We are in the middle of the 21st week of 2022. Already this year there have been 27 school shootings in the United States. Today is the 145th day of 2022. Already this year our country has experienced 212 mass shootings. These horrifying, tragic, and utterly preventable acts of violence have become so commonplace that they hardly make headlines. Gun violence in the District, including among teenagers, happens so often that we are no longer surprised by it, even as we mourn the loss of life.
Then an incident happens like yesterday’s massacre in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two adults were murdered, which is significant enough to capture our attention and reignite the senseless debate about the value of people vs. the right to guns. Tomorrow was supposed to be the fun-filled last day of school for the students at Robb Elementary.
What are we supposed to do?
Step 1: Show Compassion
As individuals, advocates, and organizations committed to the well-being of children, our first priority is to care for them and their families. Seeing, hearing, or reading about a school shooting can be terrifying for anyone, but especially for children who spend most of their waking hours at school and have participated in more lockdown drills in their young lives than anyone should have to. It’s up to us as adults to show even more compassion, kindness, and patience to our kids than usual. Adult family members; educators; out-of-school-time teachers and mentors, coaches; and anyone else in the community who interacts with children and youth has a role to play in helping young people deal with what’s happening. Particularly at a time when the mental health of children and youth is already precarious, it is critical for us to be accessible to young people and watch closely for signs of distress.
PBS KIDS for Parents shared this resource: Helping Children with Tragic Events in the News, which is particularly relevant for parents, caregivers, and educators with young children in their lives. 15 Tips for Talking with Children About School Violence from Colorín Colorado offers a variety of approaches for children of all ages, as well as additional articles, websites, and resources in Amharic, Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
At the same time, we have to take care of ourselves to be able to care for our young people. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has provided this guide to Assisting Parents/Caregivers in Coping with Collective Traumas.
Step 2: Take Action
While DC residents have no voting representation in Congress, our friends in Maryland, Virginia and the rest of the country do. Urge your friends and family and tell them to call their representatives to demand common sense gun legislation. Get facts about gun violence from the Gun Violence Archive.
Find out how you can help. Organizations including Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, and Guns Down America are working to make our country safer in the face of increasing gun violence. Locally, The TRIGGER Project uses a youth development and public health approach to prevent gun violence among young people in the District.
The deaths of children and teachers in Uvalde didn’t have to happen. Tens of thousands of other lives that have been senselessly lost to gun violence could have been saved with effective safety laws. These tragedies are preventable. We must fight together to change policy to protect our children. That’s the only way forward.
About DC Action
DC Action is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, multi-issue advocacy organization making the District of Columbia a place where all kids grow up safe, resilient, powerful and heard. DC Action uses research, data, and a racial equity lens to break down barriers that stand in the way of all kids reaching their full potential. We are home to DC Kids Count, Under 3 DC, DC Out-of-School Time Coalition, the DC Home Visiting Council and the Youth Economic Justice and Housing Coalition. Our collaborative advocacy campaigns bring the power of young people and all residents to raise their voices to create change.