– My Facebook status update at 4:33AM on February 15, 2018
It’s been nearly two weeks since the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were gunned down by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.
Since then, I’ve watched as my Facebook feed along with the news headlines have been jammed with viewpoints on either side of the gun control debate. People want tougher gun laws. Others want to put guns in the hands of educators to defend against possible shooters. Some people are blaming politicians who take money from the NRA who seem resistant to toughen up on gun laws. Others are pointing fingers at the FBI who failed to respond to tips that Nikolas Cruz may be dangerous. And some would agree there’s plenty of blame to go around.
I certainly don’t have all the answers. A week and a half later, my Facebook status is still my prayer and my struggle.
For the record, I don’t own any guns (unless you count my caulk gun, my staple gun, my wife’s hot glue gun, and a few squirt guns). I’ve only shot a real gun twice (I went clay pigeon shooting on a men’s retreat at my old church, and I shot a pistol once behind my in-laws hunting cabin). You may not like me for this, but I also once shot a chipmunk with a BB gun. Afterwards, I felt completely awful. I wasn’t hunting for food. I was shooting for entertainment. 20+ years later, I still regret this pointless event.
I don’t understand the need for civilians to have large capacity automatic weapons. It doesn’t make sense to me. (Now, I probably angered my gun collecting friends.) So, I’m okay with tougher gun laws limiting the types of weapons that can be purchased/owned and requiring background checks and waiting periods.
But I honestly don’t think tougher gun laws are the one and only answer. (And now, my friends who are leaning hard on tougher gun laws are probably upset with me.)
I also read about people who believe tighter security in schools is necessary to prevent or limit the damage from school shooters. Tighter security may unfortunately be required in this day and age, but I would never suggest putting guns in the hands of our teachers. Who says teachers won’t flip out and use their gun or that students might overpower a gun-toting teacher?
(I hate the fact that our kids and teachers have to be afraid and prepared for this kind of violence in their schools which should be the safest places in the world. My wife is teaching in a public school, and it’s not exactly “fun” for her to go through the training now required of teachers so they are prepared to face school shooters.)
As I research the shooters who have committed these school shootings over the past 20+ years, I read stories of individuals who were lonely, outcast, bullied, misunderstood, and ill. Many shooters suffer from depression, anger, and rage. And some of the shooters were missing a key parent relationship. In many of the stories, the shooters expressed a desire to be heard.
“When does it turn to where the student gets to a point where they are actually going to commit violence?” Gomez said. “It’s almost like a seed that gets planted into the individual, and unless somebody is there to intervene, to conduct some type of informal intervention over the course of that person’s life, whether it’s a parent or teacher or coach, that kid continues to move towards what could ultimately be an act of violence.” http://abcnews.go.com/US/dissecting-distinctive-profile-school-shooters-trail/story?id=53197511
People aren’t listening until it’s too late.
People aren’t intervening.
If we really want to make a difference, we must learn to listen to those who are different, to those on the fringes, to those who are hurting, to those who are broken. We must learn to speak up, and we must learn to intervene when necessary.
But this responsibility is especially greatest at home.
Too many homes are broken. One or both parents are absent – physically and/or emotionally. Too many parents are trying to be their kids best friend instead of their parent. And too many parents think their kids are perfect. We feed into the entitlement culture by giving our kids access to way more things than they should ever see or do, by failing to say “No!”, and by making sure they keep up with the “Joneses”.
Commit to work on your marriage and to make your marriage work.
Commit to be present for your children.
Commit to having those tough conversations with your family.
Commit to saying “No” when necessary.
Commit to knowing your family values and commit to holding yourself and your family members to these values.
Commit to listen.
Commit to speak up – firmly and lovingly.
Commit to intervene – even when it’s not easy.
Commit to get help when you can’t do it on your own.
Commit to get back up and do the right thing after you mess up.
Do we need to hold politicians accountable? Yes.
Do we need to hold gun owners responsible? Yes.
Do we need to hold teachers and educators accountable? Yes.
Do we need to hold councilors, therapists, and doctors accountable? Sure.
But it starts at home. We must hold ourselves accountable to laying the foundation for our kids.
I don’t enter this conversation lightly. In fact, I often stay away from controversial topics like this. You may not agree with me on everything in this post. I hope we can have a productive and civil dialogue instead of the “conversation” I see right now in the news and on social media.
Also, I don’t proclaim to know all the answers or to understand each and every situation. I’m sure there are competent parents out there who are doing everything they possibly can to raise their kids best, and sometimes these very same parents’ lives are shattered when their kids commit unthinkable acts of violence.
I’m sorry if this is your case.
I don’t want to judge, but I’m pretty sure we can all do more.
And one more thing, our thoughts, our prayers, and our actions matter. Don’t stop thinking about how we can make the world a better place. Don’t stop praying for wisdom, for peace, for change. And don’t stop taking intentional actions.