Editor’s Note: This story is being republished in light of the recent tragic mass shooting at UCSB. If the information herein can help even one person, we are beyond grateful.
As someone who writes about current events for a living, the last few weeks have been insanely difficult. The Sandy Hook tragedy has left me, along with the rest of the country, immensely shaken. On top of that, recently there has been a San Antonio movie theater shooting, 50 shots fired at a California mall and down the road from my house, the Clackamas Town Center shootings. Clackamas Mall, by the way, is where I usually take my son to the movies, so it’s all feeling really close to home and hard to deal with. Not only has scanning the news been a nightmare, but I’ve never felt less motivated to write about an issue in my life, and this is coming from a writer who has an opinion about everything.
But what could I possibly say about recent events? I’ve just been quietly thinking things over this last week. I’ve also been reading what other people have to say about all of this, which is what made me decide to write this post — because my gut reaction is that when we focus on gun control, mental health issues and the parents of the shooters, we may be missing the mark. The main thought that keeps popping into my head is that we need to focus on building stronger community ties and support systems for kids who need it.
Herein I outline what I believe are crucial steps that need to be taken in order to prevent violence by helping at-risk kids. I have personally experienced both sides of the fence, as the child who needed help, and the mentor who has attempted to make a difference in the life of a struggling child. I hope my story encourages us all to build a stronger community for our children to prosper — and I will share ways you can start making a difference immediately.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Why is everyone so violent?
First of all, though it doesn’t undermine recent events, it’s wise to remember that not everyone is violent. It seems like random shootings and other acts of violence are becoming more frequent, but experts say they’re not. This may help you put things in perspective, especially if you’re finding it difficult to cope. Even when bad things happen, you should realize that this does not mean placing your own kids under lock and key. The world is still a fairly safe place and many people are not bad. As to dealing with the question of why an individual might commit such a terrible act of violence, it’s so hard to say. There has been a lot of speculation in the media about what may have caused these recent shootings, with people blaming everything from video games to a lack of men in schools, but most theories are focused on three key issues: gun control, mental health care access and the parents of the shooters.
Gun control laws: plenty of people are claiming that better gun control will equal less violence. In fact, an individual posted a petition regarding gun control laws at WhiteHouse.gov, on Friday soon after the shooting at Sandy Hook, and that petition is now the most popular petition the White House has ever received, with 195,365 signatures and counting. I get why people would want better gun control laws. However, in my experience, people who truly aim to harm others will find a way to harm them, guns or not.
Mental health care access: Many not championing gun control have started a heated mental health care system debate, claiming that a lack of access to care leads to crime. I understand that it can be difficult to access health care, yet after spending time in mental health clinicals in my college RN courses and working as a social worker for years, I also know that it’s not impossible to access support. On top of this, many are blaming specific conditions, especially Asperger’s for the recent events, which frankly, is unsettling, because Asperger’s is not a disorder that’s scientifically linked to crime.
Blame the parents: Other people are simply blaming the parents of the shooters. I’ve seen countless comments akin to, “If only their parents had raised them right…” I disagree with this line of thinking. I think that anyone who blames the parents alone for kids who later participate in violent acts haven’t considered how much community interactions can make a difference, in spite of parents who may or may not being doing a great job.
What I think: I have no idea why a specific individual would shoot children in a school or innocent people in a mall, but I will say this, on one hand, there are some bad seeds in our world – for example, people who harm others because they have a major imbalance that causes them to do so. However, the logical and personal side of my brain says most people aren’t born bad. Most people are probably born with a clean slate and based on their interactions with others, have the capacity to become humans who practice good or bad behaviors.