During 2020, we heard very little about mass shootings and shootings at schools because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Due to the quarantine rules, most people stayed at home and we did not hear about mass shootings. Instead we heard about how many people were contracting the Coronavirus and dying from it. We were hearing about how many families were being destroyed by the Coronavirus forever. Therefore, we were not paying attention to the issue of mass shootints. Instead we were worrying about how we were going to survive the Coronavirus pandemic, when former President Trump was choosing to ignore it.
Now we are starting to gain control over the Coronavirus and starting to open the country. As we do start to open the Country up, the issue of mass shootings are becoming an issue again. I have written many articles about mass shootings. In November of 2019, I wrote my last article about mass shootings and I was hoping and praying it was my last. However, my hopes and prayers were not answered in the way I had hoped they would be answered. Looking back to November of 2019, as of July 31, 2019, there were 248 mass shootings, 246 people killed and 979 injured. Given the number of shootings in 2019, it averaged out to a mass shooting every 1.2. days. Those statistics were valid until July 31st. However in November 2019, there were three more shootings in California, Texas and Ohio. Therefore, there were 250 mass shootings in 2019.
Since we have reopened the Country, there have been 126 mass shootings, 148 people killed, 481 people injured for a total of 629 victims so far in 2021 (CDC). The first mass shooting was in March of this year in Atlanta. It’s a month later and we already have 126 mass shootings for 2021. Our US Capital has been attacked twice in 2021 and with all this violence the republicans in the Senate refuse to vote for safe and sane gun laws. What are we doing in the United States?
Let’s look back at the history of the mass shooting issue. As of November 15, 2019, which was the 319th day of the year there had been 336 mass shootings. The statistics for 2019 list 1347 killed in 2019 in mass shooting and 1,684 people injured. These statistics don’t account for how many families have been changed forever and how many first responders will be dealing with trauma reactions. Why did we allow the issue to get that big? When will we take action?
Initially after the first mass shootings, the former President said we would definitely be taking action and there would be universal background checks. He then made a public statement from the Oval Office that there would be no universal background checks. The former President stated the background checks we currently have are enough to keep us safe. He also publicly stated that the people who helped him win the election would not be happy with universal background checks. He had been speaking to the chairman of the NRA that day. Therefore it appeared the money the NRA donates to republican campaigns is more important than the children of the United States.
Another sad fact about the history of mass shootings is that the House of Representatives passed several sane gun laws. For months Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate, had held these bills on his desk just letting them sit so the Senate could not vote on them. Children and teenagers were being killed daily and a possible solution was sitting on Senator McConnell’s desk and he refuses to allow the Senate to debate and vote on the gun laws. His excuse was he was waiting for permission from former President Trump.
The former President initially said he would support sane gun laws and then he is tried to say it simply was a mental health issue. By doing so he did not help the issue and he reinforced the negative stigma about mental health in our country. When he referred to mental health issues, he called the people “sick” and stated that they needed to be locked up. The research clearly shows that people with mental health issues pose a danger to themselves by cutting or committing suicide. The research clearly shows that people with mental health issues are rarely dangerous to society. The Director of the American Psychiatric Association issued a statement stating the same information.
Mental health is not an issue causing mass shootings, hate is the issue. In fact the FBI was able to arrest three men planing mass shootings. One of the men arrested issued a statement that he was planing the shooting because he hated anyone who was not white. He was also at the Charlottesville protest and stated to a reporter he believed in only a nation for white people and was advocating killing anyone who was Jewish. This man was not being labeled as mental ill. He was being charged with charges related to a Hate crime. Again in order to be charged with a Hate crime you must be attacking someone because you hate them due to their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation etc. The Klu Klux Klan has held rallies and have been accused of killing people for years, but no one in the group is labeled mentally ill. The KKK is labeled as a hate group.
So when I have children coming into my office saying they are afraid of being killed at school and the mass shooter drills scare them, what do I say to them? How can I say we are doing everything we can to protect them, when our government is not doing anything. How can I say don’t worry when mass shooting are reoccurring and more students are being killed at schools? Children have easy access to the news via their smartphones and the internet. They are aware of what is occurring and who is being honest with them or lying to them. For therapy to work, the children need to trust me. If I lie, they will not trust me. Again, with the statistics I cited for this year alone, how can I tell a child there is nothing to worry about.
The other issue is how do parents get children and teenagers to come to a psychotherapist’s office. The former President has been on national television stating and he continues to state in his speeches that all mass shooting is due to mental illness. He refers to the people as “sick puppies” and that they need to be “locked up in asylums.” He continues to reinforce the negative stereotype regarding psychotherapy. Therefore, teenagers and children will be worried that their parents are taking them to my office to be locked up. Many teenagers need psychotherapy for mental health issues such as depression. According to the CDC, one out of five children need psychotherapy. Anxiety disorders and depression have increased significantly since the Pandemic. Cutting is an epidemic in teenagers and children too. I have children as young as 10 who self- mutilate. Also suicide was the third leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. In the last few months, the CDC changed suicide from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death. There are many children who need psychotherapy, but will be afraid of being locked up and will fight their parents about going to therapy.
Also what about the people who experienced a mass shooting, their family and friends and the first responders, their lives have been changed for ever. They are going to need years of psychotherapy to cope with their PTSD. However, besides be labeled as a victim, they are not going to want to be looked at as a “sick puppy” because they need therapy. This is what they will think and feel because of how the former President and Republican Senators have responded to mass shootings. We already have survivors of mass shootings and family members committing suicide because they cannot stand the pain. We have seen the same thing from veterans committing suicide because they did not have access or were embarrassed to seek psychotherapy. When will we learn? When will we stop demonizing mental health?
Since it appears the former President refused to act, we need to learn from the high school students from the Parkland, Florida shooting and take action ourselves. Remember by acting you may be saving the life of your child or a loved one. Call the Senators for your state and demand sane gun laws and if they are too afraid of the NRA, you will vote against them in the next election.
Some people will say I have no right to be writing this article. However, I see and hear the kids crying daily because they are afraid of being killed or their parents being killed. I also am trained in Critical Indent Debriefing and trauma therapy. I am tired of hearing how the first responders lives are being changed and the night terrors they experience. I am not afraid of the NRA. We have a huge problem with hate and race in our Nation that must be addressed. Also we also do not have adequate mental health services in our Nation. This is why the suicide rate went from the 3rd leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for kids. Mental health issues is not causing the mass shootings! If it was we would have had the problem in the 1970s and 1980s, but we didn’t.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over twenty years experience treating children and teenagers. He is also trained to treat victims of trauma and to do Critical Incident Debriefing. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3