Founded in 1994 by the efforts of 12 Black women, reproductive justice is “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities,” as defined by SisterSong. The reproductive justice movement positions reproductive rights and health within the larger context of families and communities. The fight for reproductive justice, to keep children and all individuals safe, is inextricably linked to the urgent fight to end gun violence. …
As a teenager, I remember my high school was heavily policed. And today, as a mother, I understand the urgency to ensure every child’s safety and wellbeing—so I understand the seeming appeal of armed officers at every school. The “out-shoot the shooter” approach brings comfort to some knowing immediate action is possible.
But this rationale is solely reactive and can be trauma-inducing for the overwhelming majority of students who may already experience bias from faculty and administrators. It is crucial for policymakers, school administrators, parents, teachers, law enforcement and representatives to decide on solutions for what is possible if stakeholders do to not want or need an armed officer at every school. Firearms are the leading cause of death among children ages 1-19 in the United States. An armed officer is a last resort. It is time to be proactive.
By centering a reproductive justice approach, it is possible to establish safe and supportive communities to raise children with proactive systems and initiatives. Young men perpetrate the vast majority of gun violence, and early evidence suggests a change in social norms and behaviors around masculinity may reduce violent behavior. Mental health is not an indication or predictor of violence—and for the majority of persons, mental health treatment can often prevent potential gun violence. The most consistent and powerful predictor of violent behavior is a history of violent behavior.
As my husband and I consider our son’s academic future and safety, our right to raise our son in a safe and supportive community has been stolen from us. Without proactive measures to reduce gun violence, it seems a day at the mall, school, grocery store or church can lead to a mass shooting.
The reduction of mass gun violence in all arenas is going to take intervention on all levels, including:
- policy, like the prohibition of guns for groups offenders of domestic violence and violent misdemeanors, background checks;
- community, especially supporting parents in raising emotionally healthy children;
- early violent behavior intervention; and
- a change in social norms related to gun culture and violence.
Just as the reproductive justice movement advocates, it is time to respect and ensure the personal autonomy and human right of personal safety for all.
— Veronica Ray-Whitehead in Stop Gun Violence With a Reproductive Justice Approach