Gun violence expert responds to Texas shooting

Dr. Fred Rivara, director of the Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program at Harborview Medical Center, has more than 30 years of experience researching injury prevention. He says making any sense of the deadly mass shooting that occurred May 24 at a Texas elementary school is difficult.

“We don't understand why something like this happens,” said Rivara, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “We thought after the Newtown shootings on Dec. 14, 2012, that we wouldn't again see a shooting in an elementary school. However, we know that Congress has not done anything to stop the problem of school shootings or firearm violence in general.”

Rivara says major disparities in firearm laws exist between states. In Washington state, laws require a universal background check to purchase a firearm, and ban the sale of semiautomatic rifles to anyone under age 21. Another law blocks the sale of high-capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition. None of these laws exist in Texas, Rivara said.

“We have laws that we try to put in place in the state of Washington that respect people's Second Amendment rights but at the same time try to prevent these kinds of tragedies from happening," he added.

As parents mull over how to discuss the school shooting with their children, Rivara encourages them to consider what’s appropriate for kids to see and hear, depending on their age and sensitivity to the topic.

“(A parent might be to say) 'I will do everything I can to keep you safe and protect you — and your teachers and your school and your community will do the same,'” said Rivara. “We feel like you are safe here and we will do everything we can to keep you safe.”

Download broadcast-ready soundbites with Rivara.

UW Medicine