[Story by Jossian Lewis, Miya Smith, and Ami Turay. / Photos by Dr. Shantella Y. Sherman]
There is always something going on "down on the Mall" -- the stretch between the U.S. Capital and the National Monument grounds. Sometimes, it's protests, or rallies; other times it's pick-up ball games and fairs. But yesterday, (April 15) in route to the Acumen offices, we noted what looked to be small headstones or markers of remembrance covering part of the knoll. We journeyed on and agreed to send part of the crew back out this morning to take a closer look. The ground markers were to note the lives lost in 2021 to gun violence.
Tragically, as Dr. Shantella Sherman circled the area trying to find a suitable parking space for our three team members to explore, we listened to news of the nation's latest mass murder. Indianapolis residents opened the day mourning the senseless murders of at least 8 individuals at a Federal Express warehouse facility. In what is now the third mass shooting in that city since 2021 began, a yet-identified gunman opened fire on employees in and around the facility late last night. While we soldiered through the task at hand, collectively, our hearts sank.
Why is conflict resolution so difficult? What fuels the insane belief that shooting or killing random people solves problems?
Gun ownership is as American as apple pie. In some instances, more so. Americans continue to grapple with outdated laws, a socially corrosive romanticism with firearms, and a morbid disconnect between gun violence and its victims. With more than 400 million firearms in circulation, the number of guns now exceeds the nation’s population of 330 million. And with more than 19 million firearms sold in the first 6 months of 2020 alone, the presence of so many guns make regulating them near to impossible.
“America has the weakest gun laws and the most guns of any comparable nation. Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed in a gun homicide than people in other high-income countries - 38,000 Americans dies from gun violence every year, an average of 100 per day”, estimates the Giffords Law Center, the organization responsible for the Mall display.
“Seventeen percent of America’s teens have been exposed to gun violence in some way, shape, or form,” Peter Ambler, executive director and co-founder of the Giffords Organization.
Ambler recently noted that approximately forty percent of those young people who experience gun violence will develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Acumen is curious about how many adults, as well, are plagued by gun violence-related trauma and growing anxiety about workplace and recreational violence.
"Americans have been isolated for over a year while wrestling with fears of becoming ill, losing income, or being unable to return to our churches, friends, and socializing," Acumen science editor, Sophia Sparks said. "Add to that a new reality of random violence in grocery stores or in our workplaces, and you have a recipe for a major mental health crisis in addition to a medical pandemic."