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In wake of mass shootings, some parents hesitate bringing their kids to big events

People flee after shots were fired near the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl victory parade on Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds
/
AFP via Getty Images
People flee after shots were fired near the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl victory parade on Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo.

In yet another episode of mass shootings in America, one person was killed and more than 20 were injured during what was supposed to be a joyous Super Bowl parade on Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo.

About half of those with shooting-related injuries were children — ranging from 6 to 15 years old.

Year after year, shooting incidents prove that gun violence in the U.S. happens in a variety of different gatherings. But so long as such attacks continue, parents now have the burden of deciding how to respond.

"Parents who are just regular people living each day have to decide what we wish to do about it. Parades, rallies, schools, movies — it seems like almost nothing is safe," Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said in a news conference after Wednesday's shooting, adding that he almost brought his young son to the event.

Elaine Corbin, a Kansas City mother of two daughters ages 6 and 9, had already attended both the parade and the rally and were inside their hotel when shots rang out.

"It's a really unfortunate situation because we're all born and raised here. So we love our Kansas City sports teams, especially the Chiefs. And so being able to celebrate with millions of fans is something that's really important to us," she said in an interview with NPR.

She said the incident — which occurred despite the presence of over 800 law enforcement officers — makes her now more hesitant to attend large, crowded and unregulated events in particular.

Similarly, in one Reddit thread (Note: The post contains profanity) two years ago, a person wrote that their family will no longer attend parades as a result of the 2022 Highland Park, Ill., parade shooting.

Commenters agreed, saying that only events that do bag checks now feel safe.

"It is exceptionally difficult to stop an active shooter situation at what is essentially a perimeter-less environment," Steve Adelman, vice president of the Event Safety Alliance, told NPR.

Even so, Adelman says parents should be able to bring their children to an event like this. "Children should be able to express their passionate support for their team by going to a victory parade," he said.

Other parents agree, and say they still plan to attend similar events unless their children themselves feel unsafe.

"I think parents and especially children now already — because of America's gun violence crisis — show up at things looking for exits and thinking ahead in that way." Kansas state Rep. Jo Ella Hoye, who attended the parade and rally with her 11-year-old son, told NPR. "I do think that it will give a lot of us pause, at least for a while, about being in larger crowds."

"But at the same time ... I'm going to keep fighting to make it safe for us to be out and about with our kids because we're not going to just, you know, hole up inside of our houses for the rest of our lives," Hoye said, who has advocated for gun reform as a volunteer.

Chastity Logsdon traveled from out of state to attend the Chiefs parade with her 3- and 5-year-old children.

"You never think you're going to enjoy something celebratory and a mass shooting is going to break out. It wasn't my thought," Logson told NPR. "[These events were] always something family-oriented for us to do. ... And why can't it be?"

Adelman of the Event Safety Alliance said such a conversation distracts from the root of the issue, which is a lack of gun control.

"If you want to reduce the odds of getting shot, you have to reduce the number of guns. It is that simple," he said. "The common denominator is not the type of event or whether children are present or absent. It's guns."

The mayor of Highland Park, Ill., where seven people were killed and dozens were injured in the July 4, 2022, parade shooting, echoed Adelman's sentiments in an email to NPR.

"Part of the beauty of community is coming together to celebrate, yet in America, classic reasons to celebrate — the Fourth of July or the Super Bowl — are now marred by the uniquely American threat of gun violence," Mayor Nancy Rotering wrote. "I would hate to see people leaving kids out of big community events for fear of a mass shooting. We do not need to live this way and we shouldn't be forced to do so by Congress' lack of impactful action."

A third of U.S. adults say fear of mass shootings stops them from going to certain places and events, according to a 2019 survey on stress and mass shootings commissioned by the American Psychological Association.

More than half of adults surveyed said they fear the possibility of a mass shooting occurring at a public event. The next most feared place was the mall (50%), school or university (42%), then a movie theater (38%).

"It's clear that mass shootings are taking a toll on our mental health, and we should be particularly concerned that they are affecting the way many of us are living our daily lives," said Arthur Evans Jr., the APA's CEO, in the study.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: February 18, 2024 at 10:00 PM MST
An earlier version of this story said Elaine Corbin was about to attend the parade with her children when the shots rang out. In fact, they had attended the parade and were in their hotel when they heard shots.
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