Our kids are dying to tell us we need to fix the shooter problem
“If people can’t purchase marijuana or alcohol at the age of 18, why should they be given access to guns? I have had this conversation with my friends too many times. We shouldn’t have to talk about this. This country needs stricter laws to help prevent other kids, like me and my classmates, from ever having to experience this. Words mean nothing. Actions do.”
— Lyliah Skinner, junior, in These young survivors of the Parkland shooting give voice to a nation’s outrage
“These social pathologies are something like strange and gruesome new strains of disease infecting the body social. America has always been a pioneer — only today, it is host not just to problems not just rarely seen in healthy societies — it is pioneering novel social pathologies have never been seen in the modern world outside present-day America, period.”
— Umair Haque in Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse
After every school shooting, we hear about the nation’s outrage. Yet, as the most cynical remind is, after each school shooting, there are no substantive changes. The grim satire in “The Onion” three years ago focuses on where we are in solving this problem: “At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as ‘helpless.'”
People have argued for years that the environment in which they are raised is a contributory factor to the actions of criminals and the actions of mentally ill people. Umair Haque’s article suggests that much of the negative stuff we see going on in society today arises out of what might be called a pathological mental health plague. Whether this is true or not, I cannot say. It’s well worth looking into even though the results of “fixing it” will take years and most Americans want quicker solutions.
As I write this, I know that even a “perfect guns and mental health fix” doesn’t address the pattern of shootings, as John Finnegan, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota sees them. Any “fix” is little more than a Band-Ade.
According to Finnegan, as quoted in The Christian Science Monitor, “The response that these young men choose is heavily influenced by our culture. That means we have to focus on creating a culture of abundance and not one of scarcity, where we are trying to keep people away, trying to be exclusive and bully and harass people. It is in that kind of culture where people who do have these mental health challenges may very well find a way, using firearms, to feel that they have some kind of agency in this world.”
As a disclaimer here, I must tell you that I am a pacifist and military conscientious objector and believe that the armed populace that has arisen out of the United States’ culture is a mistake. I do not agree with the prevailing legal interpretation of the Second Amendment. Yet, that is what we have. So I think we must find ways to responsibly limit guns without those limitations causing gun owners to think we are en route to repudiating the Second Amendment.
And, we must stop de-funding other measures that some say will reduce the number of shootings:
- Why is school security funding always on the chopping block? Would the Parkland shooter have gotten in the school if there were one access door with a TSA-style security system?
- Why is community mental health always on the chopping block? Yes, the shooter in this case had access to care, but he stopped going. Shouldn’t this have raised a red flag? Shouldn’t this have put him into a “can’t buy” gun database?
In the wake of the Parkland shooting in Florida, some have pointed out that if every rule in popularly proposed gun control legislation had been in place, it would not have stopped this shooting. That’s a sobering idea.
Gun control scares all of the legal gun owners in the country because many of them think that every control will chip away at their Constitutional rights until–in time–those rights will disappear. I wish those who advocate gun control (in one form or another) would “reach out” to legal gun owners and to the NRA and say that we must work together to fix this problem. If we don’t, you will ultimately lose all of your rights. Much better to participate in a sane solution.
Gun control comes down to many technical matters, including semi-automatic vs. automatic, velocity of the round, magazine size, stopping power of the round, rate of fire and other issues. The first step seems to be coming to an agreement about which, if any, of these: (a) increase the efficiency of a shooter, and (b) do not substantially impact the legal use of the weapon.
We must agree on terminology. The AR-15 is not an assault rifle even though its design and ammunition have similar technology to the updated versions of the military’s M16. Sure, it looks like the kind of weapon the bad guys are carrying in the latest military thriller movie, but it isn’t used by the military. Perhaps we should talk less about getting rid of the AR-15 and more about reducing magazine capacity and the velocity of the round.
And, perhaps we should talk more about what one must do to purchase such a weapon, including those available at gun shows where standards seem to make them easier to purchase than from a dealer at his store.
I don’t have the answers for this, but I think it’s going to take a coalition of law makers, law enforcement, mental health agencies, and the NRA to arrive at a solution we can live with. What are we waiting for? Polarized debates are not fixing the problem. Sure, we need to look at prospective environmental factors and so-called psychological factors over the long term. Short term, we shouldn’t need another Parkland to start working together instead of making this a liberal vs. conservative debate that leads, once again, to nothing happening.