I know I’m aging myself when I say this, but how many of you can remember where you were when you heard the news about the shooting at Columbine’s high school? I can. I can tell you which gas station I was pulling into when it came on the radio. While it wasn’t the first shooting, it was, in many ways, the most widely discussed, widely seen and closely scrutinized.
But not the only one.
And last week, there was another one. For me, this one hit a little closer to home because a friend of mine knows one of the students who was killed.
There are so many screaming voices out there in the social media world right now.
Some of them are screaming, “take away the guns!” Others are screaming, “don’t touch my guns! I need my semi-automatic sub machine gun!”
Some are saying, “Isn’t this awful, we’ll keep them in our thoughts and prayers…..” and then moving on with their own life. Others are saying the “thoughts and prayers” comments in front of a camera to make themselves appear to look better.
Some are saying, “He must have been mentally ill, our system failed him and them.” Others are saying, “Then why is the government slashing mental health budgets and why are we standing by quietly while they slash the funding to take care of those with mental illnesses?”
Some are saying, “the shooter was white and was arrested unharmed – would that have been different if he was black? or Hispanic?” Good question
Some are saying, “It’s the video games. They are too violent.” And then they go to movies that glorify violence.
I read an article over the weekend that I believe reframes the context. It offers an explanation of what is happening and why it is happening.
But it doesn’t offer a “how do we fix it” to the problem. Read my comments below:
Writing in 2015, Malcolm Gladwell wrote what I think is still the best explanation for modern American mass shootings, and it’s easily the least comforting. At the risk of oversimplifying a complex argument, essentially he argues that each mass shooting lowers the threshold for the next. He argues, we are in the midst of a slow-motion “riot” of mass shootings, with the Columbine shooting in many ways the key triggering event.
A “slow motion riot of mass shootings.”
They are all connected? And everyone since the Columbine shooters is looking back and saying, “If he did, I can?” “If he did, I can do better? or louder? or with more force?”
Let’s apply the Vanderwell Rule of 50%. Actually, let’s turn it into the Vanderwell Rule of 33%. Let’s say, for discussion sake, that there are three main reasons why these school shootings are happening:
- Guns – there are too many guns that are designed for maximum destruction that are accessible to people who shouldn’t have them. Not that there are too many guns or that all guns are bad, but just that there are too many guns of maximum destructive power that are available.
- Exposure to violence – there’s too many examples in the media, in video games, in movies where violence not only happens very frequently but the message that comes with the violence is that violence is the answer to your problem. If you don’t like it, shoot someone.
Oh and both of those reasons and their proponents fail miserably at supporting the mental health profession to make sure there are adequate resources to deal with and support those with mental health illnesses and those who are trying to get them help.
- The last reason of our three reasons is what the article explained – it’s a slow motion riot. Every school shooting makes it more likely that another one will happen. Every school shooting makes it more likely that the next one will try to be bigger. Every school shooting creates trauma that will impact and harm the survivors for the rest of their lives.
All three of those reasons have one thing in common. They are all impacted by the fact that we have, as a nation, as a society, as communities, lost our moral compass:
- We’ve lost our moral compass because we think it’s okay for semi automatic weapons of mass destruction to be available for way too many people.
- We’ve lost our moral compass because we glorify violence – not violence that happens as part of the military – but violence that happens when people decide that shooting is the answer to their anger.
- We’ve lost our moral compass because every time another school shooting happens, nothing changes. And that makes the next one more likely.
We’ve lost our moral compass.
We don’t need a new one, we need to find the one that we’ve used for a very long time. Pick it up, dust it off and start using it again. How do we do that?
Gun laws – many of my “pro gun” friends argue that we don’t need new laws because the existing laws are adequate to keep those kind of guns out of the hands of those who can’t handle them. If so, then push our government to enforce the laws. Get to know your local, county, state and federal representatives and urge them to support enforcement of good gun laws – ones that keep guns in the right hands and out of the unsafe ones.
Glorifying violence – how do you combat that? Vote with your wallet. Don’t let the industry have record breaking success with the movies and shows and games that promote senseless violence. Speak out by supporting the industry people who don’t promote those type of violent behaviors
Mental illness – we’ve lost our moral compass because for too many people and for too long, we’ve refused to be willing to acknowledge mental illness the same way we do physical disabilities. Look at the funding and budget slashing going on in the mental health field. Look at how difficult insurance companies make it to get good quality mental health care. Once again, we have lost our moral compass and we need to change that, support the mentally ill and provide the resources to those trying to get them help.
Slow Motion Riot – if every one of these school shootings is another step in a slow motion riot, then we’ve lost our moral compass because our children are growing up either afraid that their classmates will shoot them or thinking that it’s okay to shoot someone they are mad at How do we address that?
- The church needs to do a better job, a much better job, at making the Bible and Jesus relevant in the lives of the younger generations. I wrote, this morning, about the youth director at our church. The church needs more people to be leaders and relevant to the youth of today.
- The schools need to do a better job at promoting decency, politeness and respect. Now before you get all up and upset with me, I’m not saying that will stop school shootings – but it will certainly make schools a nicer place to be and a safer place to be.
- The families – and those who support and can support families – need to work towards an environment of love, respect and authority so that kids will feel safe, will feel like they matter and will feel like they have a future.
Whew, if you made it this far, thank you. None of these are the complete answer, but all of them together could make a big difference.
Now the question is, are we going to do anything?