We need to talk about school shootings.
Somehow in the past, we didn’t have this problem. Somehow, kids brought guns to school all the darn time without deciding that it was a good idea to gun down their fellow students. I was guilty of leaving a bunch of shotgun shells in my book bag in 4th grade, because I had gone hunting with my dad the previous weekend. While we had the occasional lunatic, school shootings were pretty rare. Most violent crime happened outside school, and thankfully our crime rate overall has continued to decline over the last twenty years, so we’ve actually gotten safer over time.
So what’s different?
What HAS been changing is a terrible brokeness in the younger generation. We have increasingly more mentally unstable kids that aren’t getting the help they need, and are becoming increasingly socially isolated. When those kids lash out, it becomes brutal. Almost every single school shooter was an outsider. It wasn’t the popular football player or cheerleader, it was the weird social outcast that comes to a school and shoots other students. You had kids like these before, but two things have changed in the past ten years: mental health care in schools and social media.
We used to have school counselors, nurses and the like that sat in for what we would call a mental health professional. I’ve chatted with folks that were school guidance counselors back in the day, and what they dealt with isn’t any different than the kids of today. At my Catholic High School, we also had very good religious ministers. This support network was critical to helping teenagers learn how to work through emotional stress.
We used to call that growing up.
Now? Go inside a classroom. You have kids throwing fits in the bathroom, or walking around a classroom and distracting others, and teachers aren’t allowed to do anything. Call the parents? They don’t care. All it takes is volunteering once or twice at a school and you quickly realize that when we removed discipline from teachers, many parents didn’t step back up to help. It took me only one volunteering trip at a school to realize this.
Over time, these kids are at higher risk of social isolation. They aren’t doing well in school, and they certainly aren’t growing up in a positive environment at home. Normally in high school they would have a guidance counselor help point them towards something positive. Now they have Facebook. They get on “social” media as a substitute for actual social interaction. What they get is a poor substitute. They easily find encouragement for dark thoughts.
Are we surprised by the dramatic rise in Facebook Live suicides? I’m not. The internet helps you find people like you. Unfortunately, that’s a problem when you didn’t grow up: you find plenty of broken people like yourself. Instead of getting professional help, you get broken individuals making recommendations based on their incomplete understanding of the world.
So let’s ban Facebook and arm teachers instead.
Now, I know I can’t make Facebook illegal. But as a parent, you can. My kids don’t have Facebook, and they won’t until they grow up. I had a parent tell me she was angry her 13-year old found inappropriate pictures on Facebook, to which I said “Well, you shouldn’t let her have an account.” “But I can’t take it from her,” she told me. Seriously? The kid doesn’t work, and you control her phone and internet. It didn’t take long to realize she would feel bad telling her kid that she couldn’t use Facebook.
Mind blowing: now we’ve digressed to the point parents feel bad about protecting their kids.
While we’re at it, arm our teachers. Let them actually discipline kids. Parents sure as heck aren’t doing it, and I think we have enough cameras in schools now that we can put proper surveillance controls in place. While we’re at it, arm them with guns too. As I proved before during our active shooter drill at work, no matter how fast you respond, unless you have an armed responder in the immediate vicinity of a shooter, you can’t stop them.
Can you stop shootings by banning guns? Nope. You couldn’t stop drinking by banning alcohol, or social media by banning it. Guns are a technology. You ban them in one place, and someone else makes them. You can make them difficult to get, but you’ll never prevent them. Even places with strict gun laws have crime, in some cases (like Chicago), you get a lot more crime.
But other countries do! Not really. Switzerland, Norway and Canada all have similar problems. You hear about more U.S. issues because we are a way bigger country. Norway has less people than New York. When they had a mass shooting, one in four people in the country knew someone that was killed. We are no where close to that here.
You do see this in play in places like Utah, where the pressure of the Mormon Church keeps things like poverty and crime lower than normal despite having more free gun laws than other states. I don’t agree with the Mormon Church’s religious teachings, but I do think they have it right in terms of engagement. They keep a positive influence in their kids lives, to the point of darn near enforcing things like Boy Scouting and mission trips for young people. The result is much more solid individuals who grew up and are stable. The system targets the individual with dramatically better results than any Congressional legislation. As a Catholic, I’m jealous of their system.
Start paying attention to what your kids do online. Don’t let them on “social” media. Actually parent them. Make their teachers job easier. And reach out to that weird kid and help him or her grow up. Yeah, that’s a lot harder than posting offensive political cartoons or telling me I’m a baby killer, but it might actually start stemming this issue.
And no, the author didn’t kill any babies and still very much cares for his kids, despite all the offensive political cartoons you send my way on “social” media.