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Gun violence should be considered public health crisis, not political debate, experts say

Greenwood & Beech Grove shootings
Posted at 7:18 AM, Jul 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 07:24:23-04

INDIANA — The mental toll mass shootings put on the community is clear. According to the American Psychological Association, the stress of mass shootings causes a cascade of collective traumas.

"It feels like we're taking risks that are unnecessary the more and more we hear of these mass shootings," Jody Madeira, a professor of law at Indiana University, said. As part of her work, Madeira has done extensive research on the Second Amendment and firearm violence.

"You just don't know what you're going to walk into whenever you step foot in a church, whenever step foot in a school, whenever you step foot in a store," she said.

Sean Copeland, a licensed mental health therapist at Evolve Therapy in Greenwood, is offering free trauma therapy sessions to those impacted by the mass shootings.

"While I don't know what to do about gun violence, I know how to help people who've been impacted by it," Copeland said. "I think sometimes our brains are not designed to process things like this — process them in such rapid succession in our country."

Copeland says while the feelings of terror can be immediate, he wants people to pay attention to how they're feeling in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

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"If you're experiencing symptoms, like not sleeping well, or you keep replaying events in your mind, (or) even physical symptoms — trauma can manifest physically, too, with illness, — take a look inside and see what's happening to you and be honest about how these events are impacting you," he said.

Time and time again, Americans contemplate how to prevent tragedies like this from happening. Madeira, along with many other experts, believes we should look at the statistics and take politics out of the discussion.

"I think the answers to these mass shootings are very simple. We have to address them as public health issues. We have to realize that they're concentrated in certain populations — young white males — particularly with mental health issues," Madeira said.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows more than 45,000 firearm-related deaths occurred in the US in 2020. That is about 124 people each day. The CDC believes a public health approach is essential to addressing firearm violence and keeping people safe.

"Gun violence is connected with firearms used virtually anywhere, available virtually anywhere, to anybody who might not know very much about them. That's not a political point, that's a public health point," Madeira said.

Madeira believes strengthening Red Flag Laws will help prevent mass shootings along with changing the culture around guns in the United States.