Gun violence is a public health epidemic
The American Medical Association has repeatedly declared gun violence in America as a public health crisis. Literally millions of people in the United States identify as a gun violence survivor, because of the high crime rate involving the use of guns in the US. Gun violence is defined as:
gun suicides and suicide attempts
gun homicides and assaults
domestic violence incidents involving a gun
shootings by police
unintentional and accidental shootings
other uncategorized crimes and threats involving guns
There is an enormous need for recognition of the gun violence as a public health epidemic. The organization, Everytown for Gun Safety holds National Gun Violence Survivors Week in February and hosts the Moments That Survive website, dedicated to the stories of gun violence survivors.
These millions of gun violence survivors suffer mentally and physically. Unimaginably, 9 out of 10 persons, who experience gun violence in any form, whether directly or indirectly, will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result.
In a national poll conducted by the research group Everytown for Gun Safety, a majority of Americans...58% of adults in the United States...reported that either they or someone they know personally, has experienced gun violence in their lifetime.
The number of victims who are killed by guns in the U.S. is more than ten times the number that are killed by guns in Western Europe and the developed world. The number of people killed as a result of police shootings in the U.S. is fifteen times higher than the rest of the developed world.
Millions of Americans are gun violence survivors
Gun violence survivors are defined as:
people who witness an act of gun violence
people who receive threats involving a gun
people who are wounded by a gun
people who are closely associated with someone who is wounded by a gun
people who are closely associated with someone killed by a gun.
Gun violence costs $280 BILLION every year..literally billions
Experiencing gun violence has profound consequences. This includes physical, financial, and legal consequences. Gun violence costs billions...literally BILLIONS...$280 BILLION every year. The emotional and psychological costs are long term and enduring.
The profound silence around gun violence survivorship
But there is an accepted silence in both public and private discourse related to gun violence.
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, leads Giffords, an organization dedicated to saving lives from gun violence. Ms. Giffords was shot in the head during an assassination attempt in her native state of Arizona, in the United States, while speaking on a street corner in daylight, in public. Six people were killed by that gunman and 20 injured.
The Giffords organization says that the political discourse created by the NRA - Gun Lobby in US, which has develop a contorted interpretation of the Second Amendment is amplified by Active Measures on social media by those who want to weaken the United States . Giffords maintains that the NRA has purposely created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the United States, in order to silence the suffering of gun violence survivors.
The atmosphere of fear and intimidation created by the gun lobby has intimidated and silenced gun violence survivors and hidden the enormous and painful costs of gun violence from the American people.
The NRA has worked with the Russian war criminal, Vladimir Putin, in order to further consolidate their political and financial power.
$280 billion dollars a year...will we get reparations from the gun manufacturers and/ or the war criminal for this?
Gun violence survivors are silenced by threats and intimidation
In the United States, gun violence survivors are regularly shamed and intimidated by famous and wealthy public figures. Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie, was murdered during the Parkland mass shooting, was purposely ignored and snubbed by a man who now sits on the US Supreme Court. David Hogg, a Parkland survivor who has publicly spoken about his PTSD symptoms (he is a gun owner, BTW) , was accosted and threatened by a woman who now sits in the US Congress. The parents of the children who were murdered at the Sandy Hook massacre were hounded and tormented for years by Alex Jones, who spread the cruel and baseless conspiracy theory that the Sandy Hooks massacre was staged. Alex Jones cruelly and intentionally inspired his gullible followers to torment these parents as they mourned their children. Some had to move to gated communities and live in hiding to escape the harrassment. Alex Jones was allowed to torment and intimidate these parents for over a decade, until they beat him in court. That court settlement battle still rages on.
This culture of silence around the cost of gun violence is actively fed by the US government. Congress shielded the gun manufacturers for decades by refusing to recognize the public health problem and denying funding of gun violence research. In addition, Congress further shielded gun manufacturers from liability with the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), .
The one sided conversation around gun safety has filtered down through US society. Gun control has become an uncomfortable subject to discuss. Emotions run high thanks to the political Active Measures on social media surrounding the 2A issue and to how our Congress shields gun manufacturers in a way no other industry is shielded from scrutiny.
People who suffer from gun violence are intimidated by threats and violence. They have to deal with the shooting and also the toxic atmosphere about gun violence in America. They are suffering and they are afraid to speak out.
So, the full extend of the suffering of gun violence victims remains a taboo subject. Americans are unaware of the profound lifelong consequences that are experienced by survivors.
The truth about gun violence and mental health
In 2021, a nationwide survey was conducted by a survivor’s advocacy organization to assess the level of emotional impact experienced by gun violence survivors. Their data revealed the following:
90% of survivors reported experiencing trauma as a result of the event
50% of survivors reported that the level of trauma they experienced was severe enough to affect their physical and mental well-being and/or their ability to function normally in their everyday lives
two-thirds of survivors expressed the need for therapy and other mental health services
In the aftermath of gun violence incidents, the focus of law enforcement is on arresting and prosecuting the perpetrators. Their interest in victims is purely to act as witnesses. It is extremely rare to see any public agency act immediately with mental health intervention and support. Whatever help survivors do receive, they usually have to pursue on their own.
Emotional trauma associated with the aftermath of gun violence, which persists for any significant length of time following the incident, takes the form of post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD is a serious form of anxiety disorder which can be experienced short term or long term. With some people, the effects of trauma subside over time. However, PTSD can become a life-long affliction and really never heal completely. PTSD symptoms can ebb and flow, depending on the events in a person's life, re-appearing during times of stress but there can be periods of remission.
PTSD is not all in your head. PTSD has a constellation of symptoms that are based in physiology, so PTSD interferes with a person’s physical and mental health, impacting their personal and professional relationships, and their ability to function normally in everyday situations. Many who suffer with PTSD require counseling and therapy over a lengthy period of their lives.
A person afflicted with PTSD has emotional triggers that cause him or her to become easily frightened, even when there is no source of present danger. People, places or situations that the person associates with the original incident can trigger severe symptoms, including panic attacks. This often leads to avoidance of these potential triggers, which can generalize out to avoidance of people and social situations and, thus, isolation. Isolation further exacerbates existing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
A diagnosis of PTSD requires the following for at least one month:
At least one re-experiencing of the event symptom
At least one avoidance symptom
At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms, such as panic attacks, startle responses, fight or flight responses
At least two cognition and mood symptoms, such as forgetfulness and depression and anxiety
Ongoing symptoms can include:
Flashbacks—experiencing the trauma repeatedly, accompanied by physical symptoms like a rapid heartbeat or sweating
Simmering anger with outbursts of rage
People who lose a loved one to gun violence will go through bereavement, rage, grief, shock and loss which is re-experienced over and over again their entire lifetime. Since gun violence deaths are sudden and violent in nature, the sense of grief is often long-lasting.
Every year in America, 85,000 people survive gunshot wounds. These survivors face not only a lengthy physical recovery period, they face an even longer psychological recovery period.
According to a research review study, gunshot survivors suffer especially high rates of PTSD, long-term chronic pain, anxiety, anger and depression. They are often unable to return to work and experience reduced levels of social functioning, compared to pre-injury.
A friend of one gunshot victim, after being asked about his friend, shared:
“His entire life has changed. He deals with depression and pain continually. I know that my friend is still here with us in the world, and I am so thankful for that. But at the same time, he has changed so much, it is like he has been taken.”
Dickinson, T. (2018). Inside the Decades Long Russian Campaign to Infiltrate the NRA and Elect Trump, Rolling Stone Magazine.
Everytown Research & Policy (2022) https://everytownresearch.org
Giffords Organization (2022) https://giffords.org