NEW YORK — Earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a new study reporting that child gun deaths in the United States have hit a record high, including a 41.5 percent increase in pediatric firearm deaths from 2018–2021. In the U.S., firearms continue to be the leading cause of death among children, adolescents and young adults. As students, families, educators and school staff head back to school for the new academic year, fears of gun violence both inside and outside the classroom continue to dominate.
To support those returning to school, Students Demand Action, a grassroots arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, has launched a new online school safety resource to provide students, teachers, administrators and parents with the appropriate tools and information to advocate for the safety of school communities this year. From learning about meaningful advocacy tactics, to finding key statistics on school safety solutions, the new resource serves as a pivotal guide to understanding how to best take action to keep schools free from gun violence in your community.
Thanks to the hard work of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers nationwide, at the start of this school year, more than 10 million students across the country will live in a district that requires schools to educate parents about the critical role of secure firearm storage in keeping students safe – more than quintuple the number of students covered as recently as December 2021. This is the result of tireless, district-by-district advocacy, particularly on the part of volunteers for the Be SMART program. Three out of four school shootings are committed with a gun from the home, so reducing unauthorized access to guns is key. Secure storage notification policies let schools send home information to parents about the importance of secure gun storage.
When it comes to how American children are exposed to gun violence, gunfire at schools is just the tip of the iceberg. An estimated three million children in the U.S. are exposed to shootings per year. Witnessing shootings – whether in their schools, their communities or their homes – can have a devastating impact. Children exposed to violence, crime, and abuse are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol; suffer from depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder; fail or have difficulties in school; and engage in criminal activity.
Everytown’s database of Gunfire on School Grounds details the myriad ways in which gun violence manifests on America’s school grounds. Over the past ten years, Everytown has identified more than 1,100 incidents of a firearm discharging a live round inside or into a school building or on or onto a school campus or grounds. Of these incidents, 787 occurred on the grounds of a preschool, elementary, middle, or high school, resulting in 257 deaths and 543 people wounded. Even for those who haven’t experienced gun violence at school, the trauma of experiencing active shooter drills and swatting incidents – which are happening with increasing frequency – leaves students, teachers and parents across the country experiencing firsthand the impacts of the gun lobby’s ‘guns everywhere’ agenda.
As schools resume, it’s critical that lawmakers at every level take action. To prevent gun violence at schools and protect kids in and out of school, state lawmakers should pass secure storage and Extreme Risk laws, and reject gun lobby efforts to arm teachers and weaken gun laws. Tennessee recently had an opportunity to respond to a tragic school shooting with action – while they rejected legislation to arm teachers and put more guns in schools, they failed to take any meaningful action on gun safety.
To speak with a Moms Demand Action or Students Demand Action volunteer, please reach out to [email protected].
Additional resources for students and adults include:
What Students Can Do:
- Explore Students Demand Action’s new school safety resource;
- Sign up and attend an upcoming Back to School Demanding Action Workshops;
- For college students, get involved with Students Demand Action’s #KillerBusiness campaign, which demands colleges and universities cut economic ties with the gun industry;
- Learn more about how Students Demand is addressing mental health concerns within the gun violence prevention movement, including this resource for students experiencing America’s gun violence epidemic
What Adults Can Do:
- Normalize conversations about gun safety amongst friends, family, school and community leaders with Be SMART;
- Urge school boards to keep communities and schools safe by passing a secure storage resolution and sending letters about secure storage home to parents;
- Familiarize themselves with recommendations for schools conducting active shooter drills and how to make them as trauma-informed as possible;
- Review resources on:
- For Parents: Talking to Children About Gun Violence;
- For Teachers and School Staff: Talking to Children about Mass Violence in Schools;
- For Victims and Survivors of Gun Violence: Taking Care of Yourself;
- Learn how to run for school board, other elected offices or work on a campaign with Demand a Seat