By Tina Wolridge (Communications Coordinator, APA Public Interest Directorate)
It seems that gun violence is all around my life. Homicides, assaults, robberies, shootings, and weapon violations are all a part of this world. Gun ownership is so deeply rooted into the lives of Americans that we must re-evaluate our strategy and approach gun violence as a public health concern. Gun violence is an important national problem leading to more than 31,000 deaths every year and 78,000 nonfatal injuries every year.
Gun violence is drowning not only our lives but our children’s lives as well. APA recently released a report by a panel of experts called, Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention, and Policy; it describes the facts about gun violence in the United States and steps we can take to prevent gun violence. I asked a group of teens to review the report and share their perspectives on the report and on gun violence.
The report is divided into two major areas: antecedents to gun violence and “what works” — i.e., tactics and policies that have proven effective in gun violence prediction and prevention. Among its major conclusions:
Behavioral threat assessment teams — composed of trained experts who gather information and determine whether a person is on a path to violence — are the most effective tool currently available to prevent episodes of mass violence like those in Newtown, Conn., Fort Hood, Texas, and Washington, D.C., Navy Yard.
For those at risk for violence, access to mental health care can help prevent acts of violence, but exclusive focus on mental health issues will not solve the problem of gun violence.
Because a propensity for violence can begin early in life, there needs to be a focus on family and community environments that promote healthy development and a continuum of care for troubled individuals.
Research has shown that early intervention with at-risk families can improve parenting skills and disrupt the pathway from early-onset aggression to violence.
To reduce gun violence at the community level there must be a comprehensive, coordinated approach taking advantage of the training and skills of law enforcement, educators and mental health providers.
I invited five high school students to review the report and share their thoughts about gun violence. They created this slide show with a powerful message concerning gun violence. I invite you to watch it and share it. The experts can tell us what the research says about gun violence. I believe these high school students have something important to say as well.