Over the past decade, the amount of gun violence  happening across the United States has increased at an alarming rate.

It has brought concern to the younger demographic that is now finding this type of violence to be some sort of norm. 

Just this past Tuesday, there was a shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, in which 10 people were killed. This shooting is just one more on the growing list of mass shootings within the United States.

The police killing of George Floyd has created a morbid expectation of the world for young people to grow up with and there’s a large push coming from government officials to see the ways young people in communities are affected by gun violence.  

Youth and adolescents are known to experience long, subconscious negative effects due to exposure to gun violence at such young ages.  

Angela Bruns, criminology and sociology professor at Gonzaga, is researching the types of lasting effects gun violence has on younger people. 

“In that research I have sought to better understand the broad reach of the carceral system, or how the impact of incarceration and other forms of punishment extend far beyond those involved in the system to their families,” Bruns said. “Although I am new to gun violence research, I approach this work from a similar perspective. This new project is grounded in the notion that in places impacted by violence, not just individuals but whole communities are traumatized.” 

Bruns hopes to use this research to create an opportunity for young GU students to emerge from this research and find ways to buffer the impact these events have on the surrounding communities. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently approved a grant to last through September 2022 for over $600,000 to go toward research meant to find the correlation between gun violence and the well-being of adolescents. 

With an introduction that goes back to graduate school at the University of Washington, Bruns is working with a colleague from University of California Davis, Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz. 

Working with Kravitz-Wirtz to maximize their part of the CDC’s grant to determine how adolescents are affected socially, physically and economically after witnessing this violence in their communities. 

The divergence of specialties in their respective fields is going to allow the women to cover a wider range of content related to the research. 

The controversy on guns and gun violence related issues isn’t new by any means but Kravitz-Wirtz has other motivating factors inspiring her involvement in this research. 

“Interpersonal community gun violence is a health equity issue,” Kravitz-Wirtz said. “Historical and current policies and practices, including restrictive zoning, mandatory minimum sentencing and the racialized criminalization of mental illness and substance abuse, have shaped the underlying conditions that contribute to interpersonal community gun violence.”

The experience of any kind of violence, whether it be first hand or knowing that a violent event occurred in a young person’s hometown is the instigator for the creation of a disruptive environment which can lead children to other trials and tribulations further down the road.

Wirtz said that this leads to the segregation of many people and communities excluding them from the opportunity to experience their full potential for health, safety and well-being.

This research is going to cover a variety of statistics to allow Bruns and Kravitz-Wirtz to reach their goal in trying to combat the effects of gun violence. 

“Our data will allow for the first detailed, nationally representative estimates of young people’s exposure to community gun violence and a more definitive assessment of the impacts of community gun violence exposure on a wide range of social-emotional health and behavioral outcomes that have been associated in past research with subsequent social and health problems,” Kravitz-Wirtz said.

Kayla Friedrich is a staff writer.

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