Get to the root of gun violence

Posted

Here we go again. The recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, are deplorable, horrific acts of violence and terror. It’s sickening to see such tragic and unnecessary loss of life. Things like that should never happen, but they do, and all too frequently.

Inevitably shootings renew debates over gun control. Whenever news breaks of any kind of gun violence I become very hesitant to tune into social media websites. If your Facebook and Twitter feeds are anything like mine, you will be bombarded with a lot of hate and ugliness from both sides of the issue. Rhetoric ramps up, memes get recycled or refurbished. All kinds of hate, half-truths, and misinformation begin to circulate.

Has anyone stopped to think for a moment that all this garbage we share and retweet might be part of the problem? I know I have a history of innocently sharing memes and things that were not entirely true and were very inflammatory to people who don’t share my beliefs or opinions.

I used to think it was a harmless way of getting a thought or viewpoint across. Not anymore.

One thing I think both sides of the gun control debate can agree on is that we want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and people who pose a threat to the innocent. Even the most ardent, honest, law-abiding citizen with a gun abhors the thought of having to use it on another person no matter how dangerous they are.

There are a lot of reasons why I feel stricter gun control laws are not the answer, and I’ll get to that in a bit. The main point I want to make is that instead of going after the weapons, we need to focus our energy on stopping the violence. We need to take a good, honest look at the causes of the violence and mayhem, not the means for carrying it out. We need to understand the root causes of why people feel compelled to go on mass murder sprees.

I honestly believe that when someone has it in their heart to kill, they will do so with whatever means necessary. Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people with a fertilizer bomb. Jim Jones used psychological coercion and cyanide-laced fruit punch to kill more than 900. The 9/11 attackers used box cutters and airplanes to kill nearly 3,000. Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, and other terrorist groups have been most effective in the war on terror utilizing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against our troops.

The list can go on, but the point is that mass murder is committed by killers, not weapons. That being said, I acknowledge that guns are often the weapon of choice of killers, which is why we are having this debate.

Getting back to my point, the issue we have at hand is hearts filled with hate and generations raised without consequential barriers. Growing up in the 1970s and ’80s I used to hear a lot of speculation about what will become of us if we took away prayer from the schools and the 10 Commandments from the courthouses. We used to wonder that effect violent video games and movies would have on children.

We learned to accept divorce and made it inconsequential. We took away right and wrong and left millions of children suffering without a complete, nuclear family. We made children and families disposable. So many young adults today have difficulty with trust and commitment because it was never modeled for them. They grew up with just the opposite. They never learned to deal with their problems, just run away from them. As a result, many young people put off or reject marriage and are unwilling to bring children into this messed up world of ours.

For the last couple of generations many parents taught their children about making good choices, but failed to teach consequences of those choices, especially the bad ones.

Most children today, whether they are in a one- or two-parent household, will grow up in daycare. They will come home to a house where their parents spend more time with their phones than they do with their children.

This brings me back around to social media and the echo chamber effect. Facebook, Twitter, etc., have not led to civil discussions about important subjects. Just the opposite; they’ve led to political and social polarization. Young people today are learning and believing that if you disagree with someone or their viewpoint that you must hate them.

We surround ourselves with like-minded people online who reinforce what we believe and demonize any differing opinion. Empathy, sympathy, compassion, and compromise are lost in the process. This is reflected not only in the general populace, but in the executive and legislative branches of government as well.

When you start looking at all of these factors, and many more not addressed here, you begin to see a bigger picture of our failings as a society. You can see how anger and frustration, combined with a lack of personal boundaries and consequences, leads to the violence we see today.

If you really want to stop gun violence, stop blaming guns, stop blaming the shooters, stop blaming anything and everything. Start by taking personal responsibility. Take ownership of your life and responsibility for your children and family. Show love and kindness. Teach civility. Model integrity. Speak well of others. Be sympathetic and understanding, not angry and condemning.

If you want to talk about gun control, let us first have an honest discussion about self-control and personal responsibility. Once people learn self-control and compassion for others, gun control becomes a moot point.

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