Teen gun violence has increased dramatically in the last decade and is a cause of great concern. The United States has a very high rate of death due to gun violence, including suicide. We are a culture of violence. As teenagers, parents and family, friends, schools, community members, and all others, we weep at the loss of life by such violence. For example, the Griffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (www.lawcenter.griffords.org) reveals studies showing that in 2014:
- “21,101 people under the age of 21 were shot by guns. 3,265 died from those gunshot wounds. Of these deaths, 1,925 were classified as homicides, 1,145 as suicides, and 122 as the result of unintentional shootings.”
- “Firearms were used in 41% of suicide deaths among individuals under age 21.”
Likewise, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence (www.bradycampaign.org) has reviewed a number of studies that have been conducted, including data from the CDC (www.cdc.gov) with the following results:
- for ages 1 – 19, studies reveal that homicide is committed in 71% of crimes and 41% of suicides are committed by guns
- 7 million children live with loaded, unlocked guns
- 1 in 3 homes that have children also have guns
- 68% of school shooters got their guns from parents/relatives
- 25% of parents with guns keep at least one gun loaded
- 9 young people are shot daily in gun accidents
Why Guns and Teens Are Not Compatible
One cause of teen gun violence is that the adolescent brain is not fully formed and is still developing into the 20s. Young children and pre-adolescents do not have the capacity to truly understand the dangers of guns. They may not understand that guns aren’t toys, can be very impulsive, may not understand the difference between right and wrong, cannot understand the concept of cause and effect (if they shoot the gun, it may harm someone), or don’t understand the concept of death.
Older children, teens until early 20s, also have underdeveloped brains and may struggle with a variety of factors leading to gun violence. And while this group of teens may have an understanding of the previously noted factors and can make healthy decisions, they may react out of impulsiveness, immaturity, stress, anger/rage, depression, risk-taking behaviors, sadness and grief, being bullied, and peer pressure. They may not have a core set of coping skills and thereby, may act in impulse.
What Should A Parent Do About Teen Gun Violence
- Best scenario is not to have a gun. Gun violence begets gun violence. Likewise, a gun in the home increases the chance of it harming a family member through an accidental shooting, impulsive shooting such as during an argument, or an impulsive suicide attempt.
- If you must have a gun, you need to keep it locked and unloaded for safety. Do not have access for a young person to get a hold of the gun/s.
- As noted earlier regarding the adolescent brain, consider very carefully allowing teens to use guns, even for practice or hunting.
- However, if you have guns, you need to discuss gun safety with your kids. Take them to gun safety training even if you won’t allow them access until older. You never know when they might get a gun against your advice.
- ASK (askingsaveskids.org) .This is a program that helps parents to talk with their children and their friends and the friends’ families about guns in the friends’ homes. This is a way to make sure your children are safe at others’ homes.
- Be aware of your child’s mental health. Is he depressed or suicidal; is she angry; is they being bullied? Pay attention to what they are saying, doing, and giving you clues. (link to previous article)
- Talk to them about guns and gun deaths, including school and other shootings. They need to know you are supportive and available to talk to about their fears. If they become overwhelmed by the violence they are experiencing, take them to a therapist/social worker/counselor.
- Seek support from family, friends, and neighbors who also are concerned or form a neighborhood group.
- Consider avoiding violent movies, video games, and other media which promote violence and numbs the ability for compassion.
- Fight for gun control limits. Really, who needs an assault rifle to kill a deer?
- Join groups such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (www.momsdemandaction.org), The Brady Center, the Griffords Law Center to Prevent Violence, or Everytown for Gun Safety (everytownresearch.org) to get the education and support you need.
- Embrace acceptance of all people. Show them that life is sacred by your words as well as your actions.
We can all do our part to limit gun violence. Whether on a personal level, a community level, or state and national levels, there is much we must do. Do not fall victim of gun violence and those who continue to resist sane gun laws.