Wednesday, February 14th should have been just like any other Valentine’s Day. News stories should have included surprise proposals, pictures of sweet cards that children had drawn for their parents, or even pictures of pets dressed up as “love bugs” or something else equally cheesy/cute. Instead, news outlets were covering another school shooting. This one occured in Parkland, FL and claimed the lives of 17 people who woke up that morning thinking it was just another day. They didn’t know that morning that it would be their last, and never got to say goodbye to their loved ones before their lives were taken by another mentally ill person with a gun he should never have had access to.
In times like these, we start seeing the Twitter rants and Facebook posts proclaiming that guns are to blame, or that mental illness is to blame. Anytime something like this happens- and it happens all too often anymore- people get passionately heated in their opinions and debates turn into ugly wars between family, friends, and colleagues. It’s normal for us all to have our opinions about what should have been done to prevent such a tragedy, and what needs to be done to prevent it from happening ever again. It sucks to see people arguing, though, and even hitting the dreaded “unfriend” or “unfollow” button because these are the very times we should be pulling together to mourn the victims of this heinous crime and figuring out what we can to help the situation.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our nation is in crisis, people.
It’s been coming for years. I remember being a high school junior, watching the news coverage of kids running for their lives to get away from Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold when they shot up the halls of Columbine High School. My dad and I watched CNN, tears streaming down our faces, and quietly prayed for the victims, their families and friends. That was in 1999, and it’s only gotten worse and worse. Every day it seems there is another story of hate-filled attacks on innocent people who just wanted to live their lives. Whether it’s a school shooting, an attack on a place of worship, an outdoor music festival, or even a nightclub, there are simply way too many shootings and attacks going on. It’s time to stop thinking it’s some black and white issue that can be fixed by shedding more light on mental illness or taking people’s gun rights away. It’s not black and white, and there is no easy button to fix the problem. It’s going to take all of us putting aside our biases and personal agendas to band together and realize that it’s a combination of a lot of things, and I don’t just mean the gun laws or the mental health issues.
As a whole our nation has become too political correct. People are so afraid to offend someone or to look like a bigot, they’re afraid to step up and tell someone when something’s going on. Our school officials’ hands are tied to the point that they can no longer properly discipline kids like Nikolas Cruz or Adam Lanza or Seung-Hui Cho. The FBI admits they were told Nikolas Cruz was a potential threat, but they didn’t act on their tip. My daughter came home several weeks ago, complaining about a boy in her history class. This kid would constantly make comments using the “n word” and other offensive terms for other races, talk about how he understood and supports “what Hitler was trying to do”, and spend time antagonizing other kids during class or lunch because of their sexual preference, race, or other personal issues he deemed “gross” or “disgusting”. He bullied other kids and refused to stop even after several of his own peers had told him he went too far and to stop. I urged my daughter to speak up and let her teachers and the principal know what was going on so this kid could be dealt with. She told me she has talked to her history teacher and her principal and both of them claim there’s nothing they can do until he gets physical with someone. So what happens if this kid ends up bringing a gun to school? We live in a small country town and it’s completely normal for kids to have access to hunting rifles, pistols, and other weapons. It’s my biggest fear that one of these days, this kid or another is going to make our little town national news for all the wrong reasons. But by then, it will be too late.
And sure, gun owners will claim that they have done everything to make sure their guns are stored securely, and get mad that they’re being “punished” when people start screaming “Take away all the guns!” But taking away guns is not the answer. I don’t know if y’all realize this, but criminals aren’t known for obeying the law. No matter how many gun laws are in place, and no matter how secure we think our guns or weapons are in our homes, these people are still managing to get their hands on guns to commit these crimes. That means somewhere along the line, someone didn’t do their job. Whether it’s a shop owner who’s selling illegally, or a parent who’s not making sure their guns are stored and kept so secure that these kids can’t access them, somebody screwed up somewhere. But also… if someone really wants to hurt or kill someone else, they’re going to try to do that any way possible. Maybe not with a gun, but with a knife, a baseball bat, or hell, even a stick- you get my point. And if someone has gotten to the point in their mind that they really want to hurt or kill someone, then the people closest to them have not done their job. As parents, friends, family members, teachers… It’s our job to notice when a child needs help. Yes, it’s easy to get frustrated and write them off as being a problem child and just want to get them out of our hair as quickly as possible. But we have to be aware that something isn’t right, and if it’s not right, we have to take action to get them help.
We, as a nation, need to stop being so afraid to stand up and make a change. Our political officials need to put aside their biases and personal agendas and work together to do things like make more resources available to those who need help for mental illness, and to make assault rifles something that is not available to anyone but our military. Give school officials more power to do more when there is a problem with a student who is showing warning signs of hurting themselves or other people, and maybe come up with some way to ensure gun owners are doing all they can to secure their personal guns. I don’t know. I don’t have the answers; these are just thoughts. Everytime anything like this happens, thoughts like these fill my head, along with the what ifs and the shoulda-coulda-wouldas. I don’t pretend to know how to fix everything. All I know is that children are terrified to go to school, and begging us to do something. We are the adults; we are the ones who are supposed to protect them. It’s time for us to stop talking about it and take action before this happens again.