Gun laws won’t solve this social epidemic, social reform will
School shootings in America are nothing less than a social epidemic. The Florida school shooting was only the latest of 18 events where a gun was drawn on school campus since the start of 2018, which means such an event had happened every 60 hours in different places before it reached Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Let’s first take a look at the trend: The Columbine massacre was carried out by an 18-year-old and a 17-year-old, Virginia Tech by a 23-year-old, Sandy Hook by a 20-year-old, and now in Florida, another 19-year-old. These are only the big names etched into America’s collective memory. Between them there were more than 200 other school shootings, most of which follow the same pattern, with a young adult becoming a murderer.
“As with any other epidemic, in order to offer a true solution, we have to go beyond the symptoms and treat the root cause.”
As with any other epidemic, in order to offer a true solution, we have to go beyond the symptoms and treat the root cause. And since this horrific scenario is unique to America, we have to understand what happens to a young American before he decides to pick up a gun and shoot at his schoolmates.
The High Price of Raising Kids in a Competitive Culture
Firstly, we can’t just settle for calling someone’s behavior “evil,” “senseless” or “deranged.” Human beings are social creatures and an individual cannot be separated from his culture when we want to understand a behavior that repeats itself.
Today’s America is arguably the most individualistic and competitive society in the world. In such a social climate of “every man for himself,” carrying a gun becomes an extension of the human ego. It can compensate for fears and insecurities, and help maintain a sense of safety and confidence. Therefore, we have to understand human nature when it comes to normative Americans who got used to feeling that the way to be protected or equal to others is to own a gun.
“Today’s America is arguably the most individualistic and competitive society in the world. In such a social climate of “every man for himself,” carrying a gun becomes an extension of the human ego.”
When it comes to school shootings, however, we have to understand the stressors surrounding American youth, their unique insecurities, and their emotional fragility. Just by being teenagers, they are already under pressure to establish their social status and cope with social anxieties, while their developing minds are making sense of themselves and the world around them.
On top of that, the competitive mentality penetrates the school and manifests in hostile or dangerous ways such as bullying, social exclusion, peer pressure to use alcohol and drugs, or do other extreme acts just to gain notoriety and power, all the while they’re in a system that continuously judges them through tests and grades.
Many teenagers today are diagnosed as suffering from some strand of ADHD, anxiety, or depression. The various types of mind-altering medications prescribed don’t solve their problem. They only alleviate symptoms, sometimes at the cost of dangerous side-effects such as numbing their emotions and mentally disconnecting them from reality.
In parallel, American kids are being desensitized to obscene levels of violence. By the time they are 18, they watch 200,000 acts of violence, 16,000 of which are murders, and that’s just on TV. Couple that with what they see when they go to the movies, wander the net, or the violent video games they play.
So, when you consider the impact of all the above on developing minds, who may also be struggling with difficult life circumstances, is it really unthinkable that every now and then some of them will snap and erupt in horrific violence?
Why Gun Laws Are Not a Solution
When people feel like their life is not worth living, their senseless acts reflect the worst their culture has taught them.
Therefore, even with tougher gun laws standing in the way of young, unstable individuals, we would not be solving the problem at the root. In fact, they could think of even more horrific ways to commit mass murder. And with the internet at their fingertips, none of us wishes to imagine what that may be.
“When people feel like their life is not worth living, their senseless acts reflect the worst their culture has taught them.”
The way to treat the school shootings epidemic goes beyond laws and regulations. America must treat the deep cultural and social conditioning that breeds these events by initiating a massive federal educational program to infuse its kids with new examples, norms and values.
Kids need to grow up in a safe and positive environment that prevents hostile competition from building up in the first place. They should be regularly trained to cooperate, build trust and develop their social sensitivity to each other through workshops, discussion groups and collaborative projects. School should feel like a supportive community, rather than a place where you fight for individual success while being anxious about social acceptance.
“Our education must now focus on cultivating the human being within these young adults. This means building a value system within the person and a social environment around the person, which balance the human ego and direct it toward positive realization.”
Nationwide Federal Plan for Social Reform
Our education must now focus on cultivating the human being within these young adults. This means building a value system within the person and a social environment around the person, which balance the human ego and direct it toward positive realization.
They need tools and guidance to better understand themselves and what they’re going through, to realize their potential and find their expression, and to forge meaningful and healthy connections with their peers. This socio-educational training should become the main thing they engage in, and are evaluated by, at school. In fact, their social sensibilities should become the initial qualification required for their participation in adult society.
In parallel, we have to make efforts to restrain the unlimited access to visualizations of violence and gore. This is why this endeavor has to go beyond schools. Mainstream media channels should also be required to dedicate a certain percentage of their activity to this educational program.
Ideally, this should be a nationwide effort from coast to coast. Pragmatically, perhaps it could start with one big city. But at the very least, let’s start by deciding that we’ve had enough, that we’re willing to go beyond the symptoms, and take vital steps towards social reform in order to contain a social epidemic.