What the hell is going on? On this morning’s news I read and watched of shootings at a school, a shooting at a mall, a shooting in a movie theatre, and violent crimes throughout the country? Why is this happening? I am sick to my stomach thinking about the families that have had to deal with these senseless tragedies. I cannot imagine the deep sorrow of those affected.
I am sure there will be a tremendous cry to ban guns, but I’m not sure that is the answer. [Full disclosure – I own guns. I hunt and I shoot trap and god forbid if someone threatens my family or me, I have a gun for protection. I have been a member of the NRA. I am not currently a member, as I believe that the NRA stance of absolutely no control is wrong and I don’t know why I would need an assault rifle.] But I believe that banning all firearms is wrong too. Much like our political process, this issue is framed completely in black and white, right or wrong. There is no room for sensible compromise. The NRA is afraid that even one regulation is a fatal step towards repealing the Second Amendment and the end of an American way of life. Gun control fanatics believe that if guns were illegal we would not have any murder or violent crime. There must be a middle ground. There must be.
I have tremendous respect for the power of firearms. I was taught at an early age that guns were not toys. In order to hunt we all had to take a firearm safety class, and my family reinforced those lessons every time a gun was taken from the gun case. I even spent time teaching hunter and firearm safety to kids wanting to get their first hunting license. I think everyone who owns a gun should be required to take a safety class, and would not be against have a re-training class every five years. Have the NRA teach the classes!
We have heard both sides of the gun argument ad nauseam. This blog is not be about the merits of gun control. This is about parenting, being a friend and society.
While many will blame guns or the so-called gun culture the fact remains that there are millions of responsible gun owners, as there are millions of responsible social drinkers who would never get behind the wheel of a car after having only a couple of beers. There is a vast majority of good people in this country who cannot fathom the horror of what some people do. That a rational person would deliberately kill an innocent child is beyond comprehension.
But if we simply blame an instrument like a gun, can’t we also blame the ultra violent video games that seemed to be advertised every 15 minutes on prime time television. These games that allow for indiscriminate destruction and killing that makes things seem, dare I say not real. Can’t we even blame the proliferation of social media that allows us to “friend” someone or “like” their status without ever looking into their eyes to see if everything is really ok? And if it’s not ok, do we offer to listen to them non-judgmentally? Can’t we also blame our political process that has become so polarized that meaningful discourse and compromise has been regulated to name calling and divisiveness with compromise simply a form of “give me this and I’ll give you that” without really helping anyone?
But why do we need to attach blame?
Instead of blaming the instruments of these horrific acts, should we not work on the cause? How can we help the people that do these things before they do something horrible? There have been evil people throughout time. There have been people suffering from mental illness throughout history. Bad things will happen; horrific things will happen. Where can we start to make a difference? Eliminating the means is not the answer, eliminating the cause is the real cure.
Do we as parents still provide guidance and discipline to our children? Do we teach them to respect others? Do we let them understand that not everything in life is easy, and that they will face disappointment? Or do we believe that we all deserve trophies, and that one’s self esteem is more important than really working towards bettering oneself?
I believe we need to start with ourselves. We need to know our own kids. We need to teach them to think and act for themselves. We need to let them experience life and not protect them from disappointment. We grow as humans from pain. Like muscles that are torn and stretched through exercise only to grow stronger, we too grow stronger mentally when we face adversity. It’s ok to struggle, just let your kid or your friend know that you will walk beside them as they progress.
And the next time someone asks how you’re doing tell them the truth. When you ask someone the same question make sure to listen at more than a superficial level. We never know when a life may be at stake. We have the ability to reason and we have the ability to feel. Use these unique skills to make a difference in someone’s life.
It will not happen overnight. Many of the people reading this already love and honor their kids. Many of us are already good friends. But we can do so much more. Even a nod, a smile or other acknowledgment to the server at your coffee shop or a random person that you meet may cause a chain reaction of good will across our country.
It will be too easy to get caught up in the great debate of gun control and both sides have arguments finely honed. Let us not lose sight of the real issue.
As mentioned earlier, there are millions of good, solid people in this world. Would it be too much to ask that we reach out individually to another person in need – not to simply give a handout, but rather, a hand up? Ask yourself, what can I do to help…today?