Not How, But Why

In the aftermath of yet another school shooting, we keep arguing back and forth about gun control and mental health, but what if those are just treating the symptoms of deeper issues?

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

The office was quiet aside from the furious tapping of keys. Yesterday a debate was raging in Slack amongst my coworkers regarding the appropriate action(s) to take to prevent tragedies like the one that struck a little too close to home this past Wednesday.

On the one hand, you have those arguing that more strict gun control laws are way overdue and will prevent such devastation. On the other hand, you have those arguing that we need better mental health care to detect and address mental illness before it manifests in violence.

I’m not entirely opposed to either argument, nor do I really see them as mutually exclusive. I have a strong sense however, that both those suggestions focus more on how than why.

I’ve watched a number of documentaries on the state of the Middle East and Europe and how ISIS was formed and continues to gain new members. I’ve seen first hand how bullying can turn an individual into a shell of themselves. There was actually a Netflix series that depicted such a situation incredibly well.

Inevitably isolation and ostracization lead to these counter culture retaliations by the victimized group or individual.

The pattern is easily recognizable.

The antidote is simple to understand.

The antidote is however, majorly difficult to implement: each and every one of us must love and (authentically) engage those we might otherwise ignore.

That means that weird boy that sits by himself at lunch talking to thin air, he needs love and attention.

That girl that shies away in the corner by herself waiting for the bell to ring before school, she needs love and attention.

That man named Muhammed that you avoid under the assumption he’s Muslim and possibly a terrorist (even though he’s probably not), he needs love and attention.

That woman wearing goth clothing and sleeves of tattoos that gives you the creeps, she needs love and attention.

Do you see where this is going?

If we keep finding more and more ways to divide ourselves, we’ll only end up with more angry, isolated individuals. If we realize we have way more in common than we assume and can accept each other’s minor differences, we can come together as a community and invest in each others lives.

Improving mental health is a cause worthy to be championed, but make no mistake, if no one is invested in the life of one needing mental health care enough to recommend or even push them into it, the help will never come.

Restricting legal access to certain guns may have a slight impact, but I highly doubt it. One of my coworkers worded his gun control idea this way:

If I want to drive a car, I need to study a book, and take a written and practical test. I get a license that I pay for and renew. Cops can stop me and ask me to take a sobriety test. If they even think I am not competent to use the car, I lose my right to use it.
We all think this is fair. No argument. It’s all good.
Now substitute the word “gun” for the word “car”. What’s the problem?

My response was an anecdote that further illustrated my point:

My grandad in his later years was still able to drive in the midst of his dementia. Getting lost. I can’t imagine how many near misses he had almost killing himself and others. He was practically blind at night, but would just take the car out for a drive.
No cop stopped him.
His license was never revoked.
My family couldn’t bring themselves to take his keys away.
Of everyone, I would hold my grandmother and my dad most responsible if he would’ve killed anyone because they didn’t want to upset him by getting rid of the car (which he literally would’ve forgotten about minutes later). They ultimately had the most influence on his situation.
Out of their love for him and anyone else he may have passed on the road, it was up to them to step up and do something about it

We can try restricting guns (I have no guns so I couldn’t really care less). We can come up with policies and checks and what not. Until we invest in each other’s lives enough to call out and correct malignant behavior, the problems will remain.