Overview and Introduction: Understanding Gun Violence from a Family Perspective

Judith A. Myers-Walls, Ph.D., CFLE Emeritus, Professor Emerita, Human Development and Family Studies, Purdue University
Family Focus: Understanding Gun Violence from a Family Perspective

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Gun violence moved to the forefront of national news after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018. It also moved to the forefront of topics covered for Family Focus. As the contributing authors demonstrated, gun violence has strong implications for families. Erin Steuter and Geoff Martin begin the discussion by exploring the popular culture preoccupation with militarism and what they call the military entertainment complex. They present their concern about how this cultural trend translates into toys and games for children. The second article, by Allison Schroeder, Deirdre Quinn, Samuel Allen, and Elaine Anderson, is an examination of the relationship between mental illness and gun violence. They consult research literature to debunk common assumptions about mental illness being responsible for gun violence. Another common assumption is that fatherlessness is a frequent cause of violent attacks with firearms. This is the topic of Kevin Shafer’s article. His review of available research challenges this stereotype.

The remaining articles recognize the reality of varying experiences with gun violence in different communities in the United States. Brandon Hollie discusses the connection between gun and gang violence in Black communities with a goal of violence prevention. His piece is followed by one by Yolanda T. Mitchell and Tiffany L. Bromfield, who highlight the contrasts between White and Black experiences of gun violence, especially when Blacks and other minorities live in urban areas. They suggest that professionals cannot understand the gun violence issue without viewing racial populations separately and without taking into account residential settings. Jocelyn R. Smith Lee introduces the perspectives of Black youth who have experienced gun violence. Rather than concentrating on causes, this article looks more closely at the consequences and puts a very human face on the situation to provide a more complete picture than many of the other pieces. All three of these articles are strong reminders that any review of gun violence must look at multiple communities and populations. The final article is by Judith A. Myers-Walls, the editor, and summarizes this issue’s contributions. May this collection inspire us all to find answers to heal families affected by this costly and painful social scourge and to reduce the number of families suffering agony in the future.