Patricia Sadoski: We should treat gun violence as the disease it is

If we are going to protect children from social media, how about protecting them from guns?

The logo of Nashville's Covenant School is displayed on the back of Nashville Predators' helmets in honor of the school shooting victims, before the team's NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Another mass shooting. More dead kids and educators. The place of learning and growing in the U.S. is a scary place where instead of the fire drills, they practice hiding to stay alive in the face of big weapons. It’s numbing, disheartening, discouraging and deadly.

If it were a disease, we would have the CDC working on it. Ironically, it is a disease. The United States Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center has been studying mass attacks for a few years (2016-2020) and has come to some telling conclusions.

The findings are predictable and disturbing. This study found that most attackers were males and gave someone in their orbit the feeling that their behavior might be concerning. Many of the attackers had a history of aggressive or intimidating behavior or of previous violent behavior in their recent past. Most used firearms and many were possessed illegally at the time of the attack. One quarter of them subscribed to hateful ideology or conspiratorial beliefs.

Many had gone through recent stressful occurrences or legal problems, personal or employment events such as work loss or divorce prior to the attack. Over half demonstrated mental health concerns prior to the attack such as depression, psychotic symptoms or suicidal ideation. More than half of all homicides and suicides in the U.S. are due to guns.

It is alarming to me that, as of 2022, the primary cause of death in children (ages 1 to 19) in the United States of America is gun violence. Across America in 2020, guns killed 4,357 children under 19 years of age. There have been more than 900 school shootings since Sandy Hook in 2010. Over 90% of our voting public supported gun control in 2010 after Sandy Hook.

Closer to home, in the four years preceding 2018, 21 women in Utah were killed by guns mostly by an intimate partner. Utahns were recently rocked by the stunning reality that a man in Enoch killed his entire family with firearms. Shockingly, an estimated 4.6 million American children live in a home where at least one gun is kept loaded and unlocked, unsecured. Yes, unsecured.

This is a rampant problem unique to our American society. If we looked at it as a disease, perhaps we could get our heads around how to fix it. This is about the health and the well-being of the youth of America, the future of America. In the case of this “disease” of gun violence, we now know many of the causes, interventions and preventions.

We must have laws that require background checks at a minimum. Training and licensure would be hugely beneficial, but likely not supported by our representatives who view that as too much government overreach. At gun shows no background check is required. In other words, guns are easy to come by in Utah.

Our Utah Legislature was all about new laws giving oversight to parents on social media sites. Yes, it appears we have cause to be concerned about what our kids are looking at and doing at all hours with who knows who. That has to do with their well-being and mental health. In Utah that was a slam dunk. Wouldn’t you think oversight of arms of mass destruction would get as much focus? That could kill those same kids in their school.

Shamefully, as a society we have failed to protect our youth from a preventable cause of death. Let’s figure out a way to discern and treat mental illness and depression especially in males so they don’t feel the hopelessness of life. Let’s intervene to help a struggling young man who might find himself on media sites that further incite his pain. Let’s tighten the rules of gun ownership to be a bit more like learning to drive and getting a driver’s license. Let’s be realistic about high-capacity arms and the need for them to be restricted so that no more mothers and fathers have to identify their slaughtered child by her shoes.

Let’s put some regulations in place so these same kids we are protecting from predatory social media live to graduate from high school. Let’s address the number one killer of children in America.

Mothers, fathers and grandparents, rise up. Call your senators and representatives. Demand change for our kids. 

Patricia Sadoski

Patricia Sadoski, Logan, is a retired nurse and senior advocate.