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VIOLENCE IS A LEARNED BEHAVIOR
The rise in gun violence in the United States has reached new heights. The problem is consistently escalating, inciting fear and anxiety. With the tragedy that struck El Paso and Dayton, the year's tally hits 17 mass shootings this year (Keneally, Megan). People are scared because these attacks are in public spaces. Students attacked in schools, by other students or strangers. Customers running errands at Wal-mart. Foodies enjoying a garlic festival in California. These disturbances are happening more frequently and the pain is numbing. For some, the shock has worn off and has been replaced with anger and fear. The country is divided, tensions are high, and not one solution is being considered. Each shooting places blame onto something else. If our country doesn't want to change the way guns are regulated, what can change?
The massacre in El Paso left 22 people dead. In response to the shooting, the POTUS issued comment that violent video games were to blame. The gaming community fired back in defense arguing for stricter gun laws. The arguing continues until it stops— until it happens again. At its current rate, there is a shooting on average every 12.7 days (abcnews). An article published in the LA Times: "Op-Ed: We have studied every mass shooting since 1966. Here's what we learned about the shooters." revealed a study illuminating four commonalities that almost all shooters share. The study is surprising, there is no mention of violent video games or obscene rap lyrics. If the country is to change without gun reform, the country must understand why this happens. No more boiling it down to troubled youth, the media, or untreated mental health. Use this data to prevent further tragedy, and create a safer home for the people that live here.
Jillian Peterson and James Densley make note that most of the shooters they studied had experienced early childhood trauma, which includes exposure to violence (LAtimes). It is critical that parents are aware of their child's perceptions of the world. As adults, we have grown into a society that is violent and explicit. Our children are young, impressionable and developing a sense of the world around them. Normalizing violence sets a standard for the future. Take the time to communicate with your child. Certain life events can be detrimental later, such as loss of loved ones, car accidents, divorce or graphic images from the media. Parents should help their children understand the world around them, and allow them to ask questions.
If your child has experienced trauma there are resources available to you. The best way to cope with trauma and heal is by communicating. As a parent, you provide safety and comfort to your child, by engaging with them on an emotional level the child develops a better understanding. Depending on the trauma it is wise to return to normalcy or "new" normalcy. Following trauma, there may be new boundaries put in place, however, find something familiar within those limits that can ease their mind. The better a child eats the more prepared they are for managing stress and balancing their emotions. The same can be said for all people of all ages. Create a routine in the home. Trauma is often unpredictable but daily life shouldn't be. Parents can design a routine that fits their family's needs. Routines create stability, and stability creates trust. If there is an upcoming change— plan ahead, and communicate the change with your child. A child dealing with trauma doesn't do well with surprises. For more information or resources visit this site: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/helping-children-cope-with-traumatic-stress.htm
The second listed trait the shooters shared was experiencing an "identifiable crisis." These children grew up having experienced childhood trauma to some degree, then as adults encountered additional crisis without the tools to cope properly, which catapulted into a mass shooting. As a country, we can't prevent crises but as people, we can do more to manage our emotions and behavior. One way to deal with life's little plot twists is to take care of yourself. Self-care is not a joke. As unpredictable as life can be, change is inevitable. Focus on the things you can control, instead of the factors that you can't. Gain some perspective by visiting with close friends or family. These relationships can help you gain insight that was being overlooked.
Densley and Peterson mention that most of these crises were communicated to others close to the shooters. The warning signs are often present in these incidences. Unfortunately, this information comes up after tragedy strikes. The threats have to be taken seriously if we are going to prevent incidents in the future. The remarks, or "causal comments" need to be looked into, and may no longer be "brushed off" because "they're angry". Anger is acceptable, murder is not.
Violence is a learned behavior. As previously mentioned, exposure at a young age can pave a path for unhealthy and dangerous behavior as they develop. People that are abused, hurt, traumatized, ignored or ostracized from society or from their communities— lash out. Samira Shackle writes that "violent crime is contagious—but we know how to stop it from spreading." An article published in The Independent describes violent crime and how it mimics disease. When the crime was analyzed in Scotland, studies illustrated that "traditional policing wasn't actually reducing violence." In an attempt to try an alternative approach the Violence Reduction Unit was formed. The VRU attempts to prevent crime from spreading by addressing it as a public health issue.
Mass shooters of today seek validation from criminals of the past. The disease spreads, one mass shooting leads to another because one shooter validates another's motive. In order to prevent a cluster crime, Gary Slutkin of Cure Violence in Chicago suggests a Violence Interrupter. When a doctor treats a patient they often use a disease to fight the same disease. The theory comes into play with violence. A Violence Interrupter is an individual who can speak from personal experience, and use their influence to deflate conflict. These Interrupters are already a part of the community and do more than prevent violence, they connect at-risk individuals to resources like employment, or counseling. Understanding why people have outbursts will prevent future outbursts.
The fourth trait that these shooters had in common was access. They had access to weapons. Guns are dangerous and therefore should be controlled. Legally owned weapons should be stored properly. There should be more effort made to educate gun owners and invoke red-flag laws. They had access to notoriety. The media reports on crime every minute in order to inform its audience of threats, while simultaneously validating a criminal. Be informed, but it's not necessary to share on social media.
The truth is there are ways to fix this epidemic. Learn and identify the warning signs of trauma and crises. During a traumatic event, remember to take care of yourself. Eat a good meal, be with a friend, and talk to someone. Find solace in a new normal. If someone you know is in need, help guide them toward a healthy path. Become a Violence Interrupter and prevent this vicious disease from spreading any further. The change has to start with us.
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