Your Fears About School Shootings Are Real, but There Is So Much More We Can Do To Prevent Them

We can decide we're no longer willing to accept the violence. We can turn our pain into action. What you decide to do today can save a life—maybe your child's, maybe your own. Here's how to get started.

Students from The Covenant School in Nashville on bus with police officers outside

Seth Herald / Getty Images

You know the feeling. The pit in your stomach as you drop your kid off at school. Their backpack, the lunchbox dangling from their hand, the quick pace of their shoes, as they hurry in the school's front door.

Then comes the thought: Will that be the last thing I see of my kid alive?

Almost every day in America, as parents, this thought flashes across our minds. Sometimes just for an instant. Nothing particularly brings it on: It could be a day that is sunny. A day that it's pouring rain. A morning where getting to school on time was a struggle. A morning when everything went smoothly, and we only notice in the rearview mirror that our child runs into the school while the flag flaps helplessly at half-mast.

These are thoughts we don't want to experience or even remember, but they're there. Reflexively, we bat it away: "Something like that won't happen here. That won't happen to us," knowing full well it can absolutely happen here.

U.S. Gun Violence Compared to Other Countries

In 2020, the majority of homicides (79%) and suicides (53%) involved a gun. The number of gun-involved homicides rose by 35% from 2019 to 2020. So how does the U.S. stack up against the rest of the world?

Gun Deaths Per 100,000 People

*among high-income countries with populations of 10 million or more

  • United States: 4.12
  • Chile: 1.82
  • Canada: 0.5
  • Portugal: 0.4
  • Italy: 0.35
  • Australia: 0.18
  • Spain: 0.13
  • Germany: 0.08
  • United Kingdom: 0.04
  • Japan: 0.02

Source: The Institute For Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington School of Medicine

There's no such thing as mind over matter when it comes to problems that are systemic. While the majority of unnecessary shootings are not mass shootings, we have enough of those, too, to terrify and paralyze us. Your fear about school shootings isn't irrational. But your resignation to their inevitability is.

Thanks to organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign, we have real, data-driven, peer-reviewed research on how to prevent gun violence. We know exactly what kind of changes are needed and where. No one needs you to reinvent the wheel.

But you have to choose to just not take the status quo anymore. The school shootings. The mass shootings. You. Gun violence feels too big, too powerful to stop. But it's not too big for you to take some real, meaningful actions. You control what you decide you can live with, and what you can't. You can choose whether you do something, or do nothing. You are not powerless.

Here Are Things You Can Start Today To Make Your Kids Safer From Gun Violence

Keep guns away from where kids can access them.

Start right in your own home. Any firearms in your home should be stored locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition, which should also be locked away. Moms Demand Action, the grassroots movement of Everytown, provides materials and training to get you started.

Talk to other adults to make sure they don't have unsecured firearms.

Anywhere your kid goes, whether it's to hang out at grandma and grandpa's or over for a play date with a friend, you should know if there is a gun in the home. I've been asking these questions and having these conversations for years. I did a quick little Facebook video which walks you through how to do it, no fuss no muss!

Join a gun violence prevention organization.

I learned so much as a volunteer leader for Moms Demand Action. They'll help you find a niche where you can make the most of your skills and feel like you are taking meaningful action in your community. Join online or by texting READY to 644-33 on your mobile phone, and show up to the next local or virtual meeting. I cannot stress this enough! None of us are doing this alone, and it's so much easier (and more fun) to work together with like-minded parents.

Talk to other parents.

Your kids' friends' parents. Teachers. Build solidarity. Talk to the PTO. Ask them to allow a Be SMART presentation to parents at School Open House night. Talk to your school board. Ask questions about school safety and prevention.

Be dogged.

Talk to every single person who is running for office. Write letters to the editor. Ask anyone and everyone from your employer to your place of worship what they are doing to help keep you and your kids safe.

Beware of bad faith arguments.

Don't be swayed by calls for more metal detectors, more police, armed guards, active shooter drills that do little more than terrorize kids and staff. Read up on what the best, data-driven, peer-reviewed solutions are, and don't let misinformation go unchecked.

Run for office yourself.

Many people who want to make a difference start off with passion and a message. Get trained to run for office by Emerge or Run for Something.

At the very very very minimum, vote.

Vote in every election. Only vote for candidates who support gun violence prevention and safety. And volunteer for them. Drive people to the polls. Donate. Voting isn't everything, but it's a big thing. Talk to your friends about supporting gun sense candidates. Make sure folks know what's at stake—whether you're voting for a school board representative, county board member, a state representative, or a senator.

Remember, it's not up to you alone to solve America's gun violence crisis. But it's still up to you to do your part. When many parents like you take action, together we can have a huge impact. Now, pick at least two actions, and put them on your to-do list. Right now. Go ahead. We'll wait.

This isn't just wishful thinking. It's wishful action. It's deciding that you're done with being paralyzed by inaction. Be able to look your kids in the eyes when they're scared or sad and say, "I'm doing something about this to help keep you safe. It's not up to me alone, but know that I love you, and I won't give up fighting for your right to feel safe." And you, parent, never forget that you have a right to feel safe. And lots of other parents out here are fighting right alongside you.

Now let's get to work.

Jennifer Rosen Heinz is a writer, activist, and founder of Outside Voice. She is a co-creator of the viral "Kindness is Everything" sign, which raised over $400k for nonprofit organizations. Her bylines have appeared in Parents, Outside Voice, Scary Mommy, and her activism has been spotlighted in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Huffington Post, among others. She writes about social issues, Judaism, and mental health. She lives in Madison, WI with her husband, two kids, two cats, a dog, and a flock of chickens.

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Parents uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Changes in Firearm Homicide and Suicide Rates — United States, 2019–2020. CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 2022.

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