My teenager has had a rough few months. She came to me with the information that she felt suicidal and had a plan to end her own life.
I brought her to our local emergency room, where my baby girl had her clothes taken away, an alarm strapped to her wrist, and a room right across from the nurses’ station where she could be constantly monitored. After a long day of evaluations, testing, and phone calls, my child was transferred to another hospital that had a juvenile psychiatric ward.
After her stay in the psychiatric ward, my daughter enrolled in a partial hospitalization program.
Her clinician there told me I needed to lock up all of our household medication and anything sharp. Knives in the kitchen, razors in the bathroom, and even child safety scissors that couldn’t cut hair all had to be locked up in a metal container, not plastic, as plastic could be broken fairly quickly. I asked the woman telling me all of this whether this level of action was necessary for a teenager who had only had thoughts of hurting herself without acting on any of those ideas.
My daughter’s clinician told me that nothing would really, truly keep my child safe if she was determined to hurt herself. The goal in locking up those medications and sharp objects was to make it more difficult for her to act impulsively if she felt the urge to self-harm. I have thought about those words frequently these past few days. We live in a society where weapons are easily obtainable. Somehow, our society has not yet realized that legally allowing such free access to semi-automatic weapons is allowing people like my daughter, whose mental states are not where they should be, to be able to make spontaneous decisions to harm themselves or others.
Let me be clear: I am not talking about criminals here. People who want to break the law will find ways to do so, and I will not waste my words bickering over why changing the laws won’t do anything to stop lawbreakers. I am talking about people who are mostly law-abiding but are struggling with serious mental health issues or going through extremely emotionally charged situations, such as a horrific divorce. I am also not talking about infringing on anyone’s Second Amendment rights. I’m not arguing that US citizens shouldn’t be allowed to own guns.
I am, however, stating that any random U.S. citizen should not be able to obtain whatever kind of weapon they desire whenever they want it. No one told me I couldn’t keep scissors in my house while my daughter struggles with depression and anxiety. Her doctors and therapists realized that scissors would be present, much like guns will always be present in our country. Instead, her doctors told me how to prevent my child from using those scissors to hurt herself on an impulse while she battles depression. When my daughter needs to use scissors for a project, I’m going to give her the child safety scissors instead of something sharp enough to cut or stab herself. Our country should likewise exercise caution.
The Second Amendment was written long before the invention of today’s weaponry. We should update our gun laws. Horrible impulses to hurt other people with semi-automatic weapons should not be able to be planned and performed as easily as they are today.
Knowing my daughter’s current battles with anxiety and depression, I am concerned about the day she is old enough to legally obtain a gun. She is medicated and receiving treatment at the moment, but I will not always be around to watch out for her mental state. God willing, my child will fully recover and live a long and healthy, happy life. Regardless, I want our country to come together and make it more difficult for my child to obtain a gun, so if she does ever again have that impulsive thought to end her own life, it will be harder for her to do so.
This is an original post submitted to World Moms Network. The author has been verified by our editing team, but has requested to remain anonymous.
For more on gun control in the USA and how you can help, see “World Voice: Parkland Students Leading the Way for Gun Reform.”
Photo credit to Kevin Doncaster. This photo has a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.
Another school shooting in America. It hardly seems newsworthy anymore sometimes because it’s becoming so common in my country. This time Parkland, Florida is the city added to the list of other communities where a gun was fired in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, killing 17 people. That’s a list no one wants to be on. But the national conversation around this shooting is turning out to be very different. Is it because the shooter was more imaginative that those before him? No. Is it because it was more students died? It’s true that this was the most deadly massacre since Sandyhook Elementary in Newtown, CT, but no. There is something else distinctly different happening in the media and it has everything to do with the response of the victims themselves.
An Unusual Response
Generally, we have a gruesome routine of reactions to an American mass shooting. People express shock that such a tragedy could happen. Politicians send out statements of “thoughts and prayers” to the families of the victims. Some citizens and a few politicians start to call for stricter gun safety laws. Then, critics accuse gun safety advocates or trying to politicize the conversation and being insensitive to the feelings of victims by wanting to talk about gun policy “too soon” while families still grieve. This loop gets played out over and over again with each deadly shooting. It’s so cliche that we have late night comedy show sketches and parody news articles about it.
But this time, the students of Stoneman Douglas High School have a completely different reaction in 2018 than those from the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 or any other school shooting. They immediately took to social media – some during the actual event – and took the story into their own hands. What we are seeing from these young leaders is extraordinary.
Seventeen-year-old senior David Hogg thought to record footage on his phone during the shooting and spoke passionately to MSNBC within hours. During the shooting, he didn’t know he would survive, so he thought his recorded last minutes might show the world what happened in a way that would actually change things and prevent future tragedies. He told reporters, “We don’t need ideas. We need action. We need action from our elected officials and we need action from the civic public. Because without that, this is going to happen again.” Most people are not so eloquent or composed at any time, much less immediately after an emotional trauma.
Students Use Twitter as a Platform
As the hours passed, more students mobilized. Florida senator Marco Rubio made a very typical statement cautioning against jumping to conclusions before the facts are in. He asserted that it was not appropriate to use the incident as an opportunity to call for increased gun control. When his comments went out via Twitter, several Parkland students used that as an opportunity to directly communicate with their senator. One of them, identified as @sarahchad_, on Twitter sent him this message: “As a student who was inside the school while an active shooter was wreaking terror and havoc on my teachers and classmates with an AR-15, I would just like to say, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND.”
Fox News celebrity Tomi Lahren found herself the target of Parkland students when she tweeted the argument that “the Left” should give time to let families grieve and asserted that the shooting was not a “gun issue.”
“I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”
“A gun has killed 17 of my fellow classmates. A gun has traumatized my friends. My entire school, traumatized from this tragedy. This could have been prevented. Please stfu tomi”
Mobilizing for the Future
By Saturday, the students were officially coordinated and mobilized. They held a Rally to Support Firearm Safety Legislation that hit its peak with a fiery speech from Emma Gonzalez that quickly went viral. Speaking forcefully through her tears – voice never wavering – she made it clear that Parkland students were determined to be the last school shooting and the ones we would read about in future textbooks for changing the conversation about gun control.
The rally and social media activity created massive momentum that continues to build. On Sunday, high school junior Cameron Casey and his classmates announced the nationwide “March for Our Lives” to take place on March 24. It will happen in Washington D.C. and around the country in collaboration with Everytown for Gun Safety. So many students contacted gun safety organization Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America (started after the school shooting in Newtown, CT and affiliated with Everytown) for collaboration that there is now discussion about the advocacy group forming a special student branch. I hope that these savvy teens continue to make giant waves and be an important part of gun policy discussion moving forward. They have already grabbed the narrative and I hope they don’t let go. I think this last tweet sums up their resolve nicely.
let it be known that cruz messed with the wrong school. We as students are using social media as a platform to have our voices heard. Let it be known that we are and will be in contact with our legislators and politicians.
Change is now and it is starting with the survivors.
The website for the new student branch of everytown is “Student’s Demand Action” http://act.everytown.org/sign/join-students-demand-action?source=twno_216&refcode=twno_216&utm_source=tw_n_&utm_medium=_o&utm_campaign=216
When I first came to Canada just over seventeen years ago, I was struck by the fact that every murder in Toronto made front page news. Every single one. When I heard that 2000, the year of my arrival, had seen 81 homicides in the Greater Toronto Area, I was slightly stunned.
81 homicides in Canada’s biggest metropolitan area, and less than 600 in the whole of Canada? What, in just one year? It just didn’t seem real.
To put things into perspective, I came to Canada from South Africa, which at the time was experiencing roughly fifty reported murders every day. Only the most sensational murders, such as the violent demise of South Africa’s former first lady Marike de Klerk, made national news. The rest got a three-line mention on the inside pages of the local community newspaper.
The realization that I had become desensitized to tragedy was one of the most sobering moments of my life. I felt that in losing my ability to mourn the loss of human life, I was losing a key part of my humanity.
I fear that this kind of desensitization is happening en masse in North America, specifically in the United States. We are becoming so accustomed to hearing about mass shootings that we are no longer surprised by them. What’s worse is that we actually expect them to happen. They have become an inevitable part of life in the United States.
American children are growing up in a world in which gun violence is “normal”. Their parents are becoming increasingly resigned to the fact that since gun laws are unlikely to change in any meaningful way, this is just going to keep happening.
In the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 59 and wounded hundreds more, I am seeing some depressingly world-weary sentiments on my social media feeds.
“If nothing changed after Sandy Hook, why would we expect it to change now?”
“The right to guns is more important to lawmakers than the right to life.”
“It’s going to happen again before long.”
And the one that really breaks my heart:
“We just have to accept it.”
It seems that Americans fall into two very general camps. There are those who are spending their time trying to convince everyone else that, in spite of overwhelming evidence and common sense, guns are not really a problem. And there are those who desperately want things to change for the better, but are losing hope that this will ever happen.
The danger is that once that resignation sets in, desensitization is likely to follow. If you don’t think anything is going to change, you start to accept the status quo, and you lose the ability to be shocked by mass shootings.
My American friends, I say this to you with love. Keep the faith. Don’t lose hope, and do whatever you can to bring about the change that is so desperately needed. Educate yourself about the gun laws in your state and lobby your government representatives to change what isn’t working. Above all, use the power of your vote at every possible opportunity.
Don’t allow yourselves to get used to tragedy. Nothing will change unless we continue to feel the shock, the outrage, the sadness. We can avoid desensitization by thinking of the lost lives, the parents who have lost children, and the children who have lost parents, brothers, sisters and friends.
Shed some tears, feel the sadness, mourn for the victims of mass shootings. And for them and their loved ones, keep fighting for change, and keep believing that change is possible.
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle of Ontario, Canada. Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
A thought-provoking tweet has been making the rounds on social media since the horrific mass shooting in Orlando. The tweet reads, “In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.” How can this be? How can this really be?
But something is happening. Since Orlando, there has been a swell of support for real change in gun control measures in the United States. Senator Chris Murphy held the floor for 15 hours in a filibuster to demand a vote on gun safety laws. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chris Murphy brought two powerful amendments to the floor for a vote: one requiring background checks for all gun sales, and another blocking gun sales to suspects on the terrorist watch list (both, sadly, were voted down).
On Wednesday, Rep. John Lewis lead his colleagues in a sit-in on the House floor to demand a vote on common-sense gun control measures. Those representatives are held their ground for more than 24 hours, and plan to take up where they left off when Congress is back in session. In addition, City Council members in Charlottesville, VA passed a resolution this week asking the state to allow localities to create their own gun control laws. Since the Federal government hasn’t stepped up, the city of Charlottesville wants to take the safety of its citizens into its own hands.
Furthermore, scores of articles have appeared in the media championing everything from repealing the second amendment, to background checks for gun sales, from preventing dangerous people from purchasing guns, to banning assault weapons. And, perhaps most importantly, Americans are contacting their representatives in record numbers, insisting on gun control. Constituents across the United States tweeted, texted, called and wrote to their representatives demanding change.
Personally, I will no longer be a passive bystander. I will no longer do nothing shake my head every time there is a mass shooting, yet does nothing. I will stand up for my right and the rights of all to live a life free from the risk of being killed by a bullet. I will not rest until there is a sea change in the way we approach gun politics.
I stand with my fellow Americans, finally demanding an end to the unacceptable loss of life that has become completely routine in the United States. We will keep writing to our representatives until there is a real change in the way we approach gun control in America. We have lost thousands of innocent lives to gun violence. How many more deaths must we endure before we stand up and DEMAND gun control laws? We will endure no more. Enough is enough. We will NOT let Sandy Hook mark the end of the gun control debate in our country.
#ENOUGH #DisarmHate #NoBillNoBreak
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara Wambugu.
Image credits: Knotted Gun via Jim, the Photographer / Flickr. Vigil for Orlando shooting via Fibonacci Blue / Flickr. Rally to prevent gun violence via Maryland GovPics / Flickr.
“Will we be safe there?” My 11 year old son asked me that question as we were discussing our winter holiday travel plans, and I suppose, given that we live in the UAE, his question might make sense. In the last few years, we’ve traveled to Jordan, India, Kenya – all places that have been in the news lately as sites of violence.
Where are we going for the winter holidays, you might wonder, that would elicit such a question?
The United States.
I’ll let you think about that for a minute.
Okay, true, his question was a bit of a joke – the question of travel safety has become a running gag in our household, in part because that question is always the first thing my mother (in Illinois) always asks us.
But this time, when he asked the question, none of us laughed. He’d asked us just after the last mass shooting, the one in San Bernandino. And think about that for a minute: I have to specify for you which shooting I’m talking about. Was it the one in Colorado Springs outside Planned Parenthood, or the one in Oregon, or the one…
In other countries, when you say “mass shooting,” there simply aren’t that many to choose from because in the aftermath of the tragedy, governments have changed the laws to make such events less possible. But not in the good ol’ US of A.
When I tell people in the States where I live, there are two questions I am always asked: do I have to “cover” and “do I feel safe?” The answers are “no,” and “yes.” People who didn’t worry about me strolling home after midnight in New York’s East Village in the late 1980s now seem dreadfully concerned about my safety here, in this part of the world, as I drive off to the mall.
Part of why we chose to live abroad with our children had to do with wanting to give them a cosmopolitan perspective on the world: we wanted them to experience other cultures and learn to be open to, rather than threatened by, difference. I know that in the US it is possible to live in cosmopolitan cities—we used to live in Manhattan, where children from many nations crowded into my kids’ classrooms—but it is a different experience to live in a place where “your” culture is not the dominant.
A little while back, for instance, my older son had some friends over so that we could all go to a water park in the afternoon. When I told them it was time to get ready to go, my son said “well, we have to wait a little bit because T. is in the other room doing his prayers.” T. comes from a devout Muslim family and his mother would have been pleased to know that T. didn’t miss a prayer time just because the water park called. And for my son and his other friends, T. doing his prayers was as matter-of-fact as if he’d been changing into his swimsuit, or drinking a glass of water. Ordinary.
Like many of us, at home and abroad, I wrestle with how to explain to my children why the United States can’t simply change its gun laws and why so many people in the country seem afraid of anyone who worships at a mosque rather than a church or a temple. The explanation in both instances seems to boil down to fear: fear of change, fear of difference, fear of that-which-is-not-me.
It’s not much of an explanation, but it’s the only framework I have to explain why Donald Trump, for instance, can still be considered a candidate for the Presidency.
I know that the demagogues like Trump do not speak for all the people in the United States, and that many, many people are outraged by gun violence, but alas, the picture of the country that travels outward to the rest of the world is one of violent, gun-toting Islamophobia – and it’s scary. For me the fear rests not in the thought that Trump will ever be President because I refuse to believe that his bilious self is actually electable. I hang on to that fact as ardently as I once hung on to my belief in Santa Claus. No, my fear rests in the fact that, according to a recent poll, Trump leads the group of Republican Party presidential hopefuls, with 35.8% of the vote.
THIRTY-FIVE POINT EIGHT?
Maybe there really isn’t a Santa Claus.
How do you explain what’s happening in the United States to your children?
This is an original post by World Mom, Deborah Quinn in the United Arab Emirates.
Photo Credit to the author.
…and prevention is protection.
Now-a-days, we hear a lot about violence. Violence at home, bullying at school, harassment at work or on the street. Violence is everywhere. It does not define our societies or who we are but it plays an important role in our evolution and how we decide to define ourselves.
In the past couple of years, the French government put into place important measures to fight all types of violence, creating adds to show its impact on peoples lives, opening more helplines, dedicated centres to welcome the victims, creating new jobs and training programs. Many well-known artists took it over and started campaigns around the country and in the world.
Still, I think something is missing in order, if not to eradicate violence completely, at least to change the vision of men and women on the subject and prevent violence from spreading even more. Before discussing the impact of violence, people first have to be educated on what violence is, how to spot it and how to protect themselves from it.
We tend to think that violence is only physical. Is it something we learn as kids? Or are the other forms of violence too cruel to be true?
I met women who kept telling me that in their case, it was not violence. I met kids who kept telling me that other kids were just laughing at them, no big deal. I met men who kept telling me that if their bosses were that mean towards them, it was maybe because they were not that good.
If people don’t know or understand that the relationship they are in is poison, they won’t be able to get out of it or ask for help. And it will keep destroying them. Ads or campaigns won’t have any impact on their life. They will still think violence is horrible but they will think it has nothing to do with them.
I suppose we have to educate people from a young age. Maybe school is the first place to start, as violence can take root there for many. Teaching kids about respect and differences. Teaching them about what is not allowed, about their body and about the importance of equality. Boys are not better than girls and girls are not better than boys.
But first, we have to teach kids about confidence. In most cases, it’s the lack of confidence that takes people down. Teaching kids that they are important, that they are valued and loved, that they are worth it, beautiful, enough. I think this is crucial and it can change many things in our world these days.
I don’t say that confident people can’t be touched by violence, but they’ll have the resources, the power to face it and say stop to it. Or they’ll know something is wrong in the equation and they’ll be able to talk about it, to raise their voice.
Because, at the end of the day, silence is really the enemy, silence is what allows violence to thrive.
This is an original post from our contributor in France, Marie Kleber.
The image used in this post is attributed to Cyber Magic. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.