Since the Parkland, FL high school shooting in February (which, at the time, was the eighteenth school shooting in 2018; there have been more since), gun violence has become a hot topic in the media and American society in general (see the recent blog about gun violence and the second season of the series 13 Reasons Why). The issue of gun violence is important for teens and their families not only as we think about how to keep kids safe but also as we consider what may be the underlying causes for such horrible acts. To put it in perspective, the perpetrators of four of the largest school shootings over the last decade were all between the ages of 17-23 years. One topic that has received growing attention is the role of violent video games in promoting youth aggression and violence.
The second season of the provocative 13 Reasons Why Netflix series was released last week, and although it’s not getting nearly as much attention as the first season, it is still filled with controversy, risk taking behaviors, and guns (lots of guns). After learning a lesson from last season, this season starts with a substantial trigger warning and ends with another gut-wrenching, hard-to-watch sexual assault scene (and another scene that hit a little too close to home, leaving Netflix to cancel the premiere event). Where suicide was the focus of the first season, this season focuses a little more on gun violence. So, in honor of National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 1st (#WearOrange) we’re going to talk a little about guns.
You don’t need me to tell you that there has been a somber and disturbing recurring theme in the news lately, with the most recent well-known murder being the live killing of two journalists on camera in Roanoke, VA. This follows a number of high profile killings this year and follows a dark history that traces back through shootings in movie theatres, Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Columbine High School. Some will say that this is not a teen-specific issue – and it’s not – but when we acknowledge that the top three causes of death in 15-24 year olds are accidents, homicides, and suicides and that firearm-related deaths cause more than 20 percent of deaths in this age group based on 2013 data, the relevance to adolescent health cannot be denied.