Posted on January 11th, 2013 By Anthony Riordan
First of all, let me make one thing very clear from the start. We have a major child safety, public health, and community safety crisis in our country. There were 32,000 deaths in the US in 2011 from gun violence. That means that each day nearly 100 fellow community members are senselessly gunned down. When you put your child to sleep tonight- know that there are 8 children that died just today in the US from gun violence. We are far and away the most gun violent advanced industrialized country in the world and it is not even close.
Part of our role here at CYFS is to advocate for, protect, and support children and families and communities. We have multiple behavioral health, prevention, diversion, mental health, recovery, court services, and neighborhood strengthening programs that assist youth, adults, and families in all of our communities. We are adding our voice to this critical issue. We ask that you do the same.
Like all of us, I was deeply saddened by the most recent mass shooting killing of 26 innocent victims at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Unfortunately, I was not shocked which is possibly even more tragic. This is now commonplace in our culture. There have been 62 mass killing shootings in the US since 1982. There have been 25 of these mass executions since 2006. They are on the rise in number and severity. The list goes on and the public uproar ebbs and flows after each one; Columbine, Northern Illinois, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson, and now Sandy Hook. See the deadly timeline here.
The media, politicians, and public interest groups all proclaim shock and grief and the need to make changes after each shooting spree which takes the life of countless innocent victims. Sanctimonious speeches are made; wreathes, candles, and teddy bears are laid at murder sites and grave sites; talking heads pontificate, and countless editorials and blogs are written. Yet nothing is ever done.
How many will there be in 2013? Who is to blame? Violent popular Hollywood mass media? Video games? The NRA? Our longstanding love affair with war? Our under resourced mental health system? Lobbyist controlled politicians at every level? Bad parenting? Our dogmatic literal interpretation of the 2nd Amendment enacted over 200 years ago?
Well, I would say possibly all of the above, but ultimately all of us. Yes, you and me. We can blame our elected governmental leaders for not enacting better screening, restrictions, tracking, and regulations, but we elect them. We can blame violent popular media- but we continue to buy it and allow our kids to watch it or listen to it at an early age. We can blame our lack of mental health resources, but we continue to allow states and federal government to drain and eliminate resources for children and families. (Illinois alone has cut $187 million in mental health funds in last three years).
At the risk of being treasonous, I would state that the 2nd Amendment is no more a blank slate allowing unfettered possession of any type of firearm weapon by anyone; any more than our 1st Amendment Free Speech rights allows us to say anything to anyone anywhere. People are not allowed to park F-16’s in their backyard, or throw a Surface to Air missile in the back of the pickup for a fun night out on the town.
We need to get a real gun control policy in our society and we need it now. This is insane. And we need to quit blaming others. Demand change and demand it now and it starts with each of us. As a parent, neighbor, friend, community member, and citizen. This is the most advanced civilized society in history yet we have a culture of unthinkable violence that we have allowed to evolve which is truly shameful and a threat to our well-being.
Will this stop all of the mass killings and gun violence? No. Will it have an impact? Yes, if done effectively without lobbyist loopholes and with proper resources it will over time.
What it will also do on a larger scale is start to change our cultural narrative and identity. We have a choice as to what kind of communities and society we want live in and how we want to raise our children. It is time to say enough of the madness. We can stop accepting violence as the norm in our society. It starts with you and me.
Get involved. Get informed. Go to your local neighborhood watch meetings, city council meetings, school board meetings, or PTA meetings. Write to your local newspaper and get involved in local or national advocacy groups such as the Children’s Defense Fund. Contact your lawmakers and demand they take this issue seriously this time. Now.
My kid, and your kid, and your neighbor are depending upon you.
We now count the days until the next mass murder shooting. How many will there be in 2013?
Tony Riordan, MS. Ed., LMFT, is Chief Operating Officer for The Center for Youth and Family Solutions (CYFS). He has been a social worker, licensed marriage and family therapist, trainer, and administrator in community based nonprofit child and family service agencies since 1978.
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