My heart goes out to all the families impacted by the latest tragedy. ‘Never again’ springs to mind.

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    1. You’ve highlighted perfectly why this is such an extreme outlier; nobody else would put up with this happening to their children. For the most part, parents want their children to be safe but it’s those who can enact policy change that stop any reform from moving forward. It is heartbreaking.

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  16. I honestly don’t understand how this issue keeps unaddressed in the US. Each time this hits the news, I always think of mental health too. We do get news here of gun violence and crimes but never in a school setting and rarely with underaged citizens. I’m not against people having guns, I personally don’t want anything to do with them, but having children and teens carrying guns around as if it was normal… it’s pure irresponsibility.

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