What To Tell Our Children (Truthfully) About School Shootings

A Message from the President of Americans Against Gun Violence

In the aftermath of the mass shooting in which three nine-year-old children and three staff members were killed by a former student at a church affiliated elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, the PBS NewsHour conducted an interview with a child psychologist, Dr. Tori Cordiano, in which the interviewer, Amna Nawaz, asked Dr. Cordiano what parents and caregivers should tell their children about school shootings. Dr. Cordiano replied:

You can start with, “I want to tell you about something that happened in Nashville.”…Of course, you may get emotional when you’re talking with your children, and that is OK. It is emotional. It’s sad, its’s scary, it’s angering. But you want to have your own space separate from them where you can really process your own feelings about it, so that your conversation with them can focus on caring for them in that moment….But certainly, when children are exposed to violence, when it is happening around them, when it is part of their daily experience, when they have survived these attacks, or even if they are – just this is part of their reality, that they are hearing about these and worrying about these, that can certainly take a toll and for some children can lead to trauma and more mental health issues down the line….”

You can listen the full interview, if you like, on the archives of the PBS NewsHour, but in summary, Dr. Cordiano said nothing of any substance about what to tell children in the United States about school shootings – the Nashville shooting being the 89th shooting on a US school campus so far this year.

If we wanted to be brutally honest with our children or grandchildren, when they ask us why they have to participate in lockdown drills, or in later stages of development, why they have to face the threat of being gunned down in their classrooms every time they go to school, we should tell them that if they don’t like it, they should move to some other high income democratic country – in fact, to any of the many other democratic  countries in which grownups have demonstrated through their actions, and not just their words, that they love their children more than their guns.

Read the full message

Preventing Firearm Related Deaths and Injuries in the United States of America
Mission Statement of Americans Against Gun Violence

Revised February 17, 2019

Firearm related deaths and injuries are a serious public health problem in the United States of America, and the rate of gun related deaths in our country is currently at least ten times higher than the average rate for the other high income democratic countries of the world. It is the position of Americans Against Gun Violence that we have not only the ability, but also the moral responsibility, to reduce rates of firearm related deaths and injuries in our country to levels that are at or below the rates in other economically advanced democratic countries.

Like other gun violence prevention organizations, we support common sense firearm regulations. We believe, however, that common sense dictates that in order to reduce rates of gun violence in the United States to levels comparable to other high income democratic countries, we must adopt comparably stringent gun control laws – laws that go far beyond the limited measures currently being advocated by other U.S. gun violence prevention organizations. Specifically, we believe that we should follow the examples of Australia and the United Kingdom, both of which reacted swiftly and definitively following mass shootings in their countries over two decades ago, by banning civilian ownership of all automatic and semi-automatic rifles, as in the case of Australia, and by banning civilian ownership of all handguns, as in the case of the United Kingdom. We also believe that we should follow the example of every other high income democratic country in requiring registration of all firearms and licensing of all firearm owners. Finally, we believe that in the United States, as in all other economically advanced democratic countries, the burden of proof  should be on any person seeking to acquire a gun to show convincing evidence that he or she needs one and can handle one safely, not on society to show evidence that he or she should not have a gun. And given the large body of evidence showing that there is no net protective value from owning or carrying a gun, “self defense” should not be automatically accepted as a reason for owning a gun in the United States, just as it is not accepted in most other high income democratic countries.

In the United States, like in other economically advanced democratic countries, stringent gun control laws need not prevent legitimate hunters and target shooters from pursuing their sports. As in those other countries, though, stringent regulation of civilian firearm ownership should be accompanied by stringent regulation of the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers.
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The Second Amendment, as it was interpreted repeatedly by the Supreme Court and almost every lower court for the first 217 years of our nation’s history, is no obstacle to the adoption of the stringent gun control laws advocated by Americans Against Gun Violence. The 2008 Heller decision, however, in which a narrow 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ruled that the District of Columbia’s partial ban on handgun ownership violated the Second Amendment, is a significant obstacle. In the Heller decision, five justices endorsed an interpretation of the Second Amendment that the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger had called “…one of the biggest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word, ‘fraud’ – on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.” It is the position of Americans Against Gun Violence that the Heller case was wrongly decided. In the short term, Heller should be overturned. In the long term, Americans Against Gun Violence advocates the adoption of a new constitutional amendment that clarifies the Second Amendment in a manner consistent with the following statement in the majority opinion in the Supreme Court’s 1980 Lewis decision:

The Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.”

We are confident that one day, the United States will adopt stringent gun control laws comparable to the laws that have long been in effect in every other high income democratic country of the world. The only question is how many more innocent Americans will be killed and injured by guns before that day arrives. It is our mission to make that day come sooner rather than later.

Click on this link for a fully referenced, downloadable version of this mission statement in PDF format.