Preventing Further Violence: How Citizens Can Take Action

The news cycle of the last few weeks has been nothing short of devastating. First, an armed teenager killed ten people in Buffalo, NY, carrying out plans outlined in a racist manifesto. Then, twenty-one people, including nineteen children, were gunned down by another teenager in Uvalde, TX.  Without a week to gather ourselves, the nation faced another gun related tragedy when four medical professionals  were murdered at a hospital in Tulsa, Ok.  Since the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, no less than seventeen other mass shootings have occurred across the United States. These are heartbreaking numbers.

For some, it can be easy to become numb to the tragedies unfolding around us. Others, however, like social workers, are on the front lines of addressing trauma and tragedy. They have spent decades dealing with the fallout from school shootings and other mass shooter situations. 

Sometimes, taking action can help citizens grapple with a constant stream of violent headlines. However, people may be confused about where to start and how to make the most significant impact in their communities. 


The Heavy Burden of Non-Stop Violence

Recently, following the news of the Uvalde shooting, my school aged son awoke in the morning before school with a stomach ache. Stomach upset is a clear symptom of stress and anxiety in children. When we arrived at school for drop-off, there were armed police officers in the parking lot. While I’m thankful for the police presence, its effect on our children can be unbearable to witness at times, leaving parents feeling helpless.  Like many parents, I felt sad and helpless leaving my child at school and the weight of not knowing if was safe is enormous.  

When there is a seemingly non-stop barrage of violence in the news, it takes a toll on mental health. It could be argued that our children are bearing the heaviest burden, with over 95% of American schools implementing active shooter preparedness drills. Active shooter drills absolutely can cause anxiety in children and can impact their mental health. Regardless, without limiting access to guns and investing in mental health services nationwide, our options for keeping people safe are limited.

The 24/7 access to bad news can also wreak havoc on mental health and wellbeing. The World Health Organization has released studies showing increased access to ceaseless negative news increases incidents of panic, distress, and anxiety.  While we can shelter our kids from some of this, inevitably they are aware about the tragedy around this nation.


It Starts at Home 

We must take action and we can start in our community. For example, every state houses a chapter of the Everytown for Gun Safety group. These groups regularly organize phone banks, letter-writing campaigns, and rallies to get the word out about gun safety in the home and gun control legislation.

If you are unaware of gun laws in your particular state, educating yourself can help you take action and speak on the subject with confidence. For example, New Jersey has some of the most stringent gun laws in the country. They have strong background check laws and an Extreme Risk Law, much like the Red Flag Laws that other states are proposing. While this is a great framework, we can also do more.  


Contact Your Elected Officials

It’s important to remember that the people that we elect to represent us work for us. They are in their positions because we put them there. Research who your Representatives and Senators are, and take to the phones. Phone calls to the offices of elected officials are far more likely to be addressed than emails or letters, though you can follow that route, as well. If it’s helpful, have a script prepared for when they answer the call. Demand smart gun legislation that takes automatic and semi-automatic weapons off the street and out of the hands of people likely to do harm. Press your representatives to pass laws that establish waiting periods and thorough background checks.  In New Jersey, it is critical to ask your representatives to support Governor Murphy’s Gun Safety 3.0 Safety Package and pass safe storage legislation.

It is also essential to know what your elected officials support, and believe and who they receive contributions from. The NRA and the gun lobby contribute to our Senators and Representatives. Right after a senseless act of violence like Uvalde is the perfect time to press this issue and confront those taking millions from these organizations.

Solving the insidious issue of mass shootings in America will take the concerted effort of everyday citizens. People must pressure legislators to focus on common-sense gun laws, access to quality mental health, and a hearty investment in schools. Children need programs that teach healthy coping mechanisms, and legislation needs to be established that buffers existing laws regarding harassment, intimidation, and bullying. 

There is an oft-quoted line, the idea tracing back to writings by John Stuart Mill, that says, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Action often helps us work through our own sadness and anxiety over evil acts. Feeling like we are contributing to moving the needle towards positive change can work wonders at soothing our own worry and feelings of depression. I encourage everyone to take steps to enact change in their communities so that we may pass on a better, safer world to our children.

Jennifer Thompson is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. 

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One response to “Preventing Further Violence: How Citizens Can Take Action”

  1. 650,000 babies (over 70% minorities) every year are ripped apart and shredded during abortions, but not one word from these Leftist-Socialist hypocritical frauds!!!!! All they want to do is talk about gun deaths and ways to confiscate ALL FIREARMS!!! Remember that over 250 MILLION innocent people have been murdered by their dictatorship-run governments in the 20th Century because of “reasonable” & “common sense” gun control. Let me remind those idiot Democrat-Socialists of which countries did that: Red China (over 100 Million murdered), Soviet Union (over 50 Million murdered), Nazi Germany (over 15 Million murdered), Imperial Japan [from 1931-1945](over 12 Million murdered), North Korea (over 6 Million murdered), Communist Vietnam (when they took over South Vietnam after the U.S. left in 1972) and Communist Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge dictatorship (over 2 MILLION murdered in each country), Afghanistan under Taliban, Al-Qaeda, etc. (over 4 MILLION murdered), etc., etc., etc. The common theme was “reasonable” and “common sense” gun control that led to TOTAL CONFISCATION, and then dictatorships that eliminated “enemies of the party”.

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