The days following a national tragedy are often full of suggestions on how exactly we should remedy whatever caused the incident. All too often, we’re debating how to address the issue of mass shootings in our country. Clearly, it’s an issue, and there are several factors that are frequently offered as the culprit. In the days following the Parkland shooting, I’ve heard many theories tossed around and I’ve seen many social media posts which insist that the problem at hand can be solved by addressing one issue or another. Gun control, services for mental illness, social media, and bad parenting have each been touted as the ONE SINGLE ISSUE that needs to be addressed in order to fix this horrible epidemic in our country. Many debates and arguments have followed, and insults often accompany these conversations.
Those who argue that stricter gun control is the solution are torn down by people who say that mental illness is the cause and that guns have nothing to do with the issue. Those people are then ridiculed by others who blame social media for hyping the issues and bringing too much negative attention to the table, but those theories are tossed aside by people who insist that the lack of strong parenting is the underlying factor to all of this violence.
WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE JUST ONE ISSUE OR ANOTHER??
Seriously, I don’t understand this, not at all. Before anything can really be accomplished, we need to admit that there is more than one issue at play, and call on our elected officials to address whatever it is that we feel is the best starting point. For me, that’s stricter gun control. It should not be as easy as it currently is to obtain a gun and enough ammunition to shoot up a school. It just shouldn’t. If you’re a responsible gun owner, I don’t understand why the idea of stricter laws bothers you. And the “bad guys will always find a way to get guns” argument is tired and weak. People don’t always wear their seat belts, and they certainly don’t always drive the speed limit, but we still have laws for those things. Should we just not have any laws? I promise you that there will always be people who break them. But, if stricter gun control prevents even one more senseless death, then I’m all for it.
For those who argue that better mental health services are necessary to curb the gun violence incidents, I understand your argument and I agree that yes, there should be more assistance available for those who are struggling. But how does that not go hand in hand with stricter gun control when we’re talking about reducing the occurrence of mass shootings in this country? Further, I would argue that gun violence is not an automatic result of mental illness, and to perpetuate that belief is dangerous and uninformed.
If you believe that social media is fueling the fire and causing more gun violence, then I invite you to step away from your screen and stop engaging in all the online debates. Social media can be a really ugly place, but that’s because of the people who make it that way. There are many advantages to having a strong online social network, but you have to be aware and carefully maintain those relationships. Social media is not the root cause of all the violence. It may contribute, but mass shootings were happening well before billions of people started sharing cat memes on Facebook.
Parent shaming makes me really sad. Should we be involved parents? Absolutely. I believe that most of us try to do just that. I am a major proponent of teaching children to be respectful, modest, and kind. I try to do that with my children; if I instill nothing else, I hope they all understand how important those three things are. I hope that others share that philosophy, but I don’t dare think that shaming people into being better parents will magically end gun violence. It may make kids more pleasant to be around when they aren’t being supervised in public (teenagers in malls and restaurants without your parents, I’m looking at you…), but it won’t end gun violence. Let’s figure out a way for parents to be more involved in our kids’ schools, from grade school all the way through high school. I’m shocked by how many people dismiss the idea of parent organizations at the high school level, yet complain that other parents don’t know what their kids are experiencing. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
While I obviously see a hierarchy of issues here, I truly believe that this is indeed a multifaceted issue, and by insisting that we only address one issue or another, we are doing a disservice to every single person affected by these tragedies. If we only address one thing at a time, we’ll get no where. If we consider each of these things (and probably other elements that I haven’t listed) at the same time, and acknowledge that there is a LOT of work to do, AND be willing to do some of that work, just imagine the change we can bring to our country.
We must take the lead of the high school students in Florida who have chosen to use their grief as a way to advocate for change. Call, write, email, and tweet at your elected officials. All of them: national, state, and local. If you want more gun laws and more mental health services, make that known. Stronger parenting, on its own, may not end gun violence but it would make our society a better place, engage in that and be an example. This is how we’ll make a difference. It won’t happen solely by debating strangers on Facebook, but if we perform our civic duties and make our voices heard, we can do some of the hard work that must be done.