Winston Churchill said, "Study history!" If we do, we find the gun control debate is almost always equal parts infuriating and ineffective, and people keep dying.
The country reels after a school shooting. It's understandable- everybody wants to heal, fix the system, and ensure it doesn't happen again. Inevitably, the conversation turns to suggestions for gun control laws, better phrased as "sending problems to Washington, D.C. for others to fix instead of implementing changes at levels that I can influence personally."
What if preventing school shootings started with people taking action in their own communities instead of ignoring their towns in favor of national-level activism? How would that look?
First off, if you are ever in a mass shooting...
ē Run, do not walk, to the nearest exit. Avoid spending time contemplating escape routes.
ē If you canít fight back with equal or overwhelming force, or run, then hide.
ē Drag people if they wonít run with you or canít.
ē Call 911. If you canít talk, mute them and leave the line open.
ē Turn off lights to make it look like nobody is in the room.
ē Lock and barricade doors.
ē When hiding, stay away from windows and doors to avoid being spotted and reduce injury from glass spray.
ē Silence your phone and every other phone you see.
7 Community-Level Actions to Prevent School Shootings:
1. Lock up your guns.
Not just in mass shootings, stolen weapons are a massive problem facing the United States right now. Thieves usually target cars (even police vehicles) to lift easy-access firearms, but it's not uncommon to see guns burgled from homes or gun shops.
Most stolen weapons stay off the grid once they leave their owner. Some surface when they become evidence in criminal cases. Proper gun safes in homes and vehicles could make an appreciable dent in crime rates, and they're a "gun control" technology that doesn't limit gun rights.
Besides safety issues, secure gun storage promotes respect. Households should convey the gravity of such powerful tools to their children by protecting guns adequately. That same attitude in the discourse around gun control, one where a gun owner can confidently say, ďnobody can access my guns but me,Ē would alleviate many misgivings about the pros and cons of ďgun cultureĒ in America.
2. Teach your kids about guns.
No matter a parentís opinion on gun control, they should be able to field basic questions about firearms, like what they do and how they work. Children will pick up misinformation about guns from their teachers, the news, and other kids. Itís a side effect of the raging debate.
Kids need to learn that guns are dangerous, but not inherently evil. For example, the police use them to keep others safe. When it's an age-appropriate conversation, parents should promote a healthy relationship with weapons. That includes when and why a gun might be necessary, the consequences of improper gun use, what to do if they see a weapon where they're not sure there should be one, and how to use a gun if possible.
A generation of citizens who understand guns, and donít idolize or fear them, just might change the world, or turn into a great asset in their classrooms for now.
3. Teach your kids about feelings.
It's unquestionable that gun control debates have caused further stigmatization of mental health disorders. Even the defense of the mentally ill by those who say, ďitís not people- itís the gunsĒ is patronizing and fuels the continued public associations between common disorders and criminal behavior.
Being a kid is confusing for everybody, especially with political activism taking students by storm. Children need to learn about consequences (and how they should not be conflated with judgment or hatred), why mass shooters do horrific things, and how law enforcement and the community both work hard to keep everybody safe.
More importantly, parents should reinforce that their children can come to them when they are feeling stressed or when they think their friend might need help. At school, students should always tell their teachers about bullies or other trouble. Of course, this is all secondary to rewarding kind, thoughtful behavior towards peers.
4. Turn off the news.
In no way does this mean be willfully ignorant. It is a straightforward tactic to avoid the mental exhaustion of filtering out fake news and sensationalism. Besides, we need more information than a TV segment can provide to figure out whether new policies are riding on sudden utopia conditions, realistic, or realistic but inadvisable.
If experienced adults require extensive digestive efforts to sort through the news, then surely the same is an undue psychological burden on kids who are already taxed at school more than the children of previous generations. They should be learning, not campaigning, and they don't have the mental skills yet to piece together complex concepts like civil unrest.
Besides the strain, the news is not appropriate subject matter for children. Most parents wouldn't allow films featuring Stormy Daniels, massacres, missile strikes, and terrorists. Regard TV news similarly. Also in common with movies, well-raised kids feel like they shouldn't interrupt parents who are watching the news. Turning off the TV removes a barrier for kids trying to reach adults for meaningful conversation. Discussion is a good idea, not a nuisance.
5. Recognize tyranny for what it is.
Merriam-Webster defines tyranny simply as ďoppressive power." The term is used most often in describing governments, but not all tyrants are state-sponsored.
Tyrannical governments exert a leviathan force on the people to bend them to their will. Mass shooters are not so different from abusive governments. Especially in school zones, a mass murderer can count on complete control over a scene with no opposition, and then similar media dominance of striking fear across the country or the world. Mass shooters are short-lived tyrannical regimes.
The goal here is to avoid politicizing, so do not focus on 18th-century definitions of tyranny as argued by Madison. As a primer, though, they believed that dedicated small groups with a common cause could keep larger forces at bay or even stomp them out. Today, the power of the militia, for good or evil, is most evident in the 28-year game of Whack-a-Mole where the US continually faces off with new terrorist cells in the Middle East.
6. Volunteer and keep learning.
Facebook posts, Tweets, and marches all have one thing in common: they share your message without giving one iota back to your community. Itís not wrong to fight for political beliefs, but itís pointless to do so if you wonít take action to make your ideas happen where you live.
For example, many parents joke about ways to get out of participating in their school's PTA and its various fundraisers. Shifting this view might help. Instead, parents need to put together meaningful, volunteer-led projects that bring more positive adult influence to the classroom and positive, affordable after-school programs. Some kids just need a place to go besides the street after school, and others would benefit by the visible presence of a network of parents who are all there to help them. Missing work is hard, but losing a child is harder.
Keep learning about the mental health crises within the youth population of America. Ask counselors, psychologists, and even law enforcement what they see. Students today report higher stress than previous generations, as well as lowered confidence in their agency to stop bullying. Being able to listen to kids and recognize underlying problems, then healthily discuss them, is a world-changing power.
7. Make noise for reform in school district discipline policies.
If school rules had been less backward, the Parkland tyrant would have had a lengthy arrest record, and therefore would not have been able to purchase guns. Instead, many schools around the country are adopting similar policies of "restorative justice," where school administration handles violent offenders and then put back into the same classes as the kids they bullied. Schools don't even kick aggressive students off of bus routes or place them in specialized courses.
School administrators are actively discouraged from involving the police in what undoubtedly should be police matters when they involve student perpetrators on school grounds. Most police find the "in-house" discipline troubling because they don't know what is happening in schools, and violent kids do not have records. It's understandable that schools would want to avoid legal issues since there are more cracks than there is system for troubled kids to fall into, but records are vital. If the FBI had seen a Cruz record whenever they received an anonymous tip, they probably would have acted.
Donít allow schools to continue turning a blind eye to bullying and hiding violence from law enforcement. More presently, make sure your child knows that it's okay to lack confidence in school interventions and to step out and call 911 if they see violence in their school.
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