The Cost of Gun Violence: Educators and Health Professionals Must Examine the Devastating Impact on Those Who Survive

Summary: Gun violence in America has become a vicious cycle perpetuating from generation to generation. It’s time to go “upriver” to solve this crisis. Educators and health professionals are the first lines of defense.

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

Yet again! Another shooting at a school. More dead, children and adults.

What are we missing?

The issue of gun violence in America has become a complex and controversial problem with no easy solution in sight. Many efforts have been made to address this problem. Sadly, the results are mainly ineffective.

Similarly, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts from a generational perspective. What can leaders do to help?



Dear Disgusted,

Most of us are feeling disgusted.

In other words, while police protection and limiting who can buy guns help, it does NOT address the more significant issue.

To effectively solve the problem with guns in America, we need to go “upriver” and address the root causes of this issue.

Going “upriver” means looking beyond the immediate symptoms of a problem to identify its underlying causes.

For example, in the case of gun violence, this means addressing the factors contributing to it, such as poverty, mental health, discrimination, social isolation, and family dysfunction.

Root causes of violence often lead back to family dynamics.

These factors, especially the patterns of responding to stress learned in the family of origin, are part of the root causes of violence. Addressing them would go a long way toward reducing the incidence of gun violence.

Another reason we need to go “upriver” to solve the problem with guns in America is that the current approach of simply regulating guns and restricting access to them is ineffective.

As noted, while these measures may help reduce gun-related deaths, they do not address the underlying causes of violence.

And, of course, what about the survivors?

The impact of violence lasts long after the guns are silenced.

On one of our Leadership in Action retreats in New Mexico several years ago, twenty executives were brought face to face with the devastation of guns.

One evening we heard shots in the distance. Someone went to investigate. It turns out it was a group of teens who were, as they told it, “bored and looking for adventure.”

Subsequently, while they agreed to stop, the sound of the shots activated the post-traumatic stress response for many in the leadership program.

No one is immune to gun violence.

Out of the group there to explore effective leadership communication were five whose lives had been changed by deadly bullets cutting lives short.

This became an essential focus of the group that evening after the shots were silenced.

One woman, head of a major tech company, had her sixteen-year daughter robbed and then murdered while studying for finals in her car near the high school.

She whispered about the blood-soaked copybook she found on the floor of the vehicle. She was unable to move on personally and made work her whole life.

In addition, another lost his father in a robbery of their high-end family jewelry store. The father and the robber shot at each other. The robber won!

This highly educated and financially successful man sat, overcome with grief from a decade ago. His rage at “those people” was edged with distrust and disdain.

There are no winners when gun violence rears its ugly head.

Then there was the tragedy of a nine-year-old “playing” with his father’s seemingly unloaded gun. With one pull of the trigger, he killed his dad.

His mother, a VP in a large marketing agency, sent him to a costly boarding school, rarely saw the now fifteen-year-old, and admitted she was unable to forgive him.

Again, a very gentle woman who had made a name for herself in the fashion industry shared, for the first time,e how she had been held captive for ten days by her lawyer husband and his arsenal of guns when she wanted a divorce.

She finally crept out of the back window when he was asleep. She discovered days later that he had picked his favorite shotgun and taken his own life. She never told anyone what happened when she was held, hostage. Her children had distanced themselves, blaming her for “not working harder on the marriage.”

Guilt of survivorship can last for generation.

Finally, there was a man whose son was in a school shooting, one of five who did not come home from sixth grade that fateful day. This CEO talked about how his home life was wrecked, watching his wife fall under the spell of chronic depression.

In addition, his daughter left college with an eating disorder, and his son spent the remaining two years of high school “higher than a kite.” He knew the whole family was trapped with the “guilt of survivorship.”

Gun violence has lasting effects on future generations

Upriver is where we can find the answers to gun violence.

It is simply not enough to put flowers near schools, religious institutions, homes, playgrounds, bus stops, and on and on to show our sadness and then get back to business as usual.

The battle against extreme violence of today is everywhere.

Think about it for a minute. Are you tenser these days when you hear a loud bang?

All in all, do the extreme positions of people frustrate you?

Additionally, the focus on gun regulation often leads to a divisive and polarizing debate, with each side becoming entrenched in its views. By going “upriver,” we can find common ground and work together towards a more comprehensive solution.

To sum up, going “upriver” is essential to solving the problem with guns in America. By addressing the underlying causes of violence, we can create a safer and more peaceful society. It’s time to shift our focus from just regulating guns to finding comprehensive solutions that will address the root causes of this issue.

One way to break the generational cycle of gun violence is through community-based interventions. These interventions focus on creating a safe and nurturing environment for children, helping them cope with trauma, and preventing them from becoming involved in gun violence.

It takes a village to make sustainable change happen.

Community-based interventions include after-school programs, mentorship programs, and programs that promote positive youth development. By providing children with positive role models, safe spaces, and opportunities for personal growth, we can help break the cycle of violence.

Children who grow up in violent neighborhoods, witness violence, or experience trauma from gun violence themselves are likelier to perpetuate this cycle in adulthood.

To truly address the issue of gun violence, we must take steps to break this cycle and provide a safer future for our children.

Another way to break the generational cycle of gun violence is through legislative action. Gun violence prevention laws, such as background checks and red flag laws, are designed to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who are at a high risk of perpetrating gun violence. These laws can help prevent the next generation from becoming involved in gun violence by reducing access to guns for those at risk of achieving it.

New perspectives on the “why” of violence will help create a cultural shift.

Finally, breaking the generational cycle of gun violence requires a cultural shift in how we view guns and violence. We must change the narrative surrounding guns and violence and create a culture of non-violence. This means promoting alternative forms of conflict resolution, investing in mental health and substance abuse treatment, and addressing the root causes of violence.

In conclusion, breaking the generational cycle of gun violence requires a multifaceted approach that includes community-based interventions, legislative action, and a cultural shift. By taking these steps, we can create a safer future for our children and break the vicious cycle of gun violence that has plagued our communities for far too long.

We’re all connected, and no one wins unless we all do.

How many more school shootings will it take until we decide our children matter more than positionality or profits?

We are at a turning point. This planet of ours is aching from all the destruction.

Time for a new dialogue. Be part of the change.

Here’s to your success,

Sylvia Lafair

PS. Please go to and click the link on th home page for a complimentary copy of the introduction to “Invisible Stress: It’s NOT What YOU Think.

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Sylvia Lafair

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