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Preventing gun violence, everywhere...all at once

 

In light of the three recent mass shootings in the last three days in California—Monterey Park, Half Moon Bay and Oakland—take a look at "A Smarter Way to Reduce Gun Deaths" that Nicholas Kristof posted in the New York Times.

To solve this plague of violence requires many parts working together, he says.

Using alarming and revealing data and graphs, he includes these among his many recommendations:

  • Keep guns out of the hands of people under 21 (Wyoming has such a law), as well as those convicted of violent misdemeanors, such as family violence.
  • Ban machine guns.
  • Require a gun license for any gun, in the same way we a process to drive a car (Massachusetts and North Carolina do this).
  • Tax the guns most used in homicides—handguns (like cigarettes)

And then there are the approaches to reduce gun violence that have nothing to do with guns, he says:

  • Curb lead exposure in infants.
  • Counseling.
  • Violence interrupter programs, such as Cure Violence, to reduce revenge shootings.

ANYTGuns2Gun violence is clearly a public health issue, he says. But he didn't mention a critically important element to prevent gun violence: reducing adversity in childhood while increasing positive childhood experiences. That's one of the many important ways to prevent gun violence, and not just gun violence, but any violence as well as being a victim of violence.

In a 2019 Los Angeles Times article, “We have studied every mass shooting since 1966. Here’s what we’ve learned about the shooters”, Jillian Peterson and James Delaney wrote: “First, the vast majority of mass shooters in our study experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. The nature of their exposure included parental suicide, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and/or severe bullying.”

Research clearly shows that the road that leads from a precious infant becoming an abused or neglected child who grows up to become a distressed murderer is predictable. That was revealed in the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.

The ACE Study showed a remarkable link between 10 types of childhood trauma and being violent or a victim of violence, as well as experiencing the adult onset of chronic disease and mental illness. The ten types of childhood trauma include experiencing physical and emotional abuse, neglect, living with a family member who is addicted to alcohol or who is mentally ill, and witnessing domestic violence. (For more information, see PACEs Science 101 and What ACEs/PCEs Do You Have?) Subsequent ACE surveys include experiencing bullying, racism, the foster care system, living in a dangerous community, losing a family member to deportation and being a war refugee, among other traumatic experiences.

The point is—and the science is irrefutable now—just as a bullet rips through flesh and bone, a child experiencing ongoing encounters that cause toxic stress, without positive intervention to help the child, will suffer damage to the structure and function of their brain.

Although we can’t predict if a kid with ACEs will express their toxic stress outwardly in violence to others, or turn inward to harm to themselves, or, in some cases, do both, we know enough to say that damage will occur to themselves or others. So, we need to intervene at every step of the way to prevent harm. Warning signs will always show themselves, if we’re educated to see them, no matter a person's age. And if we address these signs, if our systems integrate practices based on PACEs science, we have a better shot at preventing not just violence, such as mass shootings, but all other ways childhood adversity can affect us as adults

As Kristof noted: Public health mostly is not about one big thing but about a million small things.

What we hear now from officials about the three people who did the shootings is: "We're looking for a motive." If we want to prevent shootings, asking about motive will just get you a useless answer to the wrong question. Motives don’t explain the roots of why mass shooters start their journey as innocent babies and end up on a road to killing people. And in those roots, are our solutions.

If you use the lens of the science of positive and adverse childhood experiences, the answer reveals itself, and pretty quickly. Grappling with gun violence by focusing on one solution has clearly failed, as Kristof points out, as does focusing on guns alone.

As a long-term strategy, playing Whac-A-Mole doesn't work to significantly reduce any of our most intractable problems. The challenge is to implement a coordinated, community-wide cross-sector approach, as PACEs Connection is working with communities to build.

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@Lisa Eason posted:

One more reason the US has more gun violence than most other countries, though all countries have residents that experience childhood trauma, is that the US is saturated with guns. Not to speak of our glorifying of perpetual teenage mentality.

Regardless of such mass slaughters via body-part-destroying rifles, etcetera, hard-right-wing radio-talk-show host Lars Larson defends the gun industry.

Perhaps worse, he (or his superiors, if he has any) even continues broadcasting ads in his voice — thus likely making him even more money — selling, besides guns and ammunition themselves, the services of a business that assists people in accessing gun ownership that has been denied them by government regulations.

And this from a public personality who has the morally-challenged audacity to openly call himself Christian!

One more reason the US has more gun violence than most other countries, though all countries have residents that experience childhood trauma, is that the US is saturated with guns. Not to speak of our glorifying of perpetual teenage mentality.

“As Kristof noted: Public health mostly is not about one big thing but about a million small things.

“What we hear now from officials about the three people who did the shootings is: "We're looking for a motive." If we want to prevent shootings, asking about motive will just get you a useless answer to the wrong question. Motives don’t explain the roots of why mass shooters start their journey as innocent babies and end up on a road to killing people. And in those roots, are our solutions.”

                     —————

Thank you Jane, for bringing your clarity to this horrific latest chapter in our nation’s sorry efforts to protect its most valuable resources — it’s people.

I’d add to what you’ve written that the only way we’re going to make the myriad changes necessary is by having a strong, massive, and united voice that goes to local, state, and national leaders in a concerted and strategic way to educate them about the need to go upstream on the Social Determinants of Health. It must and move “our people” to run for public office and bring these sensibilities to POLICY.  A state-full of us in our own communities NOT talking to decision makers — and becoming decision makers — and changing the way teachers, staff, and children are treated in schools won’t make the changes necessary to give children the positive childhood experiences necessary to help buffer the traumas they may be experiencing at home, their neighborhoods, their lives.

This is just one of a dozen examples I could list of people and places our communities need to focus on to help make the changes in how children and adults are treated that provide acceptance, understanding and support instead of blame, shame and punishment.  We know that doesn’t work.

Right now the most important action we can take, aside from taking great care of ourselves, is to find the Campaign on Trauma Informed Policy and Practice — at CTIPP.org — sign-on letter to the 118th Congress and add your name to it, now,  to help these elected officials know there are people in their communities demanding changes such as those we write about all the time: paid family leave; support for pregnant and parenting women;  starting, in kindergarten, to teach children about brain science, healthy relationships and early childhood development so they are steeped in the importance of safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments before they themselves start making toxic life choices; taxing the wealthy and corporations and investing those funds in our people and environment so we stop the adverse childhood experiences of poverty and inequity; taking on the multi-generational impacts of racism and the intense and horrific damage done to children who experience disdain on an almost constant basis, here in this nation of alleged “family values.”

Signing the CTIPP letter is one way to #TakeOnTrauma. Sharing the letter with all you know and asking them to sign on by January 31 is a step in the right direction. Until we get traction with the folks making the laws and deciding where the money is going, we won’t be able to get to root cause in the kind of widespread, every infant, every child, everywhere, all-the-time way we must if we’re going to see the changes that must be made to prevent people from acting out, in harmful ways, the pain and sorrow they carry.

Background checks, absolutely!  Assault weapons ban, absolutely!

But…violent people have one thing in common.  They did not experience parenting behaviors and practices generally recognized as supporting the healthy development of children.  This is not to say that everyone who experiences unsupportive and harmful parenting becomes violent.  Indeed, most do not.  But, if we want to put an end to violence, working to improve the overall quality of parenting must be part of the solution.

Visit www.advancingparenting.org.  In our own low tech way we are finding easy and powerful ways to teach everyone about parenting.

Last edited by David Dooley
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