OPINION: Shootings will not stop until both sides of the gun debate come to the table

Charlie Needles

The flames of angry 2nd Amendment defenders and rallying cries for change from victims, survivors, their families, and the concerned are crowding the political atmosphere due to the recent shooting last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

After every shooting in our nation there is always a call for change and a strong resistance from gun owners, who seemingly clutch their guns to their chests and refuse to even come to the table about changes that can be made for the safety of America’s children.

The main call to action after an act of terrorism such as the Parkland shooting, is to remove guns from the populace, and to make the path to owning a gun a process that sifts out the very people that are a danger to the public. Some argue that just taking assault-style weapons out of circulation would drastically change the amount of damage a shooter could do. These ideas have not made a dent in the resistance.

Mental health is a focus as well, even from those not protecting their right to bear arms. Increasing the push for mental health in schools would reduce the high-flying out of control psyches that lead to dangerous, potential shooters reaching their tipping point and firing on innocent children, or a church, or a crowd of bystanders. There is nothing inherently wrong about this approach; in fact, it would have a stark effect in the number of shootings by unstable individuals. These ideas have also lead nowhere in the discussion of change.

There is no middle ground. Decades have passed since the Columbine shooting, the first mass school shooting that shook the nation and there have been countless lives lost in subsequent shootings because of a lack of compromise.

To make change, the primary focus of reining in the tragedies of mass shootings should be a meeting of these ideas. There needs to be a sit-down between NRA-lovers and the parents and children at risk of losing everything.

There must be an increase of support for mental health in schools with increased funding to support school counselors and recommendations for off-school counseling.

Who better than to fund this than the NRA?

Perhaps they can atone for the destruction of their weapons with a donation to schools around the nation who have suffered at the hands of rifle-armed shooters. There is no denying that reducing access to assault weapons would tourniquet the damage a shooter can do before they get taken down, but that is not the end of the discussion. A shooter could easily become a bomber with the right motivation and there has been an increase in self-made bombs. The risk is real, and guns are not the only tools in a terrorist’s arsenal when bent on destruction and carnage. This is why mental health is so valuable. There must be an increase in effort to care for and tend to vulnerable children and adults before they become too damaged to repair with therapy and counseling. And the worst thing is that with each shooting, anxiety and depression spike in school children. Fear is viral. It is a breeding ground for psychological issues that put vulnerable students at risk of becoming the shooter from where their fear was born. It is a cycle that must end.  

To stop school shootings these two fronts must be moved on simultaneously. I don’t think it’s fair to say that guns are the main problem, but with this level of misuse it is fair to say that guns are not met with the same need for education as any other dangerous tool or substance.

And while people might protest gun control for their need to arm themselves they should not be forced to give up the guns their rights entitle them to. Control does not mean a stripping of your rights. It means limited access to certain weapons that are unnecessary for civilians. It means that some people must be kept from owning because they are a risk to others’ safety. It means mandatory gun safety courses, not just for a carrying permit, but also for outright ownership. There needs to be theory training, pre-gun training just like a student driver learns the rules of the road before they get in a car. There needs to be sensitivity training to impress the effects of damage that the misuse of guns has on hundreds of thousands of lives, just like with drug and alcohol resistance programs in schools.

The only action that will make a difference is mental health and gun control working in tandem to reduce tragedies like the Parkland shooting.

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