U.S. Gun Policy and How it Traumatizes American Youth

On June 19, 2024, the Guarini Institute of Public Affairs organized and hosted a discussion on “U.S. Gun Policy and How it Traumatizes American Youth” led by Firmin DeBrabander from the Maryland Institute College of Arts and moderated by Professor Barbara Ottaviani Jones from JCU’s Department of Communication and Media Studies. Professor DeBrabander thoroughly discussed the impacts of gun policy on American culture and its effects on American youth today.

Firmin DeBrabander and Barbara Ottaviani Jones
From left: Barbara Ottaviani Jones and Firmin DeBrabander

Professor DeBrabander opened the topic by explaining how U.S. gun culture has changed in recent years, touching on subjects such as the increasing percentage of privately owned firearms in comparison to the citizen population and the growing trends of firearm deaths in the United States. In recent years, gun ownership has skyrocketed, and gun policy has dramatically changed in nearly all 50 states. Gun violence is now the leading cause of children’s deaths in America, surpassing car accidents. Easy access to firearms in the United States has caused record-breaking levels of gun violence in recent years. It has also caused a higher level of gun deaths in comparison to countries with more restrictive policies on firearms, such as Australia and the UK.

One of the most interesting points brought up by DeBrabander was the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) on U.S. gun policy and American culture. The NRA lobby has continued to fight gun restrictions and has influenced public interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment (which gives citizens the right to a well-armed militia) since the early 2000s. This influence over American politics and policy has opened the door to many legal changes, such as “Open Carry” and “Stand Your Ground” laws.

DeBrabander concluded that the constant exposure to violence and fear of mass shootings has exposed young people to higher levels of stress and trauma. This is evidenced by the higher rates of anxiety and depression disorders in today’s youth, accompanied by young people’s strong desire for government stability. The social issues caused by constant shooter drills in schools and exposure to guns and violence are unprecedented in history, and the issues they may cause a growing generation are unknown at present. Additionally, DeBrabander argues that youth traumatized by gun violence are the dream generation for authoritarians- out of fear they will settle for security, and whoever can deliver it.

The event concluded with a brief Q&A session, which touched on subjects such as the bankruptcy of the NRA, the impacts of the War on Terror, and the nature of colonial gun ownership in early American society. All of these topics were expertly explained by Professor DeBrabander, and the Guarini Institute thanks him for his time and effort in leading such an eye-opening event.