Despite the fervor of media attention, many studies demonstrate that mass shootings are a small percentage of all U.S. deaths caused by firearms.
The FBI qualifies a massive shooting as one in which four or more people are killed at the same event. While these tragedies are devastating for the community, victims and their families, firearms actually end more lives in situations involving domestic violence, suicide and accidental shootings, incidents that generally do not receive attention from the media.
In the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, a young man shot 20 children, six school employees and later killed himself. That led the Obama administration to attempt to implement a series of gun control measures.
Congress did not approve any of the measures, including one that received vast support from voters: a verification system intended to prevent criminals and those with mental health issues from acquiring firearms.
Last month, a well-armed couple opened fire in the Inland Empire Regional Center, killing nine men and five women. Again, the Obama administration has attempted to pass a gun-control measure without success.
On Jan. 5, President Barack Obama again pushed for gun restrictions, describing new methods to enforce gun regulations. He encouraged citizens to vote for candidates who are in favor of preventing gun violence.
“The United States of America is not the only country on earth with violent or dangerous people. We are not inherently more prone to violence,” the president said.
“But we are the only advanced country on earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency,” he added. “It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close.”
Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the Church welcomed efforts to save lives.
“For a long time now, the bishops of the United States have called for reasonable policies to help reduce gun violence,” he said Jan. 6, following the president’s announcement on firearm regulation. “Violence in our society is a complex issue with many facets, taking many forms. We hope Congress will take up this issue in a more robust way, considering all of the varied aspects involved.”
Archbishop Wenski said the conversation should also include “strengthening social services for persons with mental illness, while being mindful that the vast majority of those suffering with mental illness are not likely to commit violent criminal acts.”
Firearms and domestic violence
According to studies, access to firearms increases the risk of killings in domestic violence situations. A.L. Kellermann, in a study published in the Journal of Trauma, writes that women are twice as likely to be killed by their husbands or boyfriends with a firearm than by strangers using another weapon.
Another study publish by the American Journal of Public Heath reports that when an abuser has a firearm, it is 12 times more likely that the victim will die, compared to abuse with another weapon of physical force alone. Women in the United States are 11 times more vulnerable of being killed with a firearm than in other developed countries.
Guns and suicide
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that those who live in homes with guns are more likely to consider suicide. States that have a higher rate of gun ownership report higher rates of suicide.
Studies suggest that the majority of suicide attempts that use firearms are fatal, while those that use another means are fatal 7 percent of the time.
“Unfortunately the suicide attempts are a problem among adolescents,” said Carmen Mansilla, a psychologist in Riverside. “Males have a higher proclivity of trying to take their own lives with a gun, while women will cut themselves or try to poison themselves.”
According to the expert, parents have to be aware of children’s behaviors that indicate suicidal tendencies. Those behaviors may include losing interest in activities they used to enjoy, drug use, cutting themselves, distancing themselves from friends, changes in eating and sleep patterns, buying a gun or pills.
Suicide prevention isn’t often considered in gun control debates. In the United States there are more suicides using firearms that there are homicides. In 2013, the last year in which the CDC reported numbers, 21,175 people had committed suicide with a firearm while 11,208 had been killed with firearms by other means.
A recent analysis found an increase in the probability of accidental shootings among gun owners. States with more guns suffer more accidental deaths.
In the United States, children from 5-14 years of age are 11 times more likely to die by a bullet accidentally fired than in other developed countries where gun ownership is less common.
The American Pediatric Academy has said that the absence of firearms in the home and in places where there are children is the most effective method to prevent injury by guns between children.
Help for those suffering domestic violence
‚Ä¢ CSU Long Beach Trauma Recovery Center: (562) 491-7977
‚Ä¢ Downtown Women’s Center: (213) 680-0600
‚Ä¢ Special Service for Groups Trauma Recovery Center
‚Ä¢ HOPICS: (323) 432-4399, ext. 210
‚Ä¢ Suicide Hotline: (800) 784-2433
‚Ä¢ Crisis Call Center: (800) 273-8255
‚Ä¢ National Suicide Hotline: 800-SUICIDE (784-2433); 800-442-HOPE (4673)
‚Ä¢ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK (8255)
How to manage after a homicide
The pain from the loss of a loved due to homicide takes time and work to heal, according to psychologist Carmen Mansilla, who has a practice in Riverside. She recommends:
> Asking for and accepting help.
> Avoid isolation. Talk with family and friends; attend support groups and professional counselors.
> Talk to religious organizations and priests to find strength and consolation.
> Write your feelings when you cannot openly express them. That helps alleviate the pain.
> Participate in solidarity efforts with other victims and their families.
> Read motivational books about those who have gone through similar experiences and learned how to overcome the pain.
> Exercise, even if it’s a short walk. That helps with stress, anxiety, rancor and other feelings that “poison” the spirit.