It has happened again. Another school shooting has ended young lives and scarred many others. The juvenile, who has been apprehended in connection to the shootings, has become the subject of intense scrutiny as media, psychologists, and worried parents try to discern a pattern.
A pattern would convince us that this was someone’s mistake, that someone missed the warning signals that led to the massacre. In this case, some of those signals had been caught. The accused had been flagged as a troubled youth and was already attending a school for at risk individuals. He came from a turbulent home. Both parents had been prosecuted for acts of domestic violence.
This youth, already at risk due to an unstable home life, had access to a firearm. Together, these factors set up a perfect storm for a disenfranchised youth to release his feelings of frustration on other young people.
Not all individuals who commit these violent acts fit into a pattern. Yet there are some commonalities that are important to consider when grappling with the nationwide problem of school shootings. The many complex societal issues that contribute to youth-on-youth violence call for more of a national dialogue on how we as a nation can move to change society so that either those factors are mitigated, or the youths at risk receive support so that the outcome of their struggles is not bloodshed. Arguably, two of the low hanging fruits to tackle this problem are a sustained, national effort to counteract bullying and a widespread, radical change in the way that fire arms are made accessible to children.
On the first of the two, we are starting to witness a broadening awareness. Lady Gaga has embraced the cause to end bullying and foster communities of kindness. Her initiative is important, not only because it targets a need the country clearly has, but also because her stature as a popular icon will hopefully spread the message more effectively than recommendations from governmental organizations. An organized and standard curriculum for teaching empathy, from the very earliest stages of childhood education, should strengthen the lessons children receive at home, if they are indeed fortunate enough to have parents who teach this all important, basic skill, or to present the lesson to children who are at risk due to chaotic home lives.
The second issue seems so simple that it is shameful that we have not yet done it. While we can shop, browse the internet, photograph, play and talk on our smart phones, as of yet, we do not have widespread access to childproof guns. It bears consideration: what kind of society are we that prioritizes technologies to keep us entertained while the possibility exists that a troubled youth can, without too much effort, have access to a firearm? Why would anyone give their child access to an assault rifle? Let us hold parents accountable for their reckless empowerment that may support violent tendencies!
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Our future depends on it.