After Newtown: Classroom Resources for Examining Gun Control

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The battle over gun control can be boiled down to a tug-of-war between maintaining our rights and ensuring our safety. Specifically, the issue is about the balance between Americans' constitutional right to bear arms -- as spelled out in the Second Amendment -- and the desire that almost all of us share to live safely without the threat of being harmed by gun violence. The U.S. has the highest gun ownership rate in the world, and the most gun-related deaths of any industrialized country. It also has some of the loosest gun control laws.

A mass shooting in December 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut resulted in the deaths of 27 people, including 20 children. The tragedy helped revive demand for tighter gun control laws, to which President Obama responded by promising action, and a number of lawmakers got to work crafting a set of measures to address the issue. But groups like the National Rifle Association staunchly opposed any new kind of gun regulations, and the legislative effort to enact background checks and other moderate new measures was narrowly defeated in the Senate this spring. At present, the issue is on hold, but the problem gun violence in America has certainly not gone away, and efforts at reform will likely resurface soon. - (From the introduction to KQED's The Lowdown resources around gun control.)

Use these resources about gun violence in your high school government and English language arts classrooms to support the use of informational text and argumentative writing as defined in the Common Core State Standards, and the study of the Bill of Rights and the division of power between the federal governments and individual states.  Begin with this lesson plan for ideas on using the resources that are part of the first collection of resources below from KQED's news education blog, The Lowdown.

1. Gun Violence
Grade: 9-12 |Social Studies & English Language Arts | Interactive Maps, Timelines, Multimedia Visualizations, Videos

Topics include America’s Mass Shooting Dilemma, U.S. Gun Homicides: Visualizing the Numbers, Are States With Tough Gun Laws Actually Safer?, The Loose Laws and Loopholes of Federal Gun Regulations, Gun Control in America: The History, The Issues, and One Controversial Cartoon, The Geography of U.S. Gun Homicides, The United States of Firearms: America’s Love of the Gun, How Come No One’s Talking About Gun Control This Election?


2. The Path to Violence: Gun Violence & The Path to Violence: School Violence
Grade: 9-12 | Subject: Social Studies & Health | Video

The Path to Violence tells the story of a powerfully effective Secret Service program — the Safe School Initiative — that’s helped schools detect problem behavior in advance.

But despite the progress made, recent attacks have revealed a gaping hole in our safety net. Adam Lanza, Jared Loughner and allegedly James Holmes all executed their attacks after they’d left their respective schools. Here parents may be the only line of defense — parents who are terrified of their own children. Can the hard-won gains made by psychologists and law enforcement be extended to the families of some of the nation’s most violent individuals? Is the country ready to have a national conversation about the balance between safety and civil liberties that such interventions would require?

3. After Newtown: Guns in America: Colonial Era
Grade: 9-12 | Subject: Social Studies & Health | Video

From the first European settlements in the New World, guns have been at center of our national narrative for 400 years.

4. After Newtown: Guns in America: Chicago
Grade: 9-12 | Subject: Social Studies & Health |Video

Gun technology has evolved a great deal since the Colonial era. So too has America's gun culture. With an estimated 300 million firearms in circulation, many argue that the nation is inundated with weapons and fear the human toll they've taken is too high. Over 30,000 people die each year from a gun-related injury. At the same time, guns are enjoyed by tens of thousands of Americans for sport, and many more rely on them for self-defense.

5. After Newtown: Guns in America: Philadelphia
Grade: 9-12 | Subject: Social Studies & Health |Video

Examine the evolution of guns in America, their frequent link to violence, and the clash of cultures that reflect competing visions of our national identity.

4. Student Reporting Labs React to Newtown
Grade: 9-12 | Subject: Social Studies & Health | Video

When breaking news is reported, stories often lack a youth voice or perspective. After the tragic shooting of 26 students and faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Student Reporting Labs mobilized its youth journalists and asked them to interview their peers about the tragedy.