Let me start this post by saying that, while I am a gun enthusiast who believes in the right of the people to keep and bear arms, I do NOT condone the use of guns in the senseless killing of innocent people. And that’s the only way I can think of to describe what school shootings are; senseless killings of innocent people. Horrible tragedies that take the lives of innocents, devastate families and send communities reeling. There is no excuse for that kind of slaughter. No excuse. But there IS a reason for it. A reason behind it. And it has nothing to do with guns.
Instead of wringing our hands and posting anti-gun rants on social media, we need to understand what motivates a kid to plan and execute mass murder. Parents need to be talking to their kids. What is their school day like? Who are their classmates, and how do they treat each other? What does it feel like to be in school today? We, as parents and families and friends and neighbors need to look up from our televisions and smartphones and pay attention. We need to be more aware. We need to get to the root of WHY a kid would want to brutalize his school. How does a child get to the point where he wants to exterminate his classmates? How does he get there without his parents and family taking note? We need to talk to each other.
We need to listen to each other.
School shooters aren’t born, they’re made. And as long as we continue to ignore abuse and mental illness in schools, blame guns for gun-related violence, and make school shooters famous, we will continue to have school shootings. It’s as simple as that.
After the most recent school shooting, a well-meaning co-worker came to me and spent ten minutes trying to convince me that I didn’t need to own a fully automatic assault rifle. She did the hand motions demonstrating the cycling of a new round into a bolt-action rifle and told me that I should buy a hunting rifle that takes much longer to shoot. That I should only own a shotgun if I wanted to hunt ducks. And that a pistol makes more sense for home defense than an assault rifle. I didn’t waste a whole lot of time arguing with her. I just said that I don’t own a fully automatic assault rifle. That I already own all of the other firearms that she spoke of. And that I don’t use any of them to hunt ducks.
The truth is, I took the easy way out. I should have steered the conversation to the WHY of school shootings. I should have asked her to think about what might be driving kids to mass murder — social isolation and peer persecution, for example — but I already knew from the previous conversation with her that my efforts would be fruitless. Because school shootings involve guns. And when it comes to guns, she simply doesn’t think. She gets all whipped up into a lather about how guns are the evil of our society, but she can’t tell me why. Because she’s a willing disciple of today’s news and entertainment media, and the politicians who use it to control the masses.
It used to be The Church that controlled the people, from the throne and the pulpit. For many centuries — millennia — societies were ruled by religion. Even here in the U.S., with the separation of church and state, for most of our nation’s lifespan, our communities have been governed by Sunday sermon. But it’s not that way anymore. These days it’s The Media that pulls our strings. Hollywood movies, tv news shows, sitcoms, soap operas, cop shows, and an ever-expanding chunk of the worldwide interwebs influence and direct and control our thought. Those things shepherd us. The Media is the new church. And my coworker takes its communion religiously.
So I took the easy way out. Because I’ve learned there is little I can say to sway her from her Media Catechism. Voicing my opinion only results in her defensive regurgitation of anti-gun rhetoric. And since most of the media sermons after a school shooting revolve around guns and gun control, she has plenty to regurgitate. She really believes that guns are at fault. She really believes that new laws must be made to protect children attending public schools. She really believes that the NRA is evil. She really believes that AR stands for Assault Rifle (it does not). And she believes all of this because The Media tells her so.
♪ Guns are ba-ad, this I know, ♪
♪ for The Media tells me so. ♪
The Media tells us so. Over and over and over again. Every time we turn around. Guns are bad. Especially if they start with A and end with R. After a school shooting, you can bet there will be TV reporters who have never handled a firearm brandishing ARs in front of tv cameras and preaching that no one outside of the military should own such a deadly weapon. They are simply too ignorant to know better. So is the majority of their audience, surfing from channel to channel and refreshing CNN’s homepage every five minutes to feed on the latest juicy details.
Our hunger for spectacle propels these shooters. And every school shooting it gets worse. The media frenzy is a fast-lane to fame for the tortured, isolated, angry child who wants to go out in a blaze of glory because he’s so beaten down that his life isn’t worth suffering through anymore.
It sickens me. The whole news media spectacle of exploitation and sensationalism masquerading as news coverage of school shootings is painful to watch. We shouldn’t even be there. For most of us, thankfully, the tragedy doesn’t apply. It’s not our loss, our grief, our agony. We are only spectators to the horrific happenings of a community limited to those of genuine affiliation with that school. The rest of us should give space and respect to those who are suffering through the horror. Let those who know them, and love them, take care of them. The rest of us should stop using their misfortune as our entertainment.
Offer sympathy. Offer support. And stay out of the way.
If we really want to help, if we really want to prevent school shootings from happening in the future, we need to start addressing the problems that brought these shooters to such an enraged state. Their emotional and mental breakdown is the real issue. And in all but the most extreme cases, that can be prevented. Let’s talk — and listen — to our kids. Parents, families, friends, and neighbors. Let’s rebuild community. Let’s rebirth social responsibility. Let’s put aside our distractions and get to know each other again.
Because school shooters aren’t born. They’re made.