“How many have to die before we will give up these dangerous toys?” author Stephen King writes in his essay Guns. This point was made even more clear after the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 people’s lives were taken because of guns. At the recent March 14th National Student Walkout, students across the country walked out of school to protest gun violence, including students at my school.
As doctors, professors, and journalists report, gun violence affects the United States in a significant way because people are using guns for a variety of destructive reasons.
Gun Violence at Home
If a gun owner is in an abusive relationship, they may sometimes use guns in domestic violence situations. In the report “Weapon Involvement and Injury Outcomes in Family and Intimate Assaults” from The Journal of the American Medical Association Dr. Linda E. Saltzman writes, “domestic violence assaults involving a firearm are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force.” Many gun owners in abusive relationships are using the guns for violence when guns are supposed to be used as a protection tool.
Furthermore, a study by University of Pennsylvania Professor Susan B. Sorenson also shows that there is a connection between gun ownership and domestic abuse. In fact, “A recent survey of female domestic violence shelter residents in California found that more than one third (36.7%) reported having been threatened or harmed with a firearm” and “nearly two thirds (64.5%) of the households that contained a firearm, the intimate partner had used the firearm against the victim, usually threatening to shoot or kill the victim.”
This is a problem because irrational thinking could lead to dangerous action like pulling the trigger before thinking. If others are present, like kids, close friends or neighbors, this violence can affect the whole household or neighborhood. If the victim does have kids, the kids might be traumatized as they witness their parents fight.
“Some people are angry inside and want to take it out [on other people],” said Arrianah, a Lea middle school student. This trauma is not easy for young children to carry with them.
The Tragic Effects of Gun Violence
Additionally, gun violence can be detrimental to a victim’s future. Claire McCarthy, the official spokesperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said, “In 2010, gun related injuries caused 6,570 deaths to young people and children (1-24 years of age). That includes 7 deaths per day among people 1 to 19 years old.”
Gun violence affects students across the country and locally here in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, gun violence has even affected students and families at my school. For example, Nelson, a middle school student, talked about how gun violence affected him and his cousin.
“Fortunately, he survived and can still work,” said Nelson, “but now my cousin walks differently.” Nelson has a lot of questions and still wants answers.
“This issue affects me,” Nelson said. “It makes me ask, ‘Why’d they do such a thing?’ ” This event has led to him becoming more concerned for his family and it may cause him to be distracted in class as he thinks about gun violence and its effect on his family.
Scott Charles is one person who created the Cradle to Grave program to inform teens and others what happens when you get injured by gun violence. Right now, he works as the Trauma Outreach Coordinator at Temple University.
“The one thing that I’ve learned about gun violence is just how common it is,” said Charles. “More than 23,000 people have been shot in Philadelphia since 2002. When I host a group of students, one of the first things I ask them is how many of them know someone who has been shot. It’s rare to find young people who don’t know at least one person who has been shot.”
Charles points out that there are few laws that require gun owners to safely secure their firearms. He mentions that we live in a city that has issued more than 40,000 active concealed carry permits, but Charles points out how there are even more.
“We know that there many more people who own and carry guns, but who lack any formal license. That means there are a lot of guns in homes and on the streets. Oftentimes, these guns are stolen from homes and cars where they’ve been left unsecured, and it’s only a matter of time before these guns end up being used in crimes.”
Also, Charles speaks out how the media misrepresents gun violence.
“They mistakenly believe that when you shoot someone, that person dies immediately, painlessly. Television and movies often reinforce this idea. I meet every gun victim who gets admitted to the hospital and when I ask them if getting shot is how they imagined it, they always tell me the same thing: ‘I wouldn’t wish this upon my own worst enemy.’ With this belief people are being told wrong especially young kids because they think there is no pain when there is.”
Complex Problem, Complex Solutions
Although this is a complicated topic, Charles acknowledges there are some answers.
“Requiring people to lock up their weapon when their weapon is not on their person is just one example of how we can have an impact on gun violence. With this being said, there should be very strict laws in our city to keep everyone safe,” said Charles.
I completely agree with Mr. Charles because even as a middle school student, I have seen news reports about young children hurting or killing themselves with a their family’s gun.
McCarthy talks to patients and asks, “if there is a gun in the house” and if so “talk about storage and we talk about locking both the gun and ammunition separately.” Parents, you should always lock up your gun because you will never know when a kid will want to touch it or play with it.
At the same time, Charles points out that “gun violence is more complicated than most people imagine” and “anyone who says otherwise is either incredibly naïve or incredibly dishonest.”
Charles points out four reasons why gun violence is so complex:
1) It is hard to convince people not to retaliate
2) Most people who have been shot will survive in order to retaliate
3) People who have been shot – or who are the friends/relatives of people who’ve been shot – want their retaliation to match the initial assault (which means they’re going to use a gun, too)
4) It’s surprisingly easy to get your hands on a gun in Philadelphia.
To conclude, gun violence is a severe, complex issue in America because people are using guns in domestic violence situations, people are misusing guns, and peoples’ futures are harmed with firearms.
As the United States of America, we shouldn’t stand by the gun violence happening. If we continue to just stand by, the death toll due to gun violence will increase more and more everyday. We should come together and put a stop against gun violence because it's hurting our community.
Please Note: The author used pseudonyms for the students interviewed for this article.