Yesterday, I examined yet another young person, a 13-year-old boy, who reached for an easily accessible, unlocked and loaded gun in the home to solve a temporary crisis of routine trouble with a parent. My examination entailed documenting the gunshot wound that entered his chest and pierced his heart and lungs, causing his premature, preventable death.
I am saddened but not shocked by reports that reveal that a child or teen in this country is killed with a gun every two hours, either in a suicidal, homicidal or accidental manner. For in my job as a Medical Examiner, I regularly see these children. Their individual stories vary, but the story theme is very similar:
-A confrontation (single event or chronic occurrence, often with a parent) that causes disillusionment, loss of privilege(s) or hopelessness leads to a young life taken by self – a suicide
-A disagreement or argument, a “dis” or a moment of rage leads to a young life taken by another – a homicide
-A curious child or game playing leads to a young life taken unintentionally – an accident
These are the events and stories that I encounter on a regular basis. They illustrate that gun accessibility is integral to the current epidemic of youth violence. Gun violence is the third leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 14 and the second leading cause of death of teens and young adults ages 15 to 24. Death is only the tip of the iceberg. Numerous children sustain non-fatal injuries each year from gun violence, which causes a wide spectrum of disabilities, physical and emotional.
Our collective national voice is much too silent about these children who die everyday. Media shines the spotlight on school shootings, which awaken the nation. Youth pastors and leaders are among the masses who seize upon the opportunity to discuss violence as it relates to such “hot” events. But, school shootings represent less than 1% of gun related death of school age youth. It is crucial that youth pastors and leaders clearly define their role and regularly address the everyday threat of youth gun violence.
The medical community has identified violent injury as a major health issue for children and has focused prevention efforts to reduce injury and death from gun violence. Areas of major focus include:
-Gun control to reduce access to guns: The evidence is clear that access to guns increases the lethality of violent acts and leads to death.
-Interaction with patients to assess risk for violence and provide education on safe practices.
Violent injury is more so a major spiritual issue for children. The church community prevention efforts to reduce youth injury and death from gun violence should focus on:
-Spirit control to increase access to God: The scriptures are clear that access to God and being controlled by the spirit leads to life (Romans 8:1-17). God is readily accessible; He’s “near to all who call on Him…” (Psalm 145:18). Young people need to boldly approach the throne of God to help them in times of need (Hebrews 4:16).
Events that lead to the senseless loss of young lives by gunfire depict many works of the flesh (Gal. 5:20, Col. 3:8) and illustrate the reality of Romans 3:23. The fleshly desire to take drastic measures and make impulsive violent decisions can only be controlled by the Sprit.
-Interaction with patience to deal with the risk factors for violence and effectively disciple young people. Acts of gun violence are rooted in having a self-centered mentality, having difficulty submitting to authority or having an earthly view of life. Effective discipleship provides an example of having an others-centered mentality, submitting to God and understanding His authority to set boundaries, and setting our minds on things above instead of trivial issues of earth (Col. 3:2).
Dr. Lora Darrisaw
Dr. Lora Darrisaw works for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and also serves at Calvary Chapel Church in Snellville, GA. She has worked with Vision 2 Hear for over 6 years as an advisor and volunteer. Two of her daughters minister with Vision 2 Hear WAVE Teams.