A missive on gun control, common sense and responsibility

I don’t usually comment on these sorts of things, at least not publicly because of all the controversy and other crap that comes along with it, but I saw a thread posted by a friend of mine about the most recent school shooting in the US. I read the subsequent debate that followed, and I couldn’t help but feel that it seems like when tragedies do occur people in general like to jump to conclusions without really stepping back and thinking through the issues that lead to the tragedy. And in reality, in all of these incidents, I think the issues are FAR more complicated than guns, or mentally unstable people, or whatever else might be the scapegoat the hour, day, week, etc.

I see, when I hear about these incidents, true tragedy – I can’t imagine the loss of one of my children at the hands of another. I can sense what that must feel like, but of course until that happens to you, it’s only the idea or kernel of what it would be like. And I certainly wouldn’t wish it upon anyone in this world. It saddens me to hear about another situation that may have been preventable, may have been mitigated and the “if only” thoughts that go through your head. If only I had seen the signs…

I think the reality in our complex world is that it is exactly that: complicated. So many issues wrapped up in one ball of shock and horror. On all sides, there is only passion for a cause and no objective reasoning. No objective analysis of what is happening, no one stepping up to gather the data to lay it out for constructive review, and certainly not many of those who would actually take that data and do something meaningful with it. I would have to admit that all I am doing here is talking about the situation, and not actively pursuing a way to effectively manage the problems that lead to it and it’s truly because the issues are so much bigger than just me and what I think about it.

Take any one of these situations however and I think some things are just inarguable fact. Clearly the kids that are doing these things are mentally unhealthy in one aspect or another (whether anyone noticed, whether they had already been diagnosed, whether they were already on a treatment plan, is not considered at this point but would certainly be useful data points). Clearly, in these situations the kids have gotten their hands on a firearm that, for all intents and purposes, does not belong to THEM – they belong to someone else who may or may not have legally obtained them (and whether or not they were legally obtained is an entirely separate issue). Clearly, in these situations, when the events unfold they are recorded and broadcast to a worldwide audience not moments after the situations occur, in the face of millions and millions of people and covered so thoroughly that it’s hard not to know when these things happen.

It seems like these are key observations that few could argue with on face value (forgive me if I left something out here – but know that this is intended as a statement of the facts relatable to all of these incidents). From here, I think in all of these situations, knee jerk reactions and theories and ideas and all the rest of what comes after simply muddies the waters and makes it difficult to move forward in finding reasonable solutions. But these facts raise several question in my mind, and I don’t know if the true and real answers to the questions might help to guide a framework for reasonable solutions, but I suspect in some sense it would.

Now this is where we jump from fact into the fantasy land I call my own head – so from this point further, I’m speaking to my interpretation of the cause and effect. I don’t have all the facts, I don’t even think any studies have been performed to cover it all (but there probably should be a push for them), so this is all based on the information I have at hand.

On the topic of mentally unstable children, I think it’s a wide open book that has yet to be truly read. Is it the mental instability causing the problem? Are they mentally unstable because their parents are/were? Are their parents involved, and/or paying attention? Are they being treated with medication? Do we know fully what the implications are of treating an unstable mind with these mind altering substances we have engineered? Is it the drugs themselves that are to blame? These are the questions that I have no answers for, but those in which I think would help paint a better picture of what’s really going on in the minds of these children.
One the thing that sticks out most to me is that these are kids we’re talking about here. They don’t possess all of the rights and freedoms that adults do and I think it well known why that’s the case. They lack the experience and knowledge that’s required to make the right decisions, they lack the ability to make good judgment calls because let’s face it, that’s not endemic to being a human, it’s something that’s learned. That’s why we as parents are responsible for them and everything they do, until such time as law dictates that the child is an adult (whether or not the child is truly capable of being a responsible adult, again, entirely different issue). I think there are many contributing factors that lead to it, but I also think there are some trends that can be gleaned from what is happening in the world and those trends might be indicators of something more sinister that eventually leads to more mentally unstable children coming up in our society, who lack the ability to make decisions to do the right things. What I feel I know is that you can’t hang your hat on video games, or media, or any one single issue that is causing this apparent increase in mentally unstable children willing to grab a gun and shoot up their peers. It’s as complex a topic as any of them come and one in which I think that even with the best minds, would take us years to truly and fully understand.

On the topic of guns, what comes to my mind most immediately is the old adage that “with great power, comes great responsibility”. Based on our constitution we have the right to bear arms and while I think the original intention for declaring that right was obvious to anyone who knows the history behind it, I feel that over the past 200 years that the reasons for this right have evolved from one of “protecting ourselves from the oppressive British government” to one of “protecting ourselves for ANY oppressive government”, including our own. Inherent to this right is the responsibility that comes along with it. I own a few guns myself, thanks to this right, and have obtained them legally. I’ve taken my children out and taught them how to use them – and in doing so I am training them to respect the power that comes along with wielding such a weapon. They are not toys and life is real – this is not a virtual playground where your “opponents” don’t really die, but real and final. It is MY responsibility to ensure that I have control over my firearms, whether or not I’m standing guard over them at all times. It is MY responsibility that my firearms remain under my control and thus I have them locked away in a place where only I can gain access to them. I don’t think in any of these school shootings that the perpetrators have obtained the guns illegally through any means other than by obtaining them from their homes. They are children – they do NOT possess all of the rights and freedoms granted by the constitution of our great nation, and it’s my job as a parent to ensure they know this and understand what it means.

Finally, on the topic of the media and subsequently, the coverage of these incidents, I think we can all agree that with the age of the Internet came the age of knowing what’s going on all over the world in real time. I think this has amplified the issue with media in general and the implications of the fact that anything and everything you see and hear is colored in some way by the people gathering and distributing the information that you receive through these channels. I also think that because of the fact that information flows so freely now, that it reaches a much wider audience in a much more expedient fashion. Overall I feel this is a positive trend, but it’s clear to me that this can and has been used for the sole purpose of making money and pushing political agendas. Let us not forget that the media we believe so forthright does not inherently have a responsibility for reporting objective fact, but rather they have an unwavering responsibility to drive revenue for their investors and shareholders. It is this duty to their shareholders that seems to come first, before objective presentation of fact that leads to coverage leaning to one side or the other, or to the embellishment and conflagration of fact into something more than it truly is.

Let us also not forget, that as has been proven time and time again, the media can and will be used as a tool to attain notoriety – that as ugly as it is, these kids who have perpetrated the heinous crimes of killing not one, but several other people, are now “famous” and in some cases household names. I don’t necessarily feel that this has been a factor in all of the incidents that we’ve heard of, but I can imagine at least one of these kids has thought about that fact and considered it an encouragement to carry out their final act. Nevertheless I still feel as though the major issue here is that the media possess and wield a great power and it is questionable as to whether the media as a whole has acted responsibly in presenting the real facts surrounding these incidents (and for that matter, anything they cover).

So in writing this missive on what I believe are some of the most confounding and real issues of our time, it seems to really boil down to responsibility. Responsible parenting. Responsible gun ownership. Responsible reporting. It feels like throughout the chain there is no accountability to anything but oneself (or to shareholders, and thus, money) anymore, and the bar used to measure that accountability is highly malleable to say the least. And it shouldn’t be – we as people have a moral obligation to do what’s right by the people, but all too often it seems that something or someone else is to blame.

I’d like to say that I certainly have only scratched the surface here. In writing this I have focused solely on the situation of mass shootings in our schools, at the hands of children. I think some of this discussion is relevant to situations involving colleges and movie theaters as well (to name a few recent examples), but of course in those cases the theme changes somewhat because we are dealing with adults as the perpetrators, rather than children. However I feel that if you roll those situations back all the way to the beginning, they ALL started with these themes. Responsible parenting. Responsible gun ownership. Responsible media.

In the end, I feel that the only way we as a society can grapple with these issues and come to some meaningful solutions would be something akin to moving mountains. Nevertheless, you can make objective and useful decisions if you have at your hands, the unobjectionable facts of the matters at hand. We’ve got to be willing to face the hard facts, to take responsibility for our actions, to be held accountable for the things we do and don’t do. I don’t know where I’d begin to try to get more involved, but I’d like to know – I’d rather not be the one sitting here spouting my opinions. I’d rather be the one catalyzing some meaningful change in our society and would love to know how I can do so. If you have some ideas or would like to continue a constructive, objective debate on these topics, send me a message!

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