I’m in a very tough position right now. Just last night, several kids I’ve gotten to know through various school events or activities graduated. They walked across the stage and into their futures. Next week, I say goodbye to the kids I teach and end my school year.
On the same day that our kids graduated, many lost their lives at a school in Texas.
These tragedies have happened all too often, and they are becoming more and more high profile, given the media attention that is given to every one of them and the speed with which a school shooting becomes a political debate. We are far more engaged in debating one another than in fixing problems.
It’s true. We are far too invested in the fight to let there be a solution. The fight over guns is one we get to keep having. There is a Constitutional right versus a scary weapon of war. It’s a beautiful showdown, one for the ages, that we can’t get enough of. The moment a shooting happens, we race to our social media profiles with talking points and links and memes at the ready, hoping to completely own the opposition.
But, here’s the reality. There is a good chance many of you reading this aren’t going to walk into a school on Monday and be asked by students about this. You might be asked by your children, but it’s different when you walk into a classroom and you have students worried about their safety.
The chances of a shooting occurring at my school or your kids’ school are still slim, but the odds seem to be increasing. Children are scared. Families do get worried. Parents worry for their children’s safety.
Yesterday in Texas, a handgun and a shotgun were involved. Nothing controversial about those. They are rarely discussed in gun control debates. The shooter, a kid who wore a trench coat, wore medals that included an iron cross and a hammer and sickle. His personal writings and social media indicated suicidal intent, although he admitted to the authorities he didn’t have the courage to follow through.
In Florida, the Parkland shooter was a troubled kid who was completely ignored by the system to the point of neglect. Going all the way back to Columbine, the trend isn’t one of gun availability, but of kids who weren’t given the help they needed when they needed it most. These are children who were ignored by parents/guardians, school systems, and in some cases law enforcement.
The bottom line is this: This is not the time for thoughts and prayers, nor is it the time to sound the call for seizing guns. Right now, we should be focused on what we’re missing in our kids.
There are loads of reasons that kids end up on the wrong side of the law or of their own sanity. None of those get brought up in our debates, but they should be the central focus. What can we do besides blame each other? How can we be more invested in our children’s lives and their future?
That’s where this discussion – not the debate, but the discussion – needs to head next. We need to focus on the children, and what’s causing them to bring weapons to school and murder their classmates. It’s not as though they wouldn’t find some other way. Guns make it easier, but they aren’t the disease. They’re not even really a symptom.
Maybe we have this fear of othering the mentally unwell. Maybe we just aren’t comfortable admitting that there is a deeper issue that can’t be solved with a simple “Seize the weapon!” debate. Whatever it is, we choose to ignore the real disease at our peril.