America’s track record with mass shootings is grim. Defining a mass shooting as having four or more victims, not including the shooter, the US has had 154 in just 165 days. Though this definition can vary, the US has clear gun violence problem by any metric.
News of shootings can leave us feeling frustrated, disheartened, and hopeless. It feels like we confront fresh horrors every day, leaving us with a sense of fear and powerlessness. Since nearly all mass shootings are committed by men, women find themselves particularly troubled in the face of such masculine violence. However, there are steps that every woman and man can take to mitigate the risk of gun violence.
Keep putting pressure on elected representatives
This option may seem bleak, given Congress’s stubborn lack of action on comprehensive gun control measures. However, a poll indicates that 90% of Americans support a common-sense initiative such as expanding background checks on gun owners. While the gun lobby is strong, it’s ultimately the voters that put Congresspeople into their positions, and voters that these elected officials must answer to.
Despite broad support for certain gun control measures, few Americans are actively vocal about the issue. Call, email, and write your senators and representatives, and make sure they know you support gun control reform.
If the apathy from Congress is too discouraging, it may be easier and more impactful to start with local government. Certain states, such as Maryland and California, have recently passed extensive gun control laws. Vying for change is often more manageable at the city, county, or state level. Find ways to get involved in your community and make your local representatives pay attention to you. For instance, join a local political group, attend town hall meetings, or research carefully when voting down the ballot to favor candidates sharing your views on gun control.
Be a conscientious consumer
It isn’t intuitive to connect big companies like Walmart to gun violence, but corporations have a dominant voice in political issues. Due to pressure from gun reform groups, Target, Trader Joe’s, Chipotle, and Starbucks are among the companies that have changed their carry policy. Consumers demanded change through boycotts, mobilizing via Twitter to catch the attention of big corporations and lead to reform. Thus, find out what a store’s policy on guns is, and vote with your dollar to support companies and organizations which take steps to fight gun violence.
Learn intervention tactics
Though it should never be our individual responsibility to stop someone from obtaining or firing a gun, basic bystander training is still a useful tool. Training can help us not only de-escalate potentially violent situations, but also learn how to act on gut feelings that something might be wrong, thus preventing violence before it even occurs. If a shooting does happen, bystander training can also teach us what to do afterwards to minimize injury and loss of life.