A recent analysis by a top medical journal also suggests that gun deaths are helping drive up America’s child mortality rate at the fastest pace in 50 years.
The biggest jump came in the first year of the pandemic. The report blamed about half of the total increase in deaths on guns in 2020, used in homicides and suicides.
That year, guns surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death for children, the New York Times reported.
In the face of this violence, it’s worth considering what Americans can do to keep their kids safe from guns, both at home and at school.
There has been a push to harden or fortify schools by changing their infrastructure or practices to make them more resilient against potential shooters.
Most American schools are now required to have their students perform drills on how to respond to an active-shooter event. These drills are intended to inform students on how to get to safety if there is someone wishing them harm on campus.
But in recent years, these drills have come under scrutiny for increasing anxiety and stress for students, and there is little evidence that they have helped prevent deaths. The state of Texas recently moved to revamp how it does drills to minimize trauma.
Additionally, many schools have turned to using metal detectors to try and reveal weapons students may bring to school.
HAVING POLICE OFFICERS ON SCHOOL CAMPUSES
The alleged Nashville shooter reportedly avoided targeting a different school because of the presence of security on campus.
The promise of deterrence is one reason many schools have brought in police officers, typically referred to as School Resource Officers (SROs).
There were no SROs at Covenant School, where the deadly shooting occurred.
Past research has found the presence of SROs is associated with less violence at a school. But SROs can also be associated with an increase in punitive responses toward students.
“What we found.. .is when an SRO enters a school, typically we see an increase in the use of suspensions, expulsions, referrals to law enforcement and arrest,” Lucy Sorenson, an education policy researcher at the University of Albany who has studied the use of police in schools.
KEEPING GUNS OUT OF THE HANDS OF KIDS AT HOME
While school shootings are often the focus of media coverage, most kids who are killed by firearms are actually killed in their own homes. This is often because they have access to firearms that are not properly secured.
One way for adults to keep firearms out of the hands of kids is to secure them with gun locks.
Police departments often give these away for free.
Past research has shown that giving away gun locks to gun owners and providing them with some education about proper firearm storage can improve their use of safe storage.
A review of research by the nonpartisan RAND Corporation found that state laws encouraging the use of gun locks and safe storage of ammunition are effective at reducing child deaths.
But David Hemenway, Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and a leading gun violence researcher, cautioned that securing a gun at home does not eliminate the risk to children.
He said that kids often outsmart safety devices.
“We’ve done these studies which show that so many parents think the kids don’t know where the gun is or never touched the gun, couldn’t get a gun and then you ask the kids say, “Oh yeah…they don’t think we know where the Christmas presents are hidden? We know where the Christmas presents are hidden, we know where the guns are, we know how to get them if we needed to,” he said.
He argued instead that the best way to protect kids at home is to simply not have a gun there.
“I think the evidence is very strong that a gun in the home is a risk factor for death in the home,” Hemenway said.