In the past two weeks, the United States has once again been saddened by horrific mass shootings targeting children at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, targeting Black shoppers at the Tops grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and targeting Asian churchgoers in Laguna Woods, California—among more than 200 mass shootings so far this year, an average of more than one per day. Everyone at the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) extends our condolences for the victims’ families and our sincere hopes for healing. But we are long past a time of kind words, our country needs actions and solutions.
As the leader of an association representing science and technology centers and museums and allied science engagement organizations, I join with colleagues in the scientific community and beyond in acknowledging that mass shootings are a public health crisis and that there is a relationship to a broader crisis in mental health in the United States.
ASTC’s member institutions share the vision of increased understanding of—and engagement with—science and technology among all people and are working in communities of all sizes and geographies across the United States, and around the world, to create safe spaces to gather and to collaborate to address the most pressing issues of our time. Specifically, science engagement organizations have a long track record of partnering with local officials, communities, and experts to address public health challenges—including COVID-19, the opioid crisis, and beyond. But, when individuals and communities do not feel physically safe, it is nearly impossible to provide a space that ensures the psychological safety to converse on other issues, much less to come together to address critical local, regional, national, and worldwide challenges.
This is not the first time that we have said something must change; we did not and do not need another reminder of the deep consequences of inaction. Let this moment be a call on policymakers to truly take action to address the public health crisis of gun violence and to commit ourselves to truly investing in mental health services, research, and other much needed steps.
- The American Psychological Association provides advice for helping children manage traumatic events.
- The National Association of School Psychologists has tips for administrators on responding to school violence and tips for parents and educators on talking to children about violence.