Saturday, February 24, 2018

Thoughts on Guns and School Shootings.

There’s been yet another mass shooting in a school, and so everyone is filling my ears with their opinions and their memes. I have a lot of thoughts bouncing around my head. Here are some.

First, whenever someone starts their argument with the phrase, “The problem is...”, my respect for their opinion automatically drops. No one problem is THE problem. There is not one (pardon the pun) “silver bullet” solution. All proposed solutions are incomplete and flawed. We need to look a lot of the roots of the problems and fix them, and then realize that even those solutions will not “fix” everything.

If we do a lot of things, they will make school shootings less likely, but they will probably still happen. The nice thing about a lot of these solutions is that they will make our nation, as a whole, a nicer place to live.

OK, here are my ideas.

1 - Making guns illegal will not help. I know that’s tough for a leftie to say, but I believe it. When Jodi and I were first married, we took in teenage foster kids. Most were great kids, but most also had criminal records. I knew that at any given moment, I could have given some money to pretty much any one of those kids and within an hour or two they could have come back to me with a gun.

Having said that, I do think it’s valuable to register guns and to license gun owners, just like we do with cars. Will that prevent gun crimes? Maybe not, but it might help prosecute them.

I also think that making certain kinds of weapons illegal is reasonable.

2 - A lot of focus has been pointed at mental health as an issue. Many have rightly pointed out that there are a lot of people with mental health issues that are not violent. I think, at times, that I’m probably chronically depressed, possibly bipolar, and I’ve never shot anyone.

However, I think that every school shooter has some significant mental health issues. To stand in a crowded school hallway, full of your classmates and to start killing them is NOT HEALTHY. That’s NOT NORMAL.

Getting good mental health care in this country is very difficult. Often, insurances won’t cover it, or will barely cover one or two sessions with a counselor. There is no framework (or at least a very weak framework) for identifying those that are struggling and getting them help. This is true of potential shooters, but also potential suicides, and just plain sufferers. Having a token “school psychiatrist” who has to float between 4-5 schools in a district is not enough to identify and serve those that need it.

Many people identified and spoke out about the most recent school shooter long before he took the gun to the school. Why was nothing done? Who was supposed to do it? The school? The police? His family?

And politically, many of the same people who say, “It’s not a gun problem, it’s a mental health issue” are the same people who vote for those that defund mental health services.

So, our schools, and our society, needs a more full and robust support system for mental health, that’s affordable and available.

3 - And while we’re talking about wellness, there’s something very important that we’re missing out on in schools: Social Studies. I mean REAL social studies. Instead of creating fake “zero tolerance for bullying” policies, there should be curriculum that’s taught from kindergarten through high school about how to get along. And EVERYONE should be in on it, not just the peer tutors. The parents should engage in it. We should be teaching everyone how to be nice to each other, and work together. Everyone should learn how to see things from someone else’s point of view.

Maybe as part of high school graduation, there should be a time period of service. You should be required to step outside of your own little world and work for the support of someone else for a time. That would mean that I wouldn’t get to just keep going to church and count that as my service. I would have to seek a new opportunity.

And learning about how society and our government actually works would be good, too.

4 - You can’t blame violent shooting on any one movie or video game.  However, we do have a popular culture that glorifies violence and makes it exciting. Fighting and violence is conflict, and conflict makes for good stories.

Here’s what’s really bad about it, though: It shows that violence has no consequence. If the hero of a movie kills a couple of security guards while he sneaks into the bad guy’s factory, that’s all that’s shown. The nameless, faceless guards fall down, and the hero steps over them and moves on in the story. The guards are never talked about again. But in real life, those guards have families that now have lost their father, wives that have lost their husbands, parents who have lost sons. In real life, they will mourn, have funerals, and struggle to move on. But that’s a different story, so the movie doesn’t show that. They’re just dead and are now immaterial, disposable.

Often in games and movies, violence is shown as the only possible solution to a problem. Faced with an opponent who blocks your agenda? Punch him, or shoot him. Negotiate? Why?

I don’t think legislation will change this, and I’m not sure that it should. But, we should all be aware of it, and think twice about it. I am also fully aware of my own hypocrisy in saying this. We can all do better.

5 - A lot of these proposed solutions will cost money. Personally, I think it will be money well spent. Establishing a robust mental health system, for example, will require a lot of counselors, social workers, and support personnel. Having armed guards in the schools will require hiring a lot of armed guards. Teaching social skills will require hiring specialist teachers.

So, let’s think about that, though. In addition to considering it an “investment in our own survival”, you’re also creating a lot of valuable jobs. All these people you’re hiring will now be employed, and be paying taxes, and buying groceries and cars and taking vacations and spending money on other things. Those business that provide the groceries, cars, vacations, and other things will now be doing more business, and paying more taxes. A vibrant, thriving economy is one where a lot of money is flowing.

Anyway. Those are all of my thoughts for now.  Feel free to leave yours in the comments below

Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.  Also, check out his new fantasy fiction blog: The Hero's Tale: Family-Friendly Role-Playing Game


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