Another mass shooting is in the news. This time, it's an hour away from my family, in San Bernardino. For the first time, I've realized that this epidemic isn't going away (no matter how much I wish it would) and that I need to tell my sons what to do if they are ever caught in a similar situation.
How did it come to this?
Right now, for many of us, the world feels like a scary place. Sometimes, it's our instinct to hide those feelings from ourselves and our families so that we don't have to face the reality of possible danger. I know talking to my sons about gun violence felt unnecessary — my kids don't involve themselves with guns or gangs so I never thought I would have to have this kind of conversation. Maybe a part of me also felt as if telling them there was a possibility they could be harmed by guns would make it come true. It may be superstitious, but it also gave me comfort. If we don't say things out loud, maybe they won't happen.
I realize how unprepared my sons are for dealing with this kind of terror. What if they're spending time with their friends at the mall, or watching a movie at the theater, or even grabbing a bite to eat at their favorite restaurant when someone decides to unleash an arsenal upon them? Watching yet another shooting unfold on TV was a painful reminder that we can't always protect the ones we love, no matter how good our intentions are.
I asked my husband, an active-duty Marine with three combat tours and nearly 19 years of professional experience with assault weapons, to give our sons advice on what to do if they are in the midst of an active shooter.
As Latinos, it's even more important that we have this talk with our children, sooner than later. There are more than 3,000 gun-related deaths each year for Hispanics in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and the FBI. What's worse is that the majority of victims are young, ranging from 15-24 years old. That means my sons, who are 18 and 16, are prime candidates for gun violence in our country. This statistic is, plain and simple, very scary.
Last night I asked my husband, an active-duty Marine with three combat tours and nearly 19 years of professional experience with assault weapons, to give our sons advice on what to do if they are in the midst of an active shooter.
He told them not to be brave. Bravery without a defense is like trying to soothe a shark in the ocean – mostly pointless and almost always deadly.
He reminded them of situational awareness – the ability to know your surroundings, know where the danger is located, and assess the best means of survival – be it through a window, behind a metal door, or hidden in a safe place.
He talked about the need to help others less alert or capable, but not at the risk of their own lives.
He finished by letting them both know he loved them, and how he hoped they would never experience this first hand, but that these days, we can no longer pretend to live in a bubble of safety.
I cried last night thinking about the victims. As of yesterday, 462 people have died and 1,314 have been wounded in mass-shootings this year alone. Today, those numbers are likely higher; and tomorrow, even more. These are children, siblings, spouses, friends and coworkers, just going about their day, and becoming victims in the process. I am equally horrified for them as I am scared for my own children's safety.
As Latinos, it's even more important that we have this talk with our children, sooner than later. There are more than 3,000 gun-related deaths each year for Hispanics in the U.S., according to data from the CDC and FBI.What's worse is that the majority of victims are young, ranging from 15-24 years old.
Shootings have become the new normal. Our children are practicing cowering in fear in case a bad person starts shooting in their schools, whereas I used to practice covering my head in case of an earthquake.
Things have changed in our country. Not talking to our children won't make this trend of terror any less real. We need to prepare them as best we can for the worst case scenario, and we need to start asking ourselves why, and how, this has become the status quo in our country.
I hope my sons are never a part of the statistic of gun violence, and I hope that your children aren't, either. But we need to do more than hope if we want to ensure our kids are safe.