Within four hours of yet another horrific school shooting — this one in Oxford, Michigan — a Christmas card appeared on the Twitter account of a Kentucky congressman. For some twisted reason, Republican Rep. Thomas Massie felt the need to immediately post a photograph of six members of his family cradling guns of various calibers with the holiday greeting “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please send ammo.”
Not to be outdone in the never-ending Republican race to the bottom of the barrel of bad taste, Colorado congresswoman, and owner of the Shooters Grill, Lauren Boebert posted her own tribute to celebrate the birth of Jesus: a photo of her and children fondling long rifles. Her message? “The Boeberts have your six, @RepThomasMassie! (No spare ammo for you, though)”
Hilarious, right? Not for the parents, friends, and teachers of the four Oxford High students that were murdered by a 15-year old: Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Justin Shilling, 17, Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Tate Myre, 16.
I know it’s too much to ask for three wise men or women among the Republican party to appear on a winter night with offerings of “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men,” let alone any legislative changes to this nation’s woefully weak gun laws but, what is it with these Christmas messages?
After much criticism over his family photo, Massie turned to the Trump playbook and attacked his critics. “I’m going to double down. I’m never going to delete that picture…I didn’t just kick a hornet’s nest, I aggravated every hornet in the world.”
Conservative locker-room snark is the newest parlor game for politicians like Massie, Boebert, and their comrades, but all these photos do is inspire America’s next wave of child soldiers to embrace and glorify gun violence as a way to settle scores in schools. They also contribute to the increasing trauma among the survivors that witness the carnage in their classrooms, neighborhoods, and communities.
In a must-read paper published by the Child Welfare League of America, titled The Impact of Gun Violence on Children, Families & Communities, the authors write about one of the more hidden consequences of school shootings on those who are caught in the crossfire of what this nation feels it has every right to bear.
“With more than 25% of children witnessing an act of violence in their homes, schools, or community over the past year, and more than 5% witnessing a shooting, it becomes not just an issue of gun regulation, but also of addressing the impact on those who have been traumatized by such violence.”
The authors go on to say that the focus of shootings usually falls on the mental health of the shooters, but “The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) believes it is time to broaden the focus of the gun debate to include the social, emotional, physical, and mental health impact of those traumatized by gun violence, especially children and youth.”
To date, in 2021, according to Everytown Research and Policy, there have been 149 incidents of guns fired on school grounds. How many students, parents, teachers, and community members have been affected by these crimes is no doubt many times more.
The ripple effect of gun violence is almost too frightening to contemplate. Yet we must confront it because our children are becoming increasingly traumatized by such horrors, and the negative effects on their psychological well-being are long-lasting. The CWLA says that to combat such traumas “requires a sufficient number of providers trained in age-appropriate, evidence-based, and trauma-informed treatments to concurrently understand all of these concerns.”
Why is that important? In a study conducted in an inner-city neighborhood by the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that, “Young inner-city children have a high exposure to violence by age 7 years; many show signs of distress that frequently are not recognized by caregivers. Further, higher exposure to violence in children correlates with poorer performance in school, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and lower self-esteem.” Among the children canvassed by the researchers, “61% worried some or a lot of the time that they might get killed or die and 19% sometimes wished they were dead.”
As we continue to neglect the mental health of our traumatized children are we in fact grooming the next school shooter?
I doubt either Representative Massie, Boebert, or the so-called thought leaders of the Republican party would have read these studies or given them much credence. Their answer to gun violence can historically be summed up in two words: more guns. Besides, they are much too busy this Christmas “owning the libs” through their childish cards. So in keeping in the holiday spirit I say, with all due respect, peace on them.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.