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We Must Stop the Epidemic of Violence Against Our Children

Posted on in Criminal Defense

assault weapons ban, violence against children, school shootings, gun violence prevention, dangers of firearmsBy Ray Dall’Osto of Gimbel Reilly Guerin & Brown, Milwaukee

Our nation is once again reeling in shock and horror, after the Valentine’s Day 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. How was a former student suffering from depression, who previously exhibited violent tendencies, able to arm himself with a military assault rifle and go on a shooting spree killing 17 innocent students and teachers? Why are such military-grade weapons available to persons who have no business having such in their possession? Why isn’t the President, Congress and Wisconsin’s Legislature doing anything effective to address and prevent gun violence victimizing our youth?

The Parkland shooter used an Armalite (AR-15) semi-automatic rifle to kill the 17 on Valentine’s Day. So too did the Orlando, Florida shooter, who killed 49 people at a nightclub, as well as the shooters at a community college in San Bernardino, California and at the Sandy Hook elementary school. The AR-15 is a weapon of war, and used to be illegal. President Bill Clinton’s assault weapons ban, which was in effect from 1994 to 2004, banned the AR-15 and other guns that were too similar to military-style weapons. Former President Obama’s attempts to reinstitute the assault weapon ban was blocked by Congress, and the carnage needlessly goes on and is accelerating.

Since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, there have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide. In those incidents, 438 people were shot, 138 of whom were killed. 114,000 Americans are shot every year, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Violence is a broad-based major public health problem. Whether it is youth violence, intimate partner violence or gun violence, violence in all forms is a public health epidemic in the United States. In 2010, violence was the second leading cause of death among youth in the United States between the ages of 10 and 24. Gun violence impacts violent deaths at a disproportionate rate among certain age groups, when compared to other violent deaths. Of all the violent deaths among 10-24 year-olds, an individual’s youth and early adulthood, 84 percent were killed with a firearm (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Hamilton, “A Case for Gun Violence Prevention in Medical and Public Health Curriculum” (Wright State Univ. 2013).

A bill that would require schools in Wisconsin and the Department of Public Instruction DPI) to provide teen dating violence prevention education and establish certain criteria governing the type of curriculum and instruction provided was introduced in the State Senate SB 734.

While this is a step in the right direction to address sexual violence and abuse prevention, much more needs to be done to educate students, teachers and parents about physical violence, bullying and gun violence. This is a public health and education issue that cries out for effective legislative action, education at school and in the home, and prevention NOW. It is totally irresponsible to just wait until the next tragedy while doing nothing, as this country and state have done since Sandy Hook.

Model gun violence prevention curriculum for youth currently exists in other states, and could readily be adapted for use in Wisconsin schools right now. The Illinois Council on Handgun Violence model curriculum regarding gun violence and prevention is found at http://www.ichv.org/student-voices/curriculum/. The Virginia Department of Education has a curriculum on the subject for elementary school students – http://www.doe.virginia.gov/boe/guidance/safety/school_gun_safety_elementary.pdf. The Virginia curriculum includes an awareness of the dangers of firearms and encourages a common sense gun safety pledge for students —

NEVER play with guns • TREAT every gun as if it were loaded • NEVER threaten anyone with a gun • NEVER point a gun at anyone • NEVER bring a toy or real gun to school • REPORT those who do

IF I FIND A GUN • LEAVE IT ALONE • LEAVE THE AREA • LET AN ADULT KNOW

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