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Expert: Americans Feel Traumatized, Helpless About Gun Violence

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Wednesday, June 1, 2022   

Teachers, faith leaders and parents gathered Tuesday outside the Austin office of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. They're demanding action on gun safety as part of a new "Enough is Enough" campaign by the American Federation of Teachers.

An expert in violence prevention said school leaders are reporting that the past year has been their hardest, both for behavioral problems and mental-health concerns. Beverly Kingston, executive director of the University of Colorado's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, said huge social stressors have created a perfect storm. They include uncertainties around COVID-19, concerns about natural disasters and climate change, the increasing polarization of society and domestic terrorism.

"There are so many answers, and so many solutions, and we are failing to put those into place," she said. "We're failing to understand what those all are as a nation, and we're failing to put those things that we can do into place."

The AFT campaign paints gun violence as a public-health issue - with not only psychological effects on kids, teachers and families, but medical consequences that strain the healthcare system.

Kingston, who has studied school shootings for decades, said research-backed solutions for decreasing school violence often lack the funds to be implemented. For example, she said, a middle-school bullying-prevention program could have helped the 18-year-old who killed 19 students and two teachers last week in Uvalde.

"If we want this violence to end, we need to be investing significant resources - I really think billions of dollars, not millions of dollars, billions of dollars," she said. "It's not a quick fix."

The reality, said Kingston, is the "horse is out of the barn" - meaning there are millions of guns in the hands of Americans and lawmakers still are stuck at policy-level discussions, rather than focusing on the motivations for why young men buy weapons for nefarious reasons.

"So, even with the very best policy, it's likely that someone could still access a gun if they wanted to," she said, "but we can make it harder - and making it harder does seem to work."

The Uvalde massacre marked the 213th mass shooting and the 27th school shooting so far this year, according to the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.

Disclosure: American Federation of Teachers contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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