In 2018, for the first time in recorded history, gun violence literally killed more children ages one to nineteen than the total number of motor vehicle deaths. This statistic shows approximately one out of ten gun deaths involves children and adolescents under the age of nineteen.
And while horrifying what this data fails to show is the increase in gun violence goes far beyond the event itself. Roughly three million children witness gun violence each year and it impacts them for the rest of their lives. From experiencing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder to constantly living in fear of the next shooting, children and families affected by gun violence will never be the same. This is especially true if they lose a close family member or friend.
The invisible wounds from gun-related trauma include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in appetite
- Panic and anxiety
- Intrusive thoughts
- Mood swings
- Lack of interest
And while these physical, emotional, and behavioral consequences are devastating to those who are impacted by gun violence, a worse consequence can start to take shape through more violence that impacts other members of the community. This phenomenon is particularly prevalent in communities that experience high rates of gun violence because more people will carry firearms to protect their family.
Research shows that easy access to guns increases the chances of gun violence. This leads to the question; Is having a gun a self-fulfilling prophecy that gun-related violence is sure to happen?
What can be done to reduce gun violence and the subsequent gun-related trauma? According to experts, the solution is to provide physical, social, and emotional support to those who have experienced any gun violence. It’s important to understand that community trauma is a very real experience for anyone living in a community with high rates of gun violence, so supporting citizens at large is key to healing those invisible wounds within a community.
In addition to supporting individuals and community members who have experienced gun-related trauma directly, things like cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and meditation, can be great resources for healing. Free community programs like conflict resolution and emotional regulation can be incredibly effective. A key factor is disallowing gun access for high-risk groups, including children, teens and anyone suffering from mental illness. While this speaks of gun regulation, it’s really gun precaution. Having to register and go through a background check isn’t taking away a freedom, it’s protecting people by adding a safety net.