Activist countries

School shootings are rare in most developed countries. Why are they so prevalent in America?

In the wake of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that killed two teachers and 19 students between the ages of 9 and 11, lawmakers, activists and the general public are once again wondering why such tragedies are so unique to the United States. States.

According to an analysis conducted by CNN, the United States experienced 288 school shootings between January 1, 2009 and May 21, 2018, 57 times more than all other G7 countries combined. As a result, American children face a threat to their safety almost absent from any other high-income country on the planet.

“Instead of [just] practicing fire drills and tornado drills or things that are really out of control in terms of natural events, our kids are practicing things that are very real and very scary – and to be honest, things we could prevent with appropriate policy,” said Jocelyn Carter, associate professor of psychology and director of clinical training at DePaul. “It’s a uniquely American childhood experience, unfortunately, because of the uniquely American experience with gun culture.”

Craig Klugman, Vincent de Paul Professor of Bioethics and Health Humanities at DePaul, notes that only a few decades ago the United States was not so alone in the prevalence of school shootings.

“If you look at the UK, you look at Australia – [we share] similar culture, similar historical background, similar political systems,” he said. “And like 30 years ago, each of them had a shooting at a school, and in response they put in legislation that really restricted who could own a gun, making it very difficult to buy guns. a gun. So there are fewer guns available, and none have had a school shooting [since].”

For children who have been exposed to gun violence and survived, the experience can have a dramatic effect on their worldview.

“It really changes the way the brain processes information,” Carter said. “Children who have been exposed to violence or other types of [threats to] safety are likely to be very sensitive to the environment because they scan the environment for safety signs and danger signs. They learn not to trust people. So instead of being able to explore the world freely, they think, because they have been exposed to it, that there is danger.

However, the psychological impact of school shootings extends far beyond those who have experienced them themselves. Carter notes that for students across the United States, fear and anxiety can have serious consequences for what is called vicarious trauma.

“Vicarious trauma means you see, learn, hear about trauma that happens with people who are in a position similar to yours,” Carter said. “That way kids can put themselves in other people’s shoes and realize that ‘if this happened to someone else in another fourth grade class like mine, it could happen to me too’.”

Alex McFadden, a freshman at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, explains how the high frequency of school shootings in the United States has impacted their perception of the classroom.

“It’s scary to know there’s nothing I can do to keep myself safe in an educational environment,” they said. “The anxiety that comes with the constant cycles of tragic news is debilitating. I think the most frustrating aspect of it all is that we are expected to carry on as if these issues don’t affect us in any way. .

A number of leading Republican figures, including U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former President Donald Trump, have in recent days offered “hard school” solutions, such as requiring schools to have no only one entry. However, Klugman suggests that the implications of enacting such policies would likely be far-reaching and untenable.

“We cannot turn the country into an armed camp,” Klugman said. “And if we do this for schools, do we have to go grocery shopping? Do we have to do this for every office, every warehouse, every place where there’s ever been a gunshot? [Do we] turn the United States into an armed camp? Then you’re not a free democracy anyway.

Instead, Klugman suggests that to adequately respond to the gun crisis in the United States, policymakers must apply preventive measures rather than simply protective measures.

“There are things we can do that work — that’s a public health approach,” Klugman said. “What we’re getting now is the kind of medical approach of ‘it’s up to the individual. you should buy [bulletproof] backpack. We should toughen up the schools. We should arm every teacher. You should homeschool your child if you are concerned. These are individual responses to a systemic problem, and they don’t work.

According to a Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted May 25.

Despite widespread support, no such policy has been implemented at the federal level since the federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004. Klugman suggests that the financial influence of lobbyists opposed to the policies of Gun control has played a significant role in alienating much of Congress’s will from many of their constituents.

“It’s very expensive to run for office in the United States,” Klugman said. “So where do you get that money? You might have small individual donors – which can add up, but [it’s] not so great – or you can get big deep pockets. So you could have billionaires or you could have corporations. And one of these companies that invests a lot of money in politics is the pressure group NRA (National Rifle Association).

Gun rights lobby groups, including the NRA, spent a record $15.8 million on lobbying in 2021, according to a report by OpenSecrets. Since 1998, these organizations have spent $190 million on lobbying efforts, making it increasingly difficult for Congress in recent decades to enact gun control legislation.

Still, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly ordered Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on Thursday to begin talks with Democrats in a bid to find common ground on gun control policies. fire. However, Klugman is skeptical that any bipartisan solution will come from this.

“I don’t think anything is going to happen,” he said. “There is too much money at stake here. If your constituents can’t convince you, nothing will happen, or they’ll embrace something like school hardening — that individual accountability thing that doesn’t work.

Similarly, McFadden cites Congress’ lackluster record on gun policy as a source of hesitation.

“Honestly, I don’t have much hope,” they said. “Given the fact that Sandy Hook happened and not much change was made, I really don’t know what will force people to pass gun legislation.”