Talking about gun violence

Acknowledge the event (in this case, the mass shooting in Florida that killed 17 students.) When adults pretend it didn’t happen or is too taboo to speak aloud, we model avoidance for our kids. In Deep, we can talk about anything, ESPECIALLY the events directly affecting our students. We encourage challenging conversations, both verbally and in our writing. We write to figure out what we think and how we feel. We don’t write to change anyone’s mind or convince anyone of our point of view, but to listen to others and ourselves in respectful dialogue, verbally and on the page.


Offer options. Do we want to talk/write about the recent school shooting, or do you just need a break from reality? Either is okay.


Readings (these are just suggestions)

“The Wrong Side of History” by IN-Q


The Secret Garden in the Hood by Danez Smith


This speech by Parkland high schooler and gun reform activist Emma González


Writing prompts:

  1. Tell the story of what it’s like to be a student right now. How do you feel walking into school in the aftermath of a mass shooting?
  2. Using your imagination, create a solution for gun violence. ANYTHING is possible—advanced science/technology, superheroes, fantasy, more.
  3. When you think about gun violence, what fears do you have? What hopes do you have?
  4. As a student, your voice is one of the most important in the conversation about school shootings. If you could write a letter to the adults in control of making decisions about guns, what would you want them to know?
  5. Freewrite. Gun violence. Go.


When commenting or talking in workshop

Be supportive and curious. Remember, their opinions are just as valid as yours, informed by their culture, background, neighborhood, family, friends, media etc. Avoid “corrective” language that steers kids toward what you believe is right and wrong. Instead, show them you’re listening, acknowledge when they’ve shared something heavy, and ask them questions to push their work deeper, beyond the surface.

It is extremely important to emphasize self-care when writing about grief, death, and violence. Sometimes a burst of 15 minutes is all a writer can handle, and that is okay. This work is difficult and important for making something coherent out of the chaos. Cookies and decompression spaces (coloring, fidget toys, space to “just be”) are always welcome.

Contact Deep staff if any of your writers express intent to harm themselves or others, or exhibit symptoms of depression or anxiety. We can connect them to professional services to keep them safe and help them process their feelings

Deep staff is always available to support you in planning a responsive workshop, or in facilitating hard conversations within your workshop. Just reach out to us. We’re here to help.


Additional resources

Deep acknowledges that an intersectional approach to gun violence and reform is key because it is a racialized issue with many, many layers. It is impossible to talk about it all in a single session. Deep staff is collecting texts from all kinds of sources and compiling them here. We encourage you to read and gain knowledge into this incredibly complex issue and how it affects the lives and communities of our writers.

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