In the wake of yet another school shooting, everyone from ordinary citizens to pundits to politicians seems to be engaged in one of our favorite and least effective responses: finger pointing and passing blame. It's like a toxic and deadly game of hot potato. The NRA shrieks and throws the blame onto mental health. Mental health advocates holler and toss it toward schools and parenting. Teachers and parents reel in grief and horror and throw the issue at politicians. Legislators try to drop the issue as their donors and lobbyists screech at them - or they lob it at their opposition like a political weapon.
Shirking our responsibilities on this issue is negligent, egocentric, and at this point in our crisis, utterly shameful. Mass shootings do not have silver bullet solutions. There is no single change we can make that will end this tragic horror that haunts our communities. School shootings - and other mass shooting events - arise amidst a toxic storm of potential causes. In some way or another, they are all related. Instead of pointing fingers, every industry, social sector, agency, and organization that has even the remotest connection to the problem should step up to resolve their piece of the puzzle.
Here are just a few ways the tangled web of causes underlying school shootings could be unraveled by all of us.
Imagine a world in which:
- Politicians, valuing our children more than the NRA, supported at least another moratorium on assault weapon sales (like we had from 1994-2004) until it is shown that there is no connection between these weapons and mass shootings. Or, seeing the success of nations that banned assault weapons (such as Australia), our politicians found the moral courage to defy the NRA and give it a try.
- The NRA, eager to demonstrate their points with solid data, supported the politicians in the moratorium, and went even further to address and resolve the underlying issues that compel people to pick up guns and commit murder. Funding programs to address violence, mental health, anti-bullying, and more, they actively worked to show that if "guns don't kill people; people do," then they want to be a part of the effort to make sure people don't use assault weapons for mass shootings.
- Campaign donors refused to donate to politicians who aren't actively working to end mass shootings, like Republican donor Al Hoffman, Jr. just did.
- Gun sellers refused to sell automated assault weapons, instituted store policies of longer wait periods and better background checks. Major corporations followed in Walmart's footsteps and stopped selling assault rifles altogether.
- Legislators, seeing the wisdom in the teachers' call to support our youth's social, emotional, and psychological needs, voted to give our teachers and schools the broader resources and funding they have requested.
- Pharmaceutical companies, on the off-chance that their psychiatric and anti-depressant drugs are triggering mass shootings, recalled their products that include known side effects of violent urges, or funded better follow-up with patients to prevent violent episodes.
- Schools and students, recognizing that bullying causes isolation, alienation, and aggression in youths and has been connected to several school shootings, mobilized broader support and engagement with anti-bullying programs, specifically reaching out to students who are being alienated.
- Parents, counselors, and others, identifying a connection between domestic/dating violence and many school shootings, launched intervention programs that successfully taught youth other ways to handle conflict than violence.
- Video game companies, appalled at the possible connection between violent games and youth assaulting other youth, shifted their gaming concepts dramatically.
- Hollywood, likewise concerned about their role in the glorification of violence, sought out scripts and directors who used less violence in movies.
- Mental health professionals, knowing both the uses and limits of their field, came together to help communities strategize an effective approach for dealing with the challenges we face.
- The military, concerned by the chance that JROTC programs indoctrinate and train people who become mass shooters, enacts a moratorium on their programs in K-12 schools.
- The military industrial complex, recognizing the potential connection between militarization and the culture of violence, and between weapons manufacturing, the NRA, and domestic weapons sales; became a voice for demilitarization.
- Our communities as a whole identified the many manifestations of the culture of violence and joined movements and campaigns like Campaign Nonviolence that seeks to shift the United States to a culture of peace and active nonviolence.
- White supremacist groups, acknowledging that adherents to their beliefs have perpetrated horrific crimes, actively worked to de-escalate the violence of their ideologies. Meanwhile, the rest of us, recognizing that supremacy is a form of violence and that these groups use physical violence as a form of supremacist terror, pushed adherents of these beliefs to connect with campaigns like Life After Hate which helps people leave hate groups.
- Parents, Men, and Supporters, seeing how toxic masculinity connects to extreme violence, take active steps to unravel the beliefs and worldviews, replacing them with constructive alternative narratives.
- Citizens, seeing the broad systemic crisis of alienation, despair, and isolation that a hyper-capitalist society can create, work in numerous ways to reweave the fabric of community and build more meaningful, connected ways of life.
- Politicians, judges, and citizens, recognizing the lives lost due to lack of political action on this issue, worked together to overturn Citizens United, getting money out of politics and returning political power back to the people. A functional democracy responds to the needs of its citizens, not the greed of its lobby groups.
These are just some of the ways we could be addressing the tragedy of school shootings. Many of these groups or individuals are pointing the finger elsewhere, and trying to cast off any culpability in these tragedies. Instead, we could all step up to the plate and take responsibility. If there is even the slightest shadow of possibility that our industry or profession is connected, our love for our children and fellow human beings should be great enough to take action to change.
If we are committed to ending these shootings, we don't need to argue about which one of these is the way to fix the problem. Our children - and fellow human beings of all ages - are worth shifting gears and working in diverse ways toward the common goal. Wherever we see a possibility of connection, we can work to fix that part of the problem, applying our energy to solutions. The silver lining is that each and every single one of these issues is a problem in-and-of itself. Addressing them all increases the health and well-being of our whole society. Find a point of intervention and go to work.