Although gun-related violence and school shootings are issues that may seem unfamiliar to us here in Korea, for other countries around the world, it is a festering problem with no easy solution in sight. With the recent shootings in Christchurch and Utrecht, there seems to be an alarming global trend of an increase in gun-related deaths. An unsettling uneasiness about some potentially imminent danger looms over the heads of many.
With how distant these incidents seem, it is easy to dismiss our thoughts on the subject as mere feelings that will soon be forgotten, lost to the deep recesses of our minds. For the more empathetic, the only contributions to be made are limited to “thoughts and prayers”. Even then, media attention is ephemeral and mainly focuses on the direct victims of the attacks.
It is easy to forget that the tragic loss of life following such attacks, however, does not just stop at the shootings themselves.
In late 2012, the US witnessed one of the deadliest mass shootings of its history. 28 lives were claimed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, most of them children and staff working at the school. One of those victims was Avielle Richman, a six-year-old attending the school. Stricken by grief, her parents, Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel, founded the Avielle Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding research into the neuroscientific reasons behind violence and ways to stop such events from happening.
Despite such benevolence, they were met with something entirely unexpected: hatred and death threats. Conspiracy theories about whether Sandy Hook was a “show” by anti-gun activists quickly spread on the Internet, and believers sought out figures such as Richman who publicly appeared on television and other forms of media to denounce them as actors of some political scheme.
The world lost Jeremy Richman on March 25 to an apparent suicide. He was 49 years old. The pain he may have felt, whether it was from the death of his daughter, the amplitude of the gun violence issue in the US, or the conspiracy theories and threats towards his life and family, is unimaginable. May his life serve as a reminder, not only of the initiative required to start something that betters the world and the resilience to do so after being personally affected, but also of the people afflicted by the deaths of friends, family, and loved ones.