We heard a commentator on the news recently say that mass shootings aren't any more prevalent now than they have ever been. It sure seems like they are, so we started checking.
Since 1982, there have been 70 incidents that would be classified as mass shootings, occurring in 30 states across the country. Nearly half of these have taken place since 2006. Of those, 21 percent were in 2012, and 15 percent in 2013. Three have taken place in 2014 already.
The average age of the killers in these shootings was 35, the youngest was 11, and most had mental troubles. As many as 143 assault weapons and semi-automatic handguns were used; more than three-quarters were obtained legally.
We hear too often of shooting incidents in schools, work settings, malls, churches or government offices. The recurring statement is: "I never thought it would happen here." How do things like this happen, and how do we keep our kids safe?
We live in unpredictable and, it seems, violent times. We know from our own experience that counselors at educational institutions are dealing with higher numbers and a greater complexity of mental issues among students than ever before. Compared to when we were kids, people have increased access to weapons, a fervent allegiance to gun rights and a plethora of violent video streaming from portable game systems, television, and movie theatres.
What can you do? We don't know all the causes or cures for the episodes of violence we are experiencing in our society. But we can share a few things to help you protect your family from harm:
• If you have a weapon, lock it up. Make sure no one can get to it unless trained and responsible.
• Talk to your kids about personal safety; teach them to be vigilant.
• Watch for changes in your child's personality and behavior. Check with your child if she or he seems excessively quiet, evasive or increasingly anxious. Seek professional help if you're concerned.
• Be nosy. Know where your children are going, their activities and their associations. While your kids need some privacy, they are also part of the family. Don't be shut out.
• Provide a welcoming environment for your child's friends. Make your home a place where they feel comfortable.
• Communicate with your kids. Be attentive to their moods; talk to them about their day. Be inquisitive.
• Be a good example. Show through your actions how to handle stress, how to deal with disappointment, when to ask for help and how to generally interact in a cooperative way with others.
Taking care of our kids is one of our most important roles as fathers. It's a challenging task. And while we can't do a perfect job -- and we can't anticipate or protect against every threat -- we can help them graduate safely into adulthood with diligence and a little luck.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the new book "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at dads2dadsllc.com. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.