As a 22-year-old, it is not often that I am among the oldest in a room. But at Generation Progress’#Fight4AFuture Gun Violence Prevention Summit, this was the case and I was glad for it.
Over 100 of my peers and myself gathered in Washington, D.C., to hear from panels, activists, and organizers who are working to end the gun violence epidemic our country currently faces. Many of the students—from all across the country and from all races, abilities, and socioeconomic backgrounds—were still in high school, and yet already had accomplished some serious work in way of ending gun violence.
I left the summit refreshed and empowered, but also with new and startling facts and figures to remind me why we are engaged in this fight. I knew that gun violence disproportionately affected young people; however, I did not know that 54 percent of victims of gun violence are under the age of 30. I also did not know that gun violence is the leading killer of young people in America, second only to vehicle-related fatalities.
I also learned that we, as young people living in the U.S., are 67 times more likely to be killed by gunfire than our peers in the United Kingdom.
If the country fails to act, its future will be in danger.
2014 is already shaping up to be a banner year for gun violence and school shootings. 2013 saw a total of 28 school and campus shootings; January 2014 alone had 11. With numbers like that so early in to the new year, it’s highly likely that those numbers will surpass 2013’s.
At the end of January, PolicyMic compiled a sobering list—as of Jan. 24, when the list was published, 2014 had only 14 school days but seven school shootings among them. Sadly, the tally has only grown—a student was fatally shot outside a South Carolina State University dorm right after the article was published.
And the PolicyMic list only reflects actual shootings, not attempted shootings or threats. The Los Angeles Times reported last month that during one week, every single day saw a shooting, lockdown, or scare.
The terrifying trend clearly needs to be stopped, but how?
Schools and universities typically have threat assessment guidelines, but such guidelines tend to stress that every threat is different. For example, here are some bullet points compiled by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).
- All school shooters are not alike and there is no accurate profile of the violent offender
- Most attackers had previously used guns and had access to them, but access to weapons is not the most significant risk factor
- Prior to most incidents, the attacker told someone about his/her idea or plans
- Most shooting incidents were not resolved by law enforcement
- In many cases, other students were involved in some capacity
- Prior to the incident, most attackers engaged in behavior that caused concern
The NASP even warns:
“Unfortunately there is no easy formula or ‘profile’ of risk factors that accurately determines the ‘next school shooter.’…Most students who display multiple risk factors will never become violent offenders and some who pose a real threat will not demonstrate a prescribed level of risk.”
The NASP even states that profiling can increase the likelihood of misidentifying a potential shooter. And even more importantly, profiling focuses only on identification, not intervention.
The recent school shooting at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, left 21-year-old Andrew Boldt of West Bend, WI, dead. A high school peer of Boldt’s, 23-year-old Patrick McCann of Grafton, Wis. reflected on the tragedy.
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve taken from a tragedy such as this is that violence knows no geography, race, and culture,” McCann said. “Whether a family owns guns or not, the ramifications the misuse of guns bring I feel should always be known.”
Last weekend, when I was surrounded by beautiful, passionate, fired-up young Americans, I was saddened to learn that nearly everyone in the room had a personal experience with gun violence.
One attendee, not yet out of high school, had already lost 28 friends and family members to gunfire. Another was rendered permanently paralyzed after being hit by a stray bullet herself.
Regardless of where in the country they were from whether urban or rural, every single person had been personally affected. The other commonality? Every single person in the room wanted to see an end to careless gun violence in their lifetimes.
Even better, every single person in the room is currently working toward that reality.