First I need to say I’m not an expert on anything related to gun violence or the gun debate. I’m not a doctor, a therapist or constitutional lawyer and fortunately I have never had a gun drawn on me or ever felt the need to draw one myself. Like many people I am horrified by the recent wave of school related shootings and shocked to learn how common it has become.
But it was the shooting of two police officers in Las Vegas that made me stop and think about the gun debate. I’ve come to believe the more/less gun laws debate is almost pointless in terms of keeping people safe and preventing violence.
The pro-gun/open carry side says “if we all have guns to protect ourselves then criminals will think twice.” Well — two highly trained people with guns were killed while having lunch. Unless you are waiting for the bad guy you simply don’t have time in this sort of situation and them having guns didn’t deter the killers one bit.
The more gun laws side says “laws will stop people from getting guns.” But those killers bought guns illegally and unless we are going to start arresting people for crimes before they happen then there is no real way of knowing what a person plans to do with a gun.
Neither side of the debate would have prevented the police officers from being murdered in Las Vegas.
We need to shift the debate from who can get guns to why people feel so alone, powerless and disconnected that they feel violence is the most logical course of action. Like I said, I’m no expert so I have no evidence to support this but I believe stronger real world connections between people would actually give a person pause before he or she picked up a gun.
Good news is that we don’t have to wait for any government to improve connections with our friends, family, neighbors and community. No matter which side of the debate you are on, you can do something to increase real world connections.
I made this list of 74 things that I think will create those stronger connections between people. Maybe you can’t do them all, but I’m pretty sure that everyone can do at least a few.
- Talk to your next door neighbors.
- Play with the kids in the neighborhood.
- Mentor a high school student.
- Hire a middle schooler.
- Start a Weekly Community Potluck (my favorite).
- Find out the name of the people that you see on your commute.
- Organize a block party.
- Create a weekly potluck at work.
- Invite co-workers to train for a bike, running or swim event.
- Organize families to volunteer at a local church or non-profit.
- Create a community workout group.
- Schedule a monthly neighborhood softball or football game.
- Follow up with friends that were having trouble.
- Create a “I can help with XYZ” list for you school or neighborhood.
- Play video games with your teenager .
- Help your kids prepare a meal for your friends.
- Organize an outdoor movie night for the kids.
- Ask people if they are lonely.
- See if you know the names of your 6, 8 or 10 closest neighbors.
- Invite people over for dinner.
- Find neighborhood experts rather then going online.
- Watch your favorite shows with someone else.
- Learn the names of all the kids in your child’s class or sports team.
- Call kids by their names.
- Talk to the neighbors that live around your parents.
- Start a weekly Karaoke night in your garage.
- If someone jokes about it, ask them if they are really thinking about shooting someone .
- Ask someone if they need help finding a date.
- Teach a teenager a skill (preferable non-violent).
- Ask neighbors how their kids are doing and follow up.
- Talk with the kids that don’t seem to have friends at school.
- Talk to the parents of the kids that don’t seem to have friends at school.
- Congratulate kids if they have been successful in school or sports.
- Talk to them if they have experienced a failure.
- Leave your building/office with co-workers.
- For friends that you haven’t seen in a while, invite them over for drinks. or dinner.
- Write people letters (the hand written kind).
- Agree on a place where people can meet for coffee after dropping off the kids.
- Start or join a book club.
- Organize a monthly neighborhood talent show.
- Volunteer in classrooms.
- Start a monthly neighborhood clean up day.
- Make up with some you have been arguing with.
- Help your kids bake cookies for your neighbors.
- Ask your neighbors who their neighborhood friends are.
- Take control of an area of your life like health or finances. Help a neighbor or someone in your family do the same.
- Offer to help someone clean out their garage.
- Teach your kids and their friends how to garden.
- Go on vacation with other families.
- Stand up for someone being bullied or harassed.
- Read about places all around the world.
- Ask people where they would like to travel to.
- If you know of students struggling in school, offer to help them out.
- Talk about what makes your community special.
- Address issues at your local level.
- Ask your neighbors what issues are important to them.
- Invite families over for dinner.
- Have a drink with a stressed co-worker.
- Put down your phone when you are around other people.
- Ask adults and kids about their future plans.
- Help someone find a job.
- Say yes when people ask you to do things.
- Talk to the kids that come through your house.
- If someone you know has a mental illness, talk to them about it and their treatment.
- Cook food for a single mother or father.
- Introduce people to your friends.
- Create a progressive dinner with your neighbors.
- Join your neighborhood association (Create one if it doesn’t exist).
- Create a weekly pickup football, soccer or basketball game.
- Help a neighbor with household repairs.
- Share your favorite book with a teenager.
- Garden with friends.
- Share this list.
No single one would prevent a shooting of course, but maybe, just maybe if enough are done regularly, then we won’t hear about so many shootings.
(Since action is the only thing that really matters, leave a comment about the activity or activities you can start doing. For comments click on the + link to the right of any line.)