This post was originally published on St. Louis American

By Denise Hooks-Anderson

For most of us, watching children innocently play in the park brings simple joy. Children tend to romp around with abundant energy and a carefree attitude. Their joy is often contagious and makes even the tough among us soften just a little. However, we have quickly become a country where the safety of our children cannot be guaranteed, and their innocence cannot be maintained. When our children can’t be safe at school and must learn how to handle an active shooter, we have failed as a nation.

Active shooter drills. How crazy is that?  Instead of multiplication drills, children learn skills like pretending to be dead, wiping blood on their clothes, or learning how to barricade doors. So, instead of wondering if our children ate their entire lunch, parents have to worry if the next school shooting will be at their child’s school and if it is their child who will not make it home for dinner. I sometimes wonder if the staunch supporters of gun rights would be so passionate about the right to bear arms if it were their child massacred while trying to walk home from school or attend a movie?

For all of these children who have now witnessed mass shootings or who have been shot, what is like for them now? Let’s explore what it is like to be the victim of gun violence. Bullets pierce the skin but do not take a linear path within the body. Fragments of the bullet could be anywhere. Typically, death is not instant. Most people die from loss of blood or if they survive the first few hours, many die of infection. But what about the lifelong trauma that will follow these children who survived but saw their friends killed? That mental wound may never heal.

Our country already has issues providing enough mental health providers to meet the current demand. If we continue with this rate of gun violence, we will have a nation full of people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. People unable to sleep at night. People unable to maintain employment. Maybe this argument will propel our stagnant legislators to act since we are a capitalistic society. 

2022 has seen over 250 mass shootings so far and we are on track to experience the worst year ever. Schools, churches, grocery stores, the workplace. There are no safe places any more. How did a wealthy country like ours become such a hotbed of violence? Oh, I forgot. That is how we started: killing the indigenous inhabitants of this land and enslaving Africans for hundreds of years. Our violence has bred violence. 

The United States is the only country with more guns than people. The average gun owner has about 5 guns. In an industrialized nation like ours where it is no longer necessary for the most part, for us to go out and hunt for our food, why do we need all of these guns? Why does any average citizen who is not part of the military, need a semi-automatic weapon? 

Shame on us America! Our children deserve better!

Denise Hooks-Anderson, M.D., FAAFP