34. Gun Violence: Developing Strategies for Safer Schools and Communities

Author: Allison Forhan, Sophomore

Over the past decade, the United States has endured reading a number of heart-breaking news reports on gun violence in schools, universities, barbershops, movie theaters, shopping malls, workplaces, and airports. Gun violence is a criminal act that takes far too many lives each year; it leaves families, as well as friends, communities, and fellow Americans devastated at the loss of innocent lives. According to Dean Obeidallah, author of “Gun Violence Is a Public Health Epidemic,” every year in the United States, there are about 30,000 people killed by guns. Tragic events such as Columbine, Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the Century Movie Theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado have left our nation in fear. Gun violence is a growing problem in our schools and in our communities; it is time we take the steps and actions necessary in order to reduce the number of tragedies related to gun violence. As a nation, we should not have to endure gun violence in our schools and in our communities. We need to come together to develop more accessible mental health treatments, as well as form gun prevention campaigns in our communities, and finally, develop a system of sensible gun laws that will contribute to the prevention of future gun violence.
It is not always easy to recognize a potential threat through an individual’s physical appearance. Gun violence is an act that evolves within an individual, both mentally and emotionally. An example offered by Holly Yan in her article, “Connecticut Massacre Suspect Adam Lanza Was a ‘Nice Kid,’ Some Say,” Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old man who took the lives of twenty-six Sandy Hook Elementary School students and teachers, never showed any signs of being harmful or offensive. However, a man who had no known criminal record was the cause of “the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history” (Yan). A variety of mental factors can influence an individual’s behavior, the majority of which are not physically visible. Arne Duncan, author of “Now Is The Time to Reduce Gun Violence in Schools and Communities,” explains how a commitment to an individual’s mental and emotional well-being is key in the prevention of gun violence.
It is important to recognize when an individual’s mental health may be in need of assistance, but according to the Prevention Institute, mental health services have decreased despite the increase in gun ownership. The Prevention Institute suggests that the implementation of laws, such as The Affordable Care Act, can help to “ensure accessible, high quality, culturally competent and widely accessed mental health treatment” (Prevention Institute). It is important that we are aware of the need for mental health treatment in both students and community members. Increasing the accessibility of public health support systems, such as more school resource officers, psychologists, social workers, and counselors is a step towards helping those in need of treatment, as well as helping to prevent future criminal acts involving gun violence.
Techniques developed over the years to help improve an individual’s mental health include the practice of mindfulness meditation—a practice studies have found can reduce thoughts of violence and crime. This was proven in an experiment done by David W. Orme-Johnson in 1988. Orme-Johnson studied the effects of mindfulness meditation through Maharishi Technology—a meditative practice that contributes to positive social change. The experiment offers information according to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) and the TM-Sidhi program. Yogi states that, “it is the accumulation of stress in collective consciousness that predisposes society to go to war” (Orme-Johnson). The experiment was called, The International Peace Project in the Middle East: The Effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field; it predicted that, “group practice of the Maharishi Technology…would reduce stress in the collective consciousness and behavior” (Orme-Johnson). The Maharishi Effect alleviates violent conflict through the reduction of societal stress; its social effects include a decrease in crime, accidents, war, and disease activity. It also has the ability to increase positive trends in society, the economy, and politics. The findings of Orme-Johnson’s experiment suggest that, “an immediate priority for social scientists and policymakers would be to investigate the large-scale application of this simple and nonintrusive technology to resolving international conflicts over extended periods of time” (Orme-Johnson). Our desire for world peace motivates the search for innovative strategies for conflict resolution in the United States. One way in which public health institutions can increase accessibility to mental health care is through the implementation of the practice of Maharishi Technology.
Gun violence takes the lives of too many innocent individuals each year, and causes unnecessary grief among the members of our nation. However, gun violence has motivated the communities it has affected to intervene and take action in hopes of putting an end to this horrific form of violence. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut—a massacre that claimed the lives of twenty-six individuals (20 students and six adults)—the Newton community came together to create the Sandy Hook Promise Campaign. An article in The Guardian, “Sandy Hook Families Launch 'Cultural Change' Campaign On Gun Violence,” explains the Sandy Hook Promise Campaign’s focus on emphasizing the importance of communities taking action first rather than waiting for federal legislation to step in. The campaign’s main goal is “to recruit 500,000 parents prioritizing local violence prevention over DC legislation” and to turn the tragedy into a moment of transformation (Sandy Hook). Nicole Hockely, a mother who lost her son to the shooting, states that “the lesson we’ve learned…is we don’t want to wait for DC. Parents don’t want to be just told what to do by DC,” (Sandy Hook). Hockley continues to emphasize the importance of getting people involved; how in order for change to happen, a lot of different people need to come together from a lot of different communities. The Sandy Hook Promise Campaign is one of many groups created as a result of gun violence. With a focus on gun violence prevention, local communities taking action have the power to help make a change and to influence federal legislation to take action to enforce this change.
According to Christine Jamieson, author of, “Gun Violence Research: History of the Federal Funding Freeze,” “there are approximately 30,000 firearm-related homicides and suicides a year, a number large enough to make clear this is a public health crisis” (Jamieson). In the earlier mentioned article, “Gun Violence Is a Public Health Epidemic,” Dean Obeidallah supports Jamieson’s claim in an explanation that the idea of gun control must change to the idea of a public health crisis; “if disease killed 30,000 people we would be quick to find a solution…we need to have the same mindset towards gun control” (Obeidallah). Developing a system of sensible gun laws will help establish a culture of gun safety; the implementation of these laws is instrumental in protecting the people we love. Limiting the access to the deadliest guns and ammunition, as well as implementing checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands are critical steps towards preventing future tragedies (Duncan). In addition, Jamieson explains recommendations for gun control laws provided by the American Psychology Association. These recommendations include the requirement for training and licensing for both gun use and secure gun storage. They also suggest the requirement for all gun owners “to regularly refresh their training and renew their permits, with requirements at least as stringent as those governing renewal of your driver’s license” (Jamieson). Guns should not have a place in our schools, in our movie theaters, in our places of worship, or in our communities. Better enforcement of gun control laws has the power to decrease gun violence and better protect the areas where we deserve to feel safe.
As a nation we need to take action and do the necessary research in order to better understand the causes of gun violence and how we can prevent them. Gun violence is a leading cause of premature death in the country; it has cut short dreams and created fear among our nation (Gun Violence). We cannot remain silent on such a pressing issue and just hope for the best as gun violence continues to kill the people we love. Preventing gun violence in our schools and communities needs to happen now; we must promise to do everything humanly possible to prevent future tragedies from happening. President Obama states, “we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics” (Gun Violence). Communities must come together, taking action in memory of those who have died from shootings. We must insist that this never happen again and promise to change both our culture and our policies to stop the cycle of violence. Gun violence must not merely be accepted, but acted upon through a means of intervention, such as increasing community involvement, developing more accessible mental health care, and creating gun control laws. Developing preventative measures will demand the safety for our children, for our communities, and for our nation.

Work Cited
Duncan, Arne. “Now is the Time to Reduce Gun Violence in Schools and Communities.” The White House Blog. Secretary Arne Duncan, 18 Jan. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.
“Gun Violence Must Stop. Here’s What We Can Do to Prevent More Deaths.” Prevention Institute. Free Range Studios. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.
Jamieson, Christine. “Gun Violence Research: History of the Federal Funding Freeze.” American Psychology Today. American Psychology Today, Feb. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2013. 
Obeidallah, Dean. “Gun Violence is A Public Health Epidemic.” CNNOpinion. Turner Broadcasting System, 8 Nov. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.
Orme-Johnson, David W., Alexander, Charles N., Davis, John L., Chandler, Howard M., and Larimore, Wallace E. “International Peace Project in the Middle East: The Effects of The Maharishi Technology of The Unified Field.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 32 (1988): 776-812. JSTOR. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.
“Sandy Hook Families Launch ‘Cultural Change’ Campaign on Gun Violence.” Theguardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 14 Nov. 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.
Yan, Holly. “Connecticut Massacre Suspect Adam Lanza Was a ‘Nice Kid,’ Some Say. CNNJustice. Turner Broadcasting System, 16 Dec. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

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