According to the gun control advocacy group Everytown, an organization funded by Michael Bloomberg, there have been 210 school shootings in the United States since 2012. The numbers include whenever there is a firearm discharged in a school, and suicides.
However, what this organization fails to realize is the real problem behind these tragic shootings, mental health.
Note: The following article will not include the names of any perpetrators of mass shootings. All shooters seek infamy with their disgusting acts and spreading their name only encourages copycat acts from mentally ill teenagers.
The left has taken on gun control as the solution to mass shootings in the United States. Which is a band aid solution to a much more complicated issue. While the left sits on the floor of the house, obstructing legislation to be passed, Americans will continue to take their own lives. When the “conversation” is just a stalemate between two parties unwilling to compromise their strongly held beliefs, nothing will ever be accomplished. The left knows this; the left has made what would easily be a bipartisan issue into one of America’s most divisive issues. Blaming the gun makes for great sound bites when attacking their Republican opponents, and it seems to give them an excuse for why these attacks continue to happen.
The sad and real issue behind these attacks is a failing mental health system, and a robotic education system that turns students into numbers.
Several attacks have been planned and committed by young men with visible signs of mental illness. The Aurora theater shooting was committed by a former CU Boulder neuroscience grad student who had sent troubling letters to his psychologist before and after dropping out of the school. He also admitted to this psychologist that he frequently thought about killing others. According to his mother, now an advocate for mental health, one of the perpetrators of the shootings at Columbine High School had struggled with a history of depression, suicidal thoughts, and self harm. He became involved with someone who turned those feelings into thoughts and actions of violence against others.
It’s the person wielding the weapon that is the problem, not the weapon. Just as we wouldn’t blame a suicide by overdose on the pills or a suicide from jumping, on the building or bridge.
On December 13th, 2013 a High School Senior who did not have a long known history of serious mental illness opened fire on his suburban Denver High School, killing one student, a bright young senior named Claire Davis, and then himself.
In 2015 the University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of Northern Colorado conducted a report on the shooting and the multiple failings of the public education system in the years, months, and days leading up to the shooting.
The failures of the public school systems were shown when action was not taken when he acted out as a young child as, “Early violence is clearly a strong risk factor for later violence.” Often in public schools, instances of behavioral issues are punished with detention, suspension or expulsion. In children, their behavioral issues stem from something occurring in the home, but instead these possible causations are ignored, and the student Is instead punished. The school district later chose to ignore the impact of divorce on the student. In an education system that largely views students as their test scores, there is often not a personal touch in public education. As was the case in the Arapahoe High School shooting, the administration decided not to intervene when the shooter’s grades began to decline. Often students whose grades decline are just seen as uncaring about their education, or simply unintelligent. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is also an incredible amount of pressure placed on young students to be able to correctly identify these warning signs, as the report supported putting more pressure on students to use the reporting service Safe2Tell. This point reopens the wounds of the tens of students who were aware that the shooter owned a gun. It is ridiculous to think that it should be concerning that a 18-year-old male in Colorado who bought a gun would use it for violence. Guns are commonplace in the west, hunting is a popular sport, and owning a gun is often a place of pride with men, there is no reason to believe that this case would be any different. There was also no reason to believe that his behavior was concerning for any of his friends. It is known that the shooter had a dark sense of humor and was quite inappropriate at times; as most teenage men are. There is also a fear of reporting a close friend to school administration, because so many of this issues are dealt with by suspension or expulsion and not by mental health evaluation and much needed therapy. A student may want mental help for a friend, but not for that friend to be suspended or expelled.
As pundits on CNN furthered this problem by blaming the friends and family for not saying something, no one in the media looked at the school system, why did a mental health intervention never happen? The media largely creates the national dialogue, when they focus on issues that will never fix the problem they do the country as disservice as a whole. Playing the blame game with inanimate objects and young students will create a eye-catching headline, but it will never make the tragedies stop.
There is no evidence that stricter gun laws would have stopped this tragic shooting. As the shooter was a seemingly normal 18-year-old without a past of serious mental illness. The shooting lasted 80 seconds, only six bullets were used, but still two lives were lost. Had the school intervened at some point by providing access to mental health care, evaluating the shooters mental state, home situation, while providing academic resources, perhaps the potential shooting could have been stopped years ago.
The conversation should not be about guns versus mental health. The conversation should be first and foremost a bipartisan conversation on fixing the United States failing Mental Health care system, starting in the public education system. In the most recent mental health care bill passed “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” A bill put into legislation by Republican Tim Murphy, as a part of the 21st Century Cures Act, had 147 Republican cosponsors by only 60 Democratic cosponsors.
While mental health is not as easy or as engaging of an issue as guns, it is the most important part of ending school shootings in America.
A person, especially a child should not want to harm others. They should not wish to end their own life or the lives of those around them. Too many children have to attend funerals for their fellow students, when they should be getting ready for college or prom. When the conversation is always focused on the gun, the real issue, the person, will always be ignored.