Gun Violence - A Progressive Perspective
We all have been bombarded with social media posts over the past two weeks concerning the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. That tragedy took the lives of 17 students and staff, and injured 15 others. As a mother, former public school student, and aunt to high school students, this scared me immensely. I want the safety of my child and others I care about to be secure. It's because of the victims, though, that I want to address this issue with realism, and confront the basis of why it's ignored.
When I found out about Parkland, I was pissed. ANOTHER mass shooting? But, as quickly as the anger and sadness came to my mind, it was batted away by a sudden wave of jaded frustration. I am in the generation that lived through Columbine, 9/11, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and more acts of senseless violence. Our childhoods made levity of the brutality in entertainment and we didn't care. Still don't, quite frankly. Many of us Millennial kids thought we would never be old or scared at all. Now, in our 30's (or almost 30's), we see that the world is just as messed up as before. Personally, I look calm on the outside, but in my head, I'm screaming "ENOUGH ALREADY!" Our adult lives are just as overrun with meaningless distractions and senseless tragedies as our childhoods were. So how do we get out of this place of comfort and shoulder shrugging to actually bring this issue to the table?
Whenever I am in conversations about this, people usually start listing off buzzwords like mental health, banning guns, arming teachers, etc. However, it's easy to promote a solution you know nothing about. One thing that gun rights activists and gun control activists seem to agree on is that if you are intent on killing, you will find a way to kill, no matter the weapon or the circumstances. Where the two sides seem to differ is about how to classify and perceive a gun as well as a user of a gun. Do we control the gun or the user? Is a school shooting a gun issue or a mental health issue? Personally, I see it as a legal issue on a state and local level. Let me be clear, there should have been NO way for someone with a history of violence or mental health problems (without a stable treatment history) to get a gun. The fact that they were able to get one is a problem of neglect and a lack of legal oversight.
According to reports about the shooting, minor slip-ups occurred allowing Nikolas Cruz to be able to arm himself against those he felt had snubbed him. Regardless of your stance, that is a problem. If there are reports that say "Hey, this guy probably shouldn't get a gun because everyone in town knows he's got some issues,” then let's do something other than give him a gun, ok? Unfortunately, this mishandling of proper procedure is not unique in the least. It is clear that there is something wrong here, but the problem isn't just the gun. It's about the guy that actually hurt those people, but it's also about the fact that there were entities and statutes in place that could have prevented this. But alas, the school, the students, the staff, and the assailant slipped through the cracks. Addressing just one line of thought is ignoring a very real aspect to a solution that is needed here.
After its use in so many high-profile shootings, gun control activists want the AR-15 to be banned. I believe this is a good course of action, but there has to be a clear plan of how to remove the weapon and get it out of illegal circles as well. That makes it tricky, since most people that own the gun have purchased it legally though these very same legal oversights and loopholes. The assault rifle allows one shooter to kill many people at one time, making it an efficient tool if killing is your goal, just as is the case with any other weapon of war. However, what is the method of protection that will be used to keep people safe, should an intruder come into the unprotected school or other state-run building? Again, if you're driven to kill, you will kill. A good number of incidents have happened not involving guns that put people in jeopardy, such as the Slenderman incidents where students tried to poison or stab classmates, or when a young man slashed his crush to death when she rejected his offer to take her to Prom.
Many advocate for metal detectors, which I believe is an idea not without merit. Yet, the detector becomes meaningless if the shooter opens fire before entering the door, i.e. from the doorway, on the quad, or in the parking lot. Another solution for prevention could be armed guards, but that was shown to be irrelevant in this case. There was an armed guard at the high school and, because he allegedly took cover outside, it represents another instance of professional oversight. This is especially true if the school only had one armed guard to patrol the entire school grounds. It could be a viable option, however, as long as they have enough to guard the whole school, and are vetted by background checks for violent incidents and mental health history. Both civilian and police guards placed in the schools also need to be trained in how to deal with children, young adults, the disabled, minorities, LGBT children, etc. There has to be a lot of training involved with police detectives who interview children during homicide investigations, right? I don't think this should be viewed as any less important. As soon as the law catches up to the steroid-infused, racially incompetent, mentally ill, and corrupt brand of violence by police, I will happily accept the police in our schools.
Also, if students carrying weapons is a problem, then maybe clear backpacks are in order. In that case, the state should be able to have enough funds for public schools to hand these backpacks out to kids the moment they are enrolled in schools, along with a set of school supplies for that grade, along with planners, and a welcome letter from their teacher or the principal.
All of these solutions require money.
Regardless of what solution(s) we choose to enact, the US government needs to put more money to the states for them to happen. More money is needed and our legislative bodies in Congress literally hold all of it. The state governments should have the power to demand help (and receive it) from the federal government regarding security, as schools help to mold the most precious limited resource that can add value to the US Dollar: people. State governments should also be able to demand assistance from corporations that advertise, or utilize public services, in the state, like sports stadiums, corporate hospitals, and private prisons.
Our representatives need to help us stop the cycle of violence and complacency. We don't need political mouthpieces, being a crappy incognito spokesman for whatever corporation bought them their summer home in the mountains. Our babies are having to step up where we have said we can't. It doesn't matter that you don't understand politics, or know even less about federal economics, or that there are big words thrown around on the news that make no sense. We all were ignorant of politics until we got fed up with how things were going and learned. The country cannot heal with bandages of hope and prayer, gun control or mental health laws. All of these are great, but alone they mean nothing.
For those that are antsy about big government, I do understand your point of view as well. The more government reaches, the more restrictions come, and some populations have had enough of that. What I’m talking about, however, is not more regulation. I am talking about monetary spending, such as investment in programs with real socioeconomic forecasts of success. Right now, the programs that are in place seem to not be capable of properly assisting others fully. Instead, they constantly restrict people to have specific paperwork, or jump through hoops, but still don’t have any real support or strategy when a threat to our lives or livelihood is present. Yet, no one is trying to dismantle the 2nd Amendment. Until there is a solid plan, guns won't be taken either.
Another inconvenient fact is that many gun rights activists still retain biases concerning who should own a gun, and it's usually based on mental health, religion, or skin color. If you feel arming teachers is the answer, is it then OK for Black, Hispanic, or Muslim teachers to conceal carry? Should guards be armed and patrolling the grounds? Is it OK for a other staff, like the front office staff or the janitor to conceal carry? Is this going to create more ICE crackdowns at schools? All of these questions and more come into play and most conservatives and gun control opponents do not have the answers for them, which is a problem. A real conversation about guns is needed, and we need citizens that will either see that gun control is OK or it isn't. At this point, there has to be a line drawn.
We need studies on the socioeconomic impacts of gun violence. We need more federal money put to public services that really work to curtail the poverty cycle and the false narratives. We need to demand support and ensure that there are as many efforts as necessary to make sure students are guarded from those who are driven to kill. We need to make sure city employers advocate for their teachers and allow them to do their jobs. Most of all, I don't want politicians to tell me it can't be done, when they really mean they just don't want to because they're being paid to tell us it’s not possible.
These topics are hard, especially when the wounds are fresh, but the victims of the shooting, the students and their friends, are going viral and refusing to lay down and take more injustices towards the fallen. Regardless of where you land on the gun control spectrum, both sides are lacking in major follow-through and contingencies in case these plans fail. We need to be the guards of the next generations. We need to keep talking about these mass shootings. Stop with the 'thoughts and prayers', good vibes, and eventual complacency. If it's a tragedy, it needs to be addressed to stop it. Otherwise, it’s just a statistic.