There is no debatable way to say this, there are no political sides, there are no exceptions: Killing children in school is terrible, sad, wrong. Full stop.
Yet, the questions often left unanswered are: WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT? HOW DO WE STOP IT?
Having buried a child myself, I know what it’s like to miss her every day. I know what it’s like to read a children’s book to a tombstone. I know what it’s like to imagine her growing up….and know you will only ever imagine it, it will never be real, she will never return. Maybe it matters how you lose a child at some level – I mean, losing a child who is defending our country is certainly different than losing a child to cancer or being killed senselessly at a school. But at the end of the day, us parents grieve, miss, remember no matter how they rise to Heaven.
So I count myself among the parents who know the loss and feel compelled to protect our children – all our children. And yet, as a psychologist, I find myself asking…HOW? It is easy to see that we are always trying to raise money for and do more research to improve cancer treatments. We feel good about our efforts. While we don’t save all children, we do feel that we are doing our best as a society to reduce the number lost. But when it comes to shootings, we feel more helpless, confused, and frankly, nationally divided.
The issue has become one about gun access rather than about mental health…and the distinction matters. It’s no surprise that parents of victims are beyond upset. They have every right to be. But, like in medicine, if we treat the wrong illness, we fail to improve the situation. If we take away guns, the kids make bombs.
It is absolutely imperative that we diagnose and treat the right problem. But how? Psychologists can only predict at a certain level of accuracy. Law Enforcement can only act on known threats, not perceived or anonymous ones. So then we turn to the only thing we can control: gun laws. Yet, there are many, many fully against sanctions in this area – why?
How do we balance the rights of our people? The second amendment grants the right to bear arms yet we also have a right to a safe education and a duty to protect our people. My instinct and my training run first always to the victim. No amount of sport justifies killing. Yet, I also recognize we could ban all guns in this nation and still have these deadly outcomes. I’m reminded of an earlier quote I wrote:
Access to weaponry makes destruction possible but it’s the mind that triggers the event…
We, as a nation, need to come together and understand both sides of the issue. While access is an enabling situation, it is the mental health of the person wielding the weapon that does the killing.
We need to be asking for mental health laws. We need to better understand how to identify issues in childhood. We need research dollars to improve treatments. We need law enforcement, attorneys, school officials, and our general public to be better informed, and we need to protect our people – both those who are not fully aware of their actions and those who are affected by them.
I send so much love to the families of the children taken last week. Our nation grieves with you. https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/15/us/florida-shooting-victims-school/index.html
Now the question is: How will we take action?