Keeping Our Kids Safe

My heart goes out to the people in Newtown Connecticut.  The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a terrible tragedy and as a parent I can appreciate how horrific that event must have been for everyone who had children at that school.  For parents of the children who lost their lives, the world grieves with you but many of us will never know how much it hurts to lose a child.

The Googlesphere is all abuzz with talk of gun control and 2nd amendment rights.  Then you get those damn smug Canadians chiming in saying “Well we have gun control and we don’t have these problems.  Maybe it’s time to change your gun laws, US!”  OK, there are points to be made on both sides.  One thing that we have to keep in mind is that legislation can only do so much.  Of all the mass shootings in the US over the past 40 years (and there are a lot of them!) almost 3/4 of the shooters purchased their guns legally.  But hold your cheers, you NRA freaks!  The vast majority of weapons used in mass shootings were Semiautomatic handguns or assault weapons.  Perhaps things like this would be less likely to happen if shotguns were the only legal weapon for civilians.  In support of my fellow smug Canadians, yes, you are right.  We have nowhere near the number of mass shootings that the US does.  Even Mexico is much less violent.  Check out this map for a quick visual.  I am a firm believer in gun control.  There is absolutely no need for the average person to own semiautomatic or assault weapons for “hunting” or “personal protection”.  Americans can wave the 2nd amendment around all they like but that amendment was adopted in 1791!  OK, here’s the deal, you want weapons?  You can have any weapon that was available to the general public in 1791.  Have at it!  You’re looking at a single shot, flintlock fired, muzzle loaded gun here folks.  Do you honestly think that if Patrick Henry or Alexander Hamilton were alive today that they would be supportive of arming the average citizen with assault weapons?  Do you really think that’s what they had in mind?

But let’s put gun control aside for a second because that’s a bit of a distraction here.  Violent attacks of any kind in our North American society are not caused by the availability of weapons. Most of us could go out and buy some kind of weapon right now and carry out a violent act but we don’t.  Why is that?  Perhaps it’s because most of us don’t suffer from something that affects millions of North Americans.  About 20% of North Americans have some form of diagnosable mental illness but thanks to our mass ignorance and the stigma that we have attached to mental illness as something shameful, on’y about 1/3 of those people actually seek treatment.  I should note right here that the majority of mental health problems are not associated with violence so just because 20% of us have some type of mental health issue does not mean that 20% of the population is potentially violent.

It’s really amazing what we do to each other psychologically.  It is so very acceptable in our society to tear people down or to criticize and make judgements when people are different.  It’s so easy for us to label people or to write them off as useless or a drain on society.  As a society, we are excessively ignorant considering the vast amount of information available to us.  People have made comments about Adam Lanza (the shooter in the Newtown tragedy) saying that he was autistic or suffered from asperger’s.  This is just further evidence of our general lack of understanding of mental health issues.  Read this article about mental health myths and I think that you might be surprised about the myths believed by you or people you know.

More than half of the shooters in mass shootings in North America over the past 30 years displayed some signs of mental health prior to taking any lives.  None of them received the proper care or treatment.  To make matters worse, funding for mental health treatment programs in North America continues to decline and it is becoming increasingly more difficult for those who have the courage to break past the social stigma barriers to actually get the treatment they need.

So go ahead, change the gun control laws, I’m all for that just because it makes sense to do so but don’t change the laws and think that we’ve solved the problem.  Not even close!  The solution is not the responsibility of the politicians and law makers.  The solution lies with all of us.  It is our responsibility to change the way we think and to educate ourselves.  It’s our responsibility to recognize all people AS PEOPLE and to give them the respect and consideration that we all deserve.  A broken clock is still a clock!

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