Violence isn’t easy on anyone. Death is hard to think about. But I feel as a mom, it is especially heart-wrenching to see unwarranted, reckless violence day in and day out across our country. It’s unfathomable to think about a tragedy striking my family or that my children’s lives could be cut short because of senseless violence. I get teary-eyed thinking about my four-year-old learning how to take cover during an active shooter situation and wonder if it’s too soon to send him to school with one of those bullet proof shields that fit in backpacks. It’s so overwhelming that I often try to block it out. I don’t turn on the news. I don’t open Facebook to see who’s arguing about whether guns are the problem or not.
But enough is enough. We need to talk to each other like adults and stop making this a divisive, partisan issue. We need to look at the arguments we’re using and see if they are legitimate or not, and that is what I am hoping to achieve with this post.
Mental health is a popular argument as to why gun violence is on the rise. One in five adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. That’s 43.8 million people or 18.5% of our population.
According to an article from The Atlantic “Americans suffer from all sorts of psychological issues, and the evidence indicates that they’re not going anywhere despite (or because of?) an increasing number of treatment options.”
Do we need better healthcare to combat this? Mandatory yearly psychiatric evaluations? How does someone with deranged, violent thoughts just decide one day he needs to go get an antidepressant instead of go on a shooting rampage?
Violent video games are also blamed for today’s rampant violence. Countless psychology journals back up this claim. Playing violent games increases aggression, plain and simple. Should we ban video games in which people are killing each other? Or at least prevent children under 18 from playing them? Why are people playing these games to begin with?
A third commonly cited reason for today’s violence is the fall of American family values. The term “family values” has a lot of deeply conservative, evangelical Christian undertones. For the purposes of this post, I’m defining “family values” as the notion of creating a loving, nurturing environment for children to grow up with a strong moral compass. It has nothing to do with having a husband who is the breadwinner, a wife who stays at home raising the kids and going to church every Sunday morning. Rather it has everything to do with focusing on a positive family life.
But are today’s family values that much worse than they have ever historically been?
An article from the University of Minnesota points out several contradictions in what it means to have the correct family values, as well as incorrect stereotypes we clutch to such as how the 1950s was a time of ideal family values. In actuality, the “1950s white middle-class family was marred by rampant alcohol and drug abuse among suburban housewives, and high rates of sexual activity among teenagers.”
The author goes on to suggest that “anxieties about the family emerge at times when national identity, as defined and understood by the American middle class, appears to be threatened—by immigrants, radicals, ‘communists,’ racial or sexual minorities, or feminists.”
This is quite fitting given the current political climate’s focus on immigration and feminism. Is it too far of a leap to say that we’re blaming violence on inaccurate assumptions of the way people lived decades ago?
Maybe it is. And if that’s the case, and family values really are suffering, how do we correct it? Religion? Marriage and family counseling?
For many of us, Christianity does help center our family values on the right priorities: loving our neighbors, turning the other cheek, showing empathy and compassion. But our country is too diverse to think a single religion is the answer. And not all people who claim they are Christians are good people. We need to cross religions, races and classes to find a way to instill respect and empathy in our children.
Finally, the crux of any good argument about why violent acts occur almost always centers around gun control. The right tends to think the reasons listed above are why violence occurs while the left tends to think guns are the problem.
However, Democrats and Republicans agree we need to prevent the mentally ill from purchasing guns. How, then, was Nikolas Cruz capable of legally purchasing an AR-15 rifle? From threatening social media posts to alarming conversations with classmates, the warning signs were clear.
According to a USA Today article, “Gun buyers are seldom turned down because of mental illness. From 1998 to 2014, the FBI rejected 16,669 potential gun buyers because a background check found a mental health adjudication, about 1.4% of the roughly 1.2 million background checks that resulted in a denial.”
Why is it so easy to pass a background check enabling someone to purchase a weapon that, in my opinion, should only be used in a war?
Here’s where I’m going to insert my opinion on the answer to that question. I believe it’s because of greed.
When shootings occur, people buy more guns. When people buy more guns, the NRA profits. When the NRA profits, it can give more money to politicians. With more money in politicians’ pockets, they have better odds of getting elected and holding office. Politicians are so afraid to pass even common sense gun laws, like requiring background checks, because they fear the NRA will lower their rating (yes, for some reason the NRA rates our politicians) and give them less money.
The NRA has donated millions of dollars to candidates, preventing any type of regulation because Joe Schmo-R from any state, USA thinks being in office is more important than figuring out a way to regulate gun ownership.
This HAS to be the reason. Look at the statistics. Our people are dying from guns at rates nowhere near other developed countries. Look at why Japan has no mass shootings. Australia banned rapid-fire guns after a mass shooting in 1996 and hasn’t had one since.
Guns have to play a role in the gun violence problem in America. Even as I type that it appears so obvious that I don’t understand why we are disputing it.
Many argue that regulation would never work. Guns would be available on a black market. Bad people who want guns would be able to get them. Yes, probably so. However in many of the mass shootings that have occurred, individuals close to the killers knew they had guns. What if those who had this knowledge could have reported it? What if law enforcement had the authority to seize the weapon? How many lives could have been saved?
Consider if we had a crackdown on rapid-fire weapons like we have a war on combating the nation’s drug epidemic. There were more than 1.5 million arrests for drug law violations in 2016. If certain types of guns were outlawed and police were able to make even a fraction of the arrests made for drug violations, wouldn’t our country be safer? Maybe we need to stop focusing on drugs, in which people damage themselves and their own lives, and focus on guns, which are killing thousands of Americans each year.
“But if someone wants to kill people, they don’t need guns!” Yes. People can make bombs and use knives. But the majority of people are dying from guns. Guns are the weapon of choice probably due to their wide accessibility and ability to do a lot of damage in a very short amount a time.
I’m going to make one final point. Let’s go back to the reasons this is happening. If we are really struggling with mental health, video games that are making us aggressive and poor family values, wouldn’t it make sense for guns to be more difficult to attain? Shouldn’t we look at the ownership of certain types of guns as a privilege only for our trained military? At its foundation, gun ownership is a right. But can’t we look at owning military-style weapons as a privilege that can be revoked if misused, even if you personally didn’t misuse it? It’s kind of like when you’re in school and the teacher says if she catches anyone using their cell phone, she’s going to take everyone’s phone away as punishment. Sometimes you face consequences in life when you didn’t do anything wrong. You take one for the team, so to speak, to benefit the whole. It seems like for many people, the need to own guns is more important than our children’s lives.
I feel strongly that the shootings are not going to end until the NRA’s money is not a driving force in our government. I don’t foresee any progress in Congress until current elected officials who are funded by the NRA are out of office and the next batch of elected officials do not have ties to the NRA. This means we’re going to have to cross party lines and elect more Democrats since the majority of Republicans are funded by the NRA.
To me, it’s no question. I will vote for someone who I feel will take a stand on gun control even if I disagree with every other notion of his or her candidacy. My children’s lives are more important than anything else.
Until then, our families, our children, our communities will continue to face tragedy after tragedy. I’m saddened to think about how many more people are going to die at the hand of a gun before politicians put some effort into solving the gun problem.
If you’ve made it through my post, I really appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts and I would love your feedback on how we can work together to put an end to the violence.