Reflecting on the Recent Tragedy in Nashville

Photo of a row of swings in a playground, all empty

Posted in: Hot Topics

Topics: Culture + Society

We are deeply saddened by the school shooting in Nashville. And while our hearts go out and we grieve with the parents and families of those slain, we should be outraged that the United States has one of the highest rates of gun-related deaths in the world.

When we look exclusively at high-income countries and territories with populations of 10 million or more, the US ranks first for homicides by firearm. As recently as 2020 death by firearms has been the #1 killer of children and young people ages one to 19, not including suicide, greater than motor vehicle accidents and cancer. We also have the highest gun ownership of any country in the world (1 in 4 households have firearms) and as of 2020 there were about 20 million AR-15 assault rifles in the United States. Research has shown that between 1994 and 2004 with a modified Assault rifle ban, the number of deaths by mass shootings decreased by 70%. Since the lapsing of that law, the number of deaths by mass shootings, has skyrocketed. The AR-15s are lethal weapons of war and have no place in hunting or other recreational firearm activity.

While some attribute school and other mass shootings to mental illness, this is an outrageous and false assertion. The vast majority of individuals with mental illness are victims of violence, not perpetrators. And consider, the rates of mental illness worldwide are not that different, yet no other comparable country has the rate of mass shootings than that of the United States. Playing the mental card is off the mark. Others attribute this phenomenon of mass shootings to “evil,” or assert that nothing can be done about it. We find these and other arguments not only wrong but that they foster and support the continued production of firearm production, which has tripled since 20o0.

Further, the rates of using weapons of mass destruction are fueled by misinformation if not outright deception by hateful media and political rhetoric that fosters fear and rage. As a psychiatrist of over 40 years, I know that many people respond to intense fear, paranoia, and perceived threats to their existence and way of life with rage and are more prone to violence. These strong emotions, which are not to be confused or conflated with mental illness, have fueled the escalating murder of our children and other groups targeted by individuals influenced by separatist groups. We need an end to inflammatory media, and a renewed ability to have civil conversations to reach greater understanding and peaceful acceptance of differences. Together – not separate – we make rational decisions despite our differences when we are calm and rational. Some of our political leaders have done just the opposite. They have fanned the flames, and incited reckless behavior that permeates society.

We can only save our kids and stop the skyrocketing murders by firearm legislation at the federal level. Any politician who is either silent or does not support this mission should be ashamed and find it hard to sleep at night.

In this moment, as you look for ways to support a young person in your life in responding to the impact and threat of gun violence, please see our resource page: After a Mass Shooting – Caregiver Resources.

Share on Social Media

Was this post helpful?