June 7, 2022
To the Elected Leaders of the United States Congress,
We stand together as educators, principals, school staff, parents, health professionals and professional associations to say, “No more!”
No more hashtags. No more headlines. No more short-lived outrage. No more empty promises.
We do not need more blue-ribbon committees, federal commissions, hearings.
We need meaningful and immediate action.
Gun violence is a public health crisis. Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children under the age of 19.i
You have shown us time and time again that though these atrocities elicit your outrage, you fail to take steps toward preventing more gun violence. No matter the carnage; no matter the numbers lying dead. And the impact of your failure is devastating and long-lasting.
Ask the countless American communities who were robbed of their safe spaces by gun violence over the past two decades. Ask families from the 27 schools that have been traumatized by a school shooting THIS YEAR.
Ask the tens of thousands of individuals who lost a loved one to suicide by firearm this year. Six out of every 10 gun deaths are suicides. And access to a gun triples the risk of death by suicide. In fact, gun suicides are concentrated in states with high rates of gun ownership.
Ask the over 4.5 million women whose lives have been threatened by an intimate partner with a gun.
Ask the people who are victims of the 10,300 hate crimes involving a firearm in the United States each year—more than 28 each day.
Ask the families, neighbors and countless Americans who have witnessed these horrendous acts.
An APA 2019 national survey conducted in the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton shootings found that more than three-quarters of adults (79%) in the U.S. say they experience stress as a result of the possibility of a mass shooting.ii A review of research on the trauma and mental health impact of mass shootings concluded that mass shootings are associated with a variety of adverse psychological outcomes in survivors and members of affected communities.iii
This is a gun issue. Don’t conflate it with mental illness. The data show that the overwhelming majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent. The answer to a national problem with guns is not to stigmatize people with mental illnesses.
The answer to a national problem with guns is not to increase access to guns.
The answer is laws that promote safe gun storage; expand background checks; raise the age limit on ownership; track unlawful attempts to purchase firearms; support Extreme Risk Protection Order laws; and ban weapons that can do mass destruction in a short period of time. These laws can prevent suicides, deaths by firearms, and reduce the risks to others.
The answer is to pass legislation now to promote gun safety and increase rigorous research on gun violence.
NO MORE DELAYS. NO MORE EXCUSES.
NO MORE SENSELESS DEATHS.
American Federation of Teachers
American Psychological Association Services, Inc.
American School Counselor Association
Clinical Social Work Association
National Association of School Psychologists
National Association of Social Workers
National Education Association
National Parent Teacher Association
School Social Work Association of America
(This letter appeared as a paid advertisement in USA TODAY on June 7.)