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What I Told My Young Sons If (When?) They Hear Gunfire

I never again want to feel like I have to sit my boys down and tell them what to do if someone starts shooting. I've done it at least three times already.

We were in the car yesterday on our way to see a movie screening at The Grove, a popular outdoor mall in Los Angeles. On the radio, we heard an account of the mayhem at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., where Chris Harper Mercer, 26, killed and injured more than a dozen people in the latest mass shooting in the U.S. The young man on the radio had been in a classroom near the shooting.

The student on the radio talked about hearing a loud noise and not knowing at first what it was and then, once he realized it was gunfire, said he then ran for his life. He said he was grateful that he was able to talk to the reporter—to anyone—and happy to be alive.

In 10 minutes, the gunman killed nine people and injured many others.

RELATED: How to End Gun Violence In the US

I turned off NPR and told my boys, just 10 and 11 years old, to listen to what I had to say. I asked if they heard what the man had said. He, and everyone else who was around him, started running away from the sound of gunfire. They didn't go looking to see what was happening, they didn't ask questions. They ran away.

A shooting can happen anywhere because guns are everywhere.

I told them that if anyone started shooting while we're at the Grove, or anywhere, to run away. Stay together, but don't wait for me if I can't keep up. Get as far away as you can.

My older son told me he knew when I turned off the radio that this was what I was going to talk about. Both boys interrupted while I was telling them what to do with "We know" and "We've talked about this."

It's true.

I talked to them after 20 first-graders were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, after both movie theater shootings and after a gunmen killed worshippers in a church. There have been so many stories like these, it's hard to keep track.

A shooting can happen anywhere because guns are everywhere. There has been a school shooting every week since Sandy Hook. There have been nearly 1,000 mass shootings since 2012—and 300 this year alone. (A mass shooting is when more than four people are shot.) Those are only mass shootings, not suicides or accidental gun deaths involving children.

I hope that I never have to have the conversation again, but nothing is happening in our country to make it stop.

This is the world my boys are growing up in, where people being shot at school is just another story on the radio. Where violent deaths like this are yet another opportunity for President Obama to stand in front of the country and ask for stricter gun control, knowing like we all do, that Congress won't make that happen. It's still as easy to get a gun as it was before 20 6- and 7-year-old were gunned down at school. (If that horrific act didn't make Congress act, nothing will.)

RELATED: The Truth About Kids and Guns

So what do I say next time?

I hope that I never have to have the conversation again, but nothing is happening in our country to make it stop. What I really worry about is that it will be so commonplace that we won't discuss it all.

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