Tonight is the last night of summer break, right before the new semester starts. Later I’ll be cracking open a beer and savoring what will most likely be the end of my last summer break before heading to bed. And all around Ohio State, all around Columbus, all around Central Ohio and even farther beyond, many OSU students will be doing the same or similar things, finding ways to relax and get mentally prepared for 16 weeks of classes, studying, part-time jobs, campus events, clubs, trying to eat healthy, not fall off the wagon, maybe talk to that special person you keep seeing around campus and maybe see if a romantic relationship is in the cards.
What none of us want to have to hope for though, is something that we should all be hoping and working actively towards: a year without school shootings.
I know that’s a somewhat silly thing to hope for. According to StopTheShootings.org, since 1992 we’ve had 387 school shootings in the United States since 1992, or about 17.6 a year. Most of the shooters tend to be between the ages of 10 and 19, the same age as a majority of victims. And children ages 5-14 are apparently thirteen times more likely than children from other industrialized nations to be murdered by guns. Statistically speaking, we’re up against some tough odds.
So what can we do to minimize shootings? I do not feel that making guns easier to get hold of is a very good option. Do we fight arsonists by lighting fires ourselves? Or do we stop thieves by stealing from them? Clearly not. Improving mental health is one option that has been advocated for (and is the only one Congress has actually gotten their lazy butts up to pass). Still, mental health won’t make the problem go away. We hear reports every day from Chicago of inner-city violence being committed with guns. In fact in the past twenty-four hours 2 people died and ten wounded from guns. Clearly, not everyone in Chicago who’s fired a gun is mentally unstable or challenged, so more must be done.
Another option is placing some limitations on what is portrayed in the media. As much as I hate to admit it, there has been correlations between amount of violent content taken in while watching TV or playing video games and aggression. However, that is only showing the correlation between violent content and aggression, not gun violence. People who get aggressive playing games don’t necessarily become killers, and violent content doesn’t always lead to thoughts of murder, if it ever does. Or in short, correlation doesn’t mean causation. Not to mention that media is often a reflection of the society it is created in, so it seems unfair to artists who are trying o create a harmless representation of their worlds because it might contribute to real world problems. And if we were to police media that could cause violent conduct, we’d have to start with the Bible, because long before guns became an issue, the Bible was encouraging people to kill in the name of God, and in far greater numbers.
A third option is placing limits on guns, where they can be sold or distributed, what sort of guns are available, and where they can be openly carried or who can carry them. Studies show that states with stricter laws of this type have lower rates of murders or suicides because of guns than states without them. And a vast majority of Americans support laws like universal background checks, even within the NRA. And in Australia, the number of mass shootings fell steeply after they initiated a ban on automatic weapons. Clearly placing restrictions such as these might be helpful in reducing gun violence.
Sadly, there’s a huge lobby against stricter gun regulations in the United States, and more laws seem to have been passed that have eased gun restrictions rather than tightening them. I don’t want to go into the arguments these lobbies have given against tighter regulations, but it is troubling that a lobby made up of companies that sell guns are advocating for laws that will increase their sales. The best way to combat this sort of lobbying might be in cutting corporate influence in elections and lobbying, but of course that is another difficult and controversy-fraught issue altogether, so I won’t delve into that either.
Finally, some have suggested training school officials in firearms or hiring full-time security guards. While I’m sure there are teachers who would be willing to be trained in firearms and keep them in the classroom, I’m sure there are plenty of teachers who would not feel comfortable with firearms in the same building as them, let alone in the same classroom. Some would even refused to be trained. And even if there were teachers or faculty willing to be trained and keep guns in the classroom or office, there are security risks to this method, especially if students were to get their hands on the guns. And while I like the idea of a trained officer or several on campus to protect students, some school districts do not have the funds to pay for a full-time security guard. And in overcrowded school districts, particularly ones with histories of gang violence, it’d be difficult to check students each and every day for firearms.
Perhaps the best option would be a combination of all of these. Sure, implementing any ofthem would require a lot of work, cooperation, dedication, and compromise on the parts of several people and parties, but in the end, a combined approach to a problem often yields more results than a singular approach (especially if that approach features some major logic flaws). And in the end, working together might bring together this highly fractured country and make it a bit more unified than it’s been in recent years.
So let us work together. Let’s stop the partisan and ideological bickering to start working on a solution to a horrific problem. Eighteen shootings are supposed to happen this year. That’s eighteen tragedies we can avoid. Even doing minor things like teaching children about gun safety or by forming neighborhood watches can do worlds of good. Because our children, and the nation at large, deserve so much better than another Virginia Tech, Columbine, or Sandy Hook. At least, that’s what I think, as I hope and pray for a school year without a shooting.
Please note that I will be screening comments for this post, so be aware that any comments that I find insulting, unacceptable, or off-topic will be deleted immediately. Thank you for your participation in this ongoing discussion.