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The issue of gun violence is among the most hotly debated issues in the United States today. All Americans agree that our citizens and especially our children should be safe but could not disagree more on what to do about it. It is often said during tragedy that “this is not the time to politicize,” an argument people use to justify complacency.If not now, then when? If not us, then whom?
That does seem to be the question, doesn’t it? How long? How many children must be robbed of a future before we understand it is our duty to protect their future, which is indeed our own future? A recent study performed by the University of Pennsylvania examined almost 200 participants and found that nearly half screened positive for likely PTSD even several years after they were shot. There were also higher rates of unemployment and drug or alcohol abuse than before they were injured. Clearly the effects and damage done by gun violence far exceeds the physical harm done.
RESOURCES FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL-AGED STUDENTS
Talking to kids about gun violence is extremely difficult, yet also extremely necessary. There are many resources online or you can ask the guidance counselor at your child’s school for programs or tools to help you speak with your children. Parents need to have honest conversations with their kids that are age appropriate.
HERE ARE SOME CONVERSATION STARTERS
• Do you play video games that use and glorify violence? Are there games you enjoy that don’t
have violence in them?
• According to the American Psychological Association (APA) more than 90% of U.S. children play some kind of video game.
• It is estimated that more than 85% of games on the market contain some form of violence.
• You can read the 2015 APA resolution on violent video games here:
• Have you ever experienced bullying? How did you react?
Kids in Their Own Words After Sandy Hook
While we all were children once upon a time, for some of us that might have been a while ago. These two TV news segments highlight young children’s feelings and understandings about gun violence:
MORE CONVERSATION STARTERS
In her chart-topping hit song, The Greatest Love of All Whitney Houston writes, “I believe the children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” While this song was performed in 1985 the sentiment is certainly still valid today. As parents we need to be involved in our children’s education and safety. We need more productive conversations with our children. Children need to know that they can safely come to us with questions about the world they live in. Here are some alternatives to violence that you can share with your children. (Below is a worksheet from VIOLENCE PREVENTION CURRICULUM by Deborah Prothrow-Stith, originally published in 1987. Now available through Googlebooks.
THROWING A CURVE: YOUR OTHER CHOICE
Fight and flight are always choices in a conflict. We’ve talked about how fighting can be dangerous under the best of circumstances; it is even more so when alcohol, drugs, and weapons are involved. And to many people, flight feels like admitting defeat and losing face. But there is another choice.
Throw a curve. Do the unexpected. Your opponent probably expects you to be defensive and hostile (ready to fight), or else frightened (ready to flee). Instead, throw a curve and be confident, friendly, and ready to joke.
Martial arts and self-defense experts recommend these steps in looking for nonviolent ways to handle a fight situation:
1. STAY ON CENTER. Stay in control. Don’t let your fear, anger, or defensiveness throw you off balance, and
don’t let someone else force you into fighting. Breathe deeply, move slowly, and stay calm.
2. KEEP IT COOL. Keep your voice low and calm. Calling someone names, shouting, or swearing will make the other person defensive. Keep the situation from escalating.
3. STAND IN THE OTHER PERSON’S SHOES. It’s easier to figure out the best way to handle a situation if you can relate to the other person. Try to understand what he or she wants, thinks, and feels. It will put you in a better position to work things out and stand up for yourself.
4. GIVE ‘EM A WAY OUT. Usually the other person is as interested in saving face as you are. Don’t back the
person into a corner where he or she will have to fight. Provide a graceful way out.
5. KEEP IT LIGHT. The less serious a situation, the less likelihood of a fight. Make a joke — but not at the other person’s expense — or be the joker, or just point out that it isn’t worth fighting about.
6. APOLOGIZE/EXCUSE. Saying “sorry” or “excuse me” doesn’t have to mean you’re wrong and the other person’s right. It can be a simple way to diffuse an argument or fight.
And remember: Prevention is the best curve of all!
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
By role playing and thinking about real life situation we are able to help children walk through experiences that they may have to deal with on a daily basis. For many of us the idea of “Fight or Flight” is the only two possible solutions to the problems we face but that does not have to be the case. Here we will look at some examples of situations that can be typical in life in order to work through different ways of handling the problem.
We believe there are alternative actions that can be taken during times of conflict instead of the use of any form of violence. Here are several child-friendly situations that will allow you to explore nonviolent responses to everyday challenges that children face.
1. Cindy is being made fun of because she is the only African American in her class. How should someone help Cindy without using violence?
2. Timmy stutters when he speaks, and Madelyn is making fun of him. How can Timmy let Madelyn know it bothers him without resorting to violence?
3. Johnny sees Jimmy behind the school showing his friends a gun he brought from home.
What should Johnny do?
MUSIC RESOURCES WITH DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
• “Change” by Charlie Puth (feat. James Taylor)
On Puth’s Twitter, he said this song is “dedicated to all of the Parkland students, any lives lost to senseless gun violence, and the world.” He also told Women’s Wear Daily, “It wasn't written for [March for Our Lives] specifically. I wrote it a year prior. I don't really know why I wrote it, but now I know why. It just happened to catch up a year late,"
Questions to consider:
1. As you listen to this song, what phrases or situations stick out for you?
2. If you could write another verse to the song based on your community’s situation, what might it include?
• “Preach” by John Legend.
In this performance John Legend addresses the issue of violence perpetrated by figures of authority in our society. If we want to see the injustice in the world improve, we need to do more than simply preach. We need to act and be a part of the positive change.
Questions to Consider:
1. If you were “preaching” to your community about violence, what would be the number one issue you would raise? As the newsletter opened up, “If not us, then whom?”
2. Do you ever feel overwhelmed and helpless by the onslaught of violent news and social media? How do you respond?
WAYS TO GET INVOLVED:
If we want to make lasting changes for the betterment of our children and the future, we need to make sure that we sow into as many areas as possible where we can make a difference. Many organizations have lobbyists working with local and national politicians to enact changes in our country’s laws. These groups need volunteers, as well as donations, to continue to move forward.
One such group is the Children’s Defense Fund. Marylee Allen, the Director of Policy states that the Children’s Defense Fund champions policies and programs to improve the odds for America’s children.
This particular organization also gathers data for reports and analysis. It is an excellent resource for trends in national violence and child welfare that can lead to discussion questions in your home or classroom.
Another national organization, Moms Demand Action, founded by Shannon Watts grew out of a Facebook page that was started the day after the Sandy Hook shootings.
Moms Demand Action is a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence. We pass stronger gun laws and work to close the loopholes that jeopardize the safety of our families.
We also work in our own communities and with business leaders to encourage a culture of responsible gun ownership. We know that gun violence is preventable, and we’re committed to doing what it takes to keep families safe.
There is a chapter of Mom’s Demand Action in every state. To learn more about how you can be a part of their mission you can read about them on their website at
Brady: United Against Gun Violence
White House Press Secretary Jim Brady survived a gunshot wound to the head during the 1981 failed Presidential assassination attempt. Following the incident Mr. Brady and his wife Sarah became very active in working to provide safe parameters on gun ownership and use. The organization the National Council to Control Handguns was founded in 1974 and later evolved into Handgun Control Inc. which with its sister organization, Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, was instrumental in pushing for background checks when purchasing handguns from federal firearm dealers. On November 30, 1993 The Brady Bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton requiring background checks on all handguns purchased from federally licensed firearms dealers. The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence has evolved into the non-profit organization called Brady. As an organization they are committed to reducing gun violence by 25% by 2025. Their web site is an excellent resource for statistics about gun violence and ways that you can be a part of the national solution.
If you would like your Congressperson to support issues that you feel are important for the future of our country you can reach out to them so they know your opinion. As of October 24, 2019 you can reach current Missouri Senators at:
Roy Blunt 202.224.5721 https://www.blunt.senate.gov
Josh Hawley 202.224.6154 https://www.hawley.senate.gov
If you do not know your Congressperson you can find out at https://www.congress.gov/members
Your Local Church
Check with the Pastor at your local church.
The local church is often an excellent source of aid during times of community challenge or tragedy. There are support and outreach groups to help individuals process acts of violence and grief. These outreach and support groups can be a wonderful resource if you are in need and also a great way for you to get involved if you are interested in helping others.
Your local congregation can also be a source of proactive advocacy for issue regarding social justice. If your church does not currently have a committee to help work toward social justice issues perhaps you could talk to your Pastor about creating one.
RESOURCES FOR NON-VIOLENT CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Better Family Life is another community development organization that provides many resources to the St. Louis community. It was founded to tackle social and economic problems in the community from a holistic approach. Better Family Life’s five core pillars of development are: Community Outreach, Cultural Arts, Housing and Asset Development, Workplace Development, and Youth, Family and Clinical Services.
Better Family Life builds strong families and vibrant communities by providing hope, comprehensive services, and meaningful opportunities.
Through their main website there are links to the various programs that have been initiated by Better Family Life to meet the challenging and changing needs of the community. https://www.betterfamilylife.org
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1.800.273.8255
NBC news in September of 2018 reported that over 20,000 Americans a year commit suicide using a firearm. While a study at Harvard University determined that 85% of suicide attempts using a firearm end in death. This is compared with drug overdose, the most widely used method in suicide attempts, which is fatal in less than 3% of the cases.
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org is also a site where you can find resources for yourself or someone you know to get the help they need.
On December 13th 2019 it was announced that the FCC approved a three digit number (988) to more easily link those who need help to a suicide prevention call center, similar to the national 911 emergency number. Now that the FCC approved the number it can go before the general public to determine if it is a proposal that meets the needs of the people.
There are many excellent resources in the United States regardless of your location. The organization Cure Violence even operates on a global scale. There are groups in over 25 cities in the United States as well as many locations in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and more.
In October of 2019 the city council of Saint Louis approved a $5 million-dollar violence prevention initiative by partnering with the organization Cure Violence. This bill was sponsored by Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, whose family has personally experienced traumatic gun violence. The city of Saint Louis is hoping to begin the program in the spring of 2020. Currently the city is engaged in seeking a local organization to run the daily operation of the program.
The program trains neighborhood “interrupters”. These are community-based individuals that go to the scenes of violence and shootings to deescalate the emotions and tension of the community resulting in reduced rates of retaliatory violence. These “interrupters” are individuals from the neighborhoods. They have street credibility to speak into the lives and struggles faced as they are invested in the well-being of the community. Trained in counseling and mediation techniques they hope to bring cooler heads and reason into often tense street clashes. It is critical that we continue to do something. In Saint Louis there have been 172 homicides as of November 18, which is up from 163 over the same period last year.
Safe Place is a national youth outreach and prevention program for young people under the age of 18 (up to 21 years of age in some communities) in need of immediate help and safety.
You can learn more about the Safe Place program, who is running them and where the nearest
“Safe Place” is at through their website: https://www.nationalsafeplace.org/what-is-safe-place
IPJ Website- https://peaceandjusticeinstitute.org (Facebook & Twitter links are in the upperleft hand corner of the IPJ website)
See you soon, IPJ
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