A deadly attack on a crowd in New York City. A mass shooting in Texas, leaving at least 26 people slain. It’s easy to feel despair when this comes only a month after the largest mass shooting in American history, and after years of similar tragedies. What can we do?
First and foremost is keep the pressure on our elected officials to increase gun control. I wrote about this after the Las Vegas massacre, but here’s a recap: Spend some time on the Everytown site (and their Moms Demand Action project), Momsrising’s Gun Safety section, or those of other gun control organizations. Donate to their work if you can. Write to or call your members of Congress about restricting the sale and use of assault rifles and silencers (the AR-15 assault rifle or similar weapon has been used in the vast majority of recent mass shootings), and enforcing stronger background checks.
Michael Lindenberger of the Dallas News writes that immediately after a mass shooting, many feel it is “too soon” to talk about gun control. He responds, “Hell no, it is not too soon. Call it past time. Say it’s a conversation grossly in arrears.” And the New York Times Editorial Board asks, “If now is too soon to debate gun control, how long must Americans wait?” They have compiled a list of 15 mass shootings since the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and ask, “If it is too soon to respond to Sutherland Springs, is it too soon to respond to these?”
The New York City attacker, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, did not use a gun, of course. It is less clear to me exactly what we can do to avoid attacks like his in the future—but I don’t think the solution is in increasing our already “extreme” vetting of immigrants. The attacker seems to have become radicalized after he came to the U.S. Perhaps it is not too far fetched to suggest that by creating an environment that treats many immigrants with suspicion and hostility and by not addressing systemic issues of racism and other social injustices, we’re setting up conditions that could cause some people (immigrant or otherwise) to turn to extremism. We need to continue our efforts to stop ISIS and other terrorist groups around the world—they are definitely part of the equation—but we have work to do here at home as well, both in terms of stopping members or sympathizers of these groups and in terms of stopping the conditions under which they flourish.
In the meantime, we can help our children process the news of these ongoing tragedies if we feel they are old enough or if they hear about them at school. Google “how to talk to kids about tragedy” for a number of different takes on the topic. I found this one from Psychology Today, written right after the Las Vegas shooting, to be a good place to start.
What more can we do? Hug our kids. Tell them we love them. Teach them to have respect and kindness towards themselves and others. Turn our worries into action, and keep working to make the world a little better for our children, in whatever ways we can.
Is that enough? Probably not. Maybe, however, it will be a start.