Valentine’s Day 2018 and we are once again reeling from another school shooting. Depending on what website or news source you follow this marks at the minimum eight school shootings or as many as eighteenth between January 1, 2018, and February 14, 2018. The REAL fact is one school shooting is too many. Ever.
Full disclosure. I’m a gun owner and also a parent of school-aged children. I want a common-sense approach to help alleviate this problem. And no, banning all guns (or even just AR-15 style rifles) won’t do it. Will stricter gun laws help? Sure, and I’m all for that. I believe in enforcing existing gun laws and enhancing our laws in the areas where they are lax. (Yes, I’m sure there are MANY laws that fall into that category) But here’s the thing, I don’t want to reduce school shootings, I want them to completely go away. As in zero, nada, NONE. And to do that we need to get to the root of the problem. (Hint: It’s really not about the guns) The question is not what, but WHY?
I graduated high school in 1994, lived in a middle-class town and attended a public high school. You know how many school shootings I knew of the year I graduated? Zero. Now, I’m not saying there weren’t any shootings that year because I’m sure there may have been a handful. When I looked online for statistics covering 1994 I found mixed results. My point is, at that time school shootings were not a common occurrence, definitely not something we all lived with on a regular basis. Certainly not something the average student thought about, ever. It’s different now, much different. We didn’t have metal detectors or armed guards at my high school. In fact, besides the police getting called when the occasional fight occurred I don’t recall an armed guard at the school. Now, there might have been one, but if so it wasn’t obvious to me at the time. My point is a school was a school, not a locked down building with armed guards. Which sounds suspiciously much more like a prison than a place to matriculate.
Why do I bring my experience up? Were there guns back then? Yes, plenty. Were their violent encounters at school? Of course. As I recall knives were the biggest problem we faced on occasion. But were young people on a fairly regular basis going in and murdering their fellow classmates with semi-automatic weapons? No.
So, what’s changed?
I’m serious folks, the problem here is, why? Not what tool was used to perpetrate the crime. If we get to the heart of the matter we will be closer to preventing future mass shootings. In no way do I believe any one person can fix this problem, myself especially. And this is not a one solution fits all issue. But, I do want to start a dialog on the root issue behind this epidemic.
Why are our kids killing each other?
Here are a couple thoughts.
First, we’ve taken God out of culture. Some like to say we’ve taken God out of our schools but it’s much deeper than that. We’ve removed him (in some circles) from our lives entirely. Without a faith-based system (regardless of what your faith may be) that teaches a right and a wrong, we are morally adrift. And no, that’s not to say a person of faith can’t commit a violent crime, far from it. However, if someone has a moral compass they have a greater likelihood to think before they act. Hopefully, they will draw upon what is right and treat their fellow human beings with respect versus slaughter them in an act of senseless violence. My faith teaches me to value life, not belittle it or cast it aside because I’m upset.
Second, we live in a culture that glorifies violence. Face it, our kids are bombarded with violent imagery throughout their childhood. Certain movies, television shows, video games, websites, even books are marketed to adolescence that glorifies violence in one form or another. How can that not sink into our kid’s subconscious and pervade their thoughts? Does it directly cause violence? I can’t say without a shadow of a doubt, but does anyone actually believe a constant barrage of violent imagery promotes harmony and love for one another. Sure it does. (Yes that’s sarcasm).
Third, parents don’t spend enough time with their kids. I get it. Life is busy and moves at breakneck speed. But how many parents actually know what’s going on with their kids? I mean really understand what’s going on with them. I have to believe some of these young people that slaughtered their fellow classmates displayed warning signs. Those closest to them must have known, or at least should have known something was amiss. Could they have prevented it? Possibly not. Please understand this is not an attempt to blame the parents of the young people who commit these horrific acts. As we all know, a human being is solely responsible for their actions. But that does not give the rest of us a free pass. Parents or guardians especially need to be hyper-vigilant in recognizing the warning signs and when necessary stepping in to stop young people from harming themselves or God forbid others. Parents, and yes I’m preaching to the choir here, put down your remotes and smartphones at night and spend more time with your kids. I mean for God’s sake, you decided to have kids, now do the hard work and spend your precious time with them. Is it hard? Yes. Do you want to relax and get away from the daily stressors of life some nights? Sure. But one of the consequences of having a child is the inherent responsibility to raise them. Not just feed, clothe and house them, but raise them to be a valuable member of society. That includes teaching them (and reinforcing from a young age) right from wrong.
At some point as a society, we need to address the heart of this issue. It’s not about what, but WHY? Fix that (as best you can) and you’ll solve the problem.