It’s horrible and heartbreaking and…utterly predictable. We had another school shooting. I’m just one of millions who are sick about it and trying to make sense of the senseless.
What I will say is that the reactions this time feel different. The voices demanding that “something must be done” seem louder and are coming from people I haven’t heard speak up before.
It’s the discussion of what that “something” is that has me thinking. The very serious, complex problem of mass gun violence is being met with a chorus of seemingly simple solutions. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what the source of the violence is and how to fix it.
A. It’s loose gun laws and the NRA. We should out the motives of politicians who take their money and create stricter laws around gun buying.
B. It’s mentally ill people. The stigma, lack of training in recognizing symptoms, and barriers to care are real issues. We have to increase the quality and amount of mental health care service in this country, and make it more available to those who need it.
C. It’s the ease of getting into public buildings. More metal detectors at schools and government buildings would deter would-be shooters from even trying, and stop those who do try. We need to increase security and screening for all our public institutions.
D. It’s the lack of information. We still don’t fully understand why mass shootings happen, or what things could be done to prevent them from happening in the future. Research shines a light on the causes and effects. We need to further investigate possible causes and contributing factors like violence in the media, illegal gun sales, and lack of education.
Of course, saying that all mass shootings stem from one of these issues is a false choice. The right answer is E. All of the above.
What’s remarkable to me about this challenge is that we all agree on a desired end goal: No more shootings. No more senseless murders. And even with so much agreement, we’re still stuck on how to get to that end goal.
We’d be much further along if our answer to every proposed solution was “yes, and…” instead of “no, but…” The notion that there’s a single, silver bullet solution out there is as ridiculous as it is ironic. If only it were so simple.
The reality is that all these factors and many more contribute to the epidemic of mass shootings in our country. Toxic masculinity, teaching young boys that violence makes them strong and empathy makes them weak, and an ever-increasing focus on incarceration over rehabilitation all contribute. Which means that our solution must be just as multifaceted if it’s to be effective.
So, while we’re waiting on God to answer our “thoughts and prayers,” isn’t there something else I can do? After all, I’m just sitting here—waiting while obsessively clicking the sad and angry emojis.
I can’t sign bills into law myself, but I can sign petitions, make calls, march, and vote. I can’t check someone into a mental institution, but I can advocate for more community mental health resources, seek help for those I know who are at risk, and speak-up when I see threatening comments and behavior. I can’t stand in front of the school every day and check credentials, but I can follow the rules myself. I can support budget requests for security. I can show up to city council meetings and write letters to the editor. I can make my support clear to our teachers and administrators. (In a moment of desperate imagination, I saw redesigned school uniforms redesigned with built-in bullet-proof vests.) I can’t crunch the numbers but I can support research and science that helps us better understand what causes and prevents mass shootings, and why.
As I write this, I feel some pressure to get this thought out while it’s still fresh. And then a little voice says, “Don’t worry. You can write this piece after the next one.” I don’t want there to be a next one. But there will be a next one as long as we hang on to the idea that there is a single (even big) solution out there.
Instead, let’s address all of the above.