As we are watching the varied news reports about mass shootings that are so prevalent, I know many of us are struggling to find an explanation and answers. At best all that surrounds this set of issues is very complex.
The arguments are numerous including our second amendment rights, gun legislation, mental health program expansion, school safety improvements, etc. Quite honestly, I do not think any one of these arguments can fully address the extent of what we have going on. Children have died, adults have died, hundreds of individuals have been wounded, and there are incredible losses in families. Still we continue to argue over making common sense changes that are minimally the beginnings of helping our schools and country be safer.
In my own experience I grew up in a hunting family. My first gun was a small pellet pistol where I learned the beginnings of gun safety. I then got my first 22 caliber rifle after that and had to learn how to hunt and use it carefully. I remember how fervent my dad was about gun safety. Never would he have put a gun in my hands before I demonstrated a level of maturity and understanding that I could use it safely. Of course, the idea of using it on anything other than on animals or game was completely forbidden. There was a commonality of understanding that gun violence was not an option for me or my peers.
The world has changed radically since then. Guns are available to 18-year-olds in some states without any proof of an ability to use it or a level of responsibility and maturity. Additionally, the use of violent and gun-centered video games which desensitize our teens creates potential for our kids to not understand the safe use and intent of gun use. When we add the semi-automatic war weapons to the mix as well as all the gear that goes with it, that becomes sensationalized.
So we now have placed weapons in the hands of those who do not have stability or the values to handle this level of responsibility. We know neurologically that the human brain is not fully developed or matured at age 18. If we follow the lead of the auto insurance industry, they do not reduce insurance rates until age 25 which is when accidents decrease due to mature brain development.
On the argument of mental health, most mental health programs are ineffective even in their design. Even at Lakeside, we struggle to find good placement options for students who have serious mental inadequacies and yet those very students can get their hands on a gun. On the other hand, in dealing with over 5,000 students per year who have some significant issues, we have had no incidents of gun use on our campuses. I believe one reason is because we are active to engage them and intervene over an extended period. We must make the mental health of our students something that we address individually, actively and aggressively. This needs to be a one-on-one situation that must address their needs, their reactions and appropriate ways to resolve these difficulties.
I could write on this topic quite emphatically and at length. What I am glad to hear is that our country has decided to become active. As I write this post Congress is moving to enact some changes that will set the stage for the beginnings of change in gun legislation and in funding for mental health.
I hope our leaders have heard the pleas of our schools and our citizens to enact change. We all need to be concerned about our children and our society. We have had more mass shootings this year than we have had days in the year. It is tragic, unsafe, and frightening for both students and their parents. A very basic need is for safety and we need to be proactive and vigilant to make sure we are doing everything we can to help our children be safe from gun violence or we will continue to see these devastating mass shootings!