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Sending Out an S.O.S. to Stop Mass Shootings

A Personal Perspective: “We need help."

“We need help.” That was the cry from mourners gathered at the memorial for 19 children and two teachers murdered at Robb Elementary School in Texas last week. I am sure you have heard about this and perhaps like many others, including myself, wept over this horrific tragedy. And according to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been more mass shootings in 2022 than days so far in the year.

The shooter was himself only a child of 18. At that age in Texas, he couldn’t buy a drink at a bar, but he could buy an AR-15-style rifle at any gun shop, and he did. Then he shot his grandmother in the face, crashed her car by the school, walked inside, and started shooting—in an all-too-familiar scenario. This kind of mass killing happens virtually nowhere in the civilized world except here in the United States.

It’s just us, and it’s because of the easy access we have to weapons of war. I own a gun. I have for decades. It holds five bullets and has never been fired. When I was a Boy Scout, I was a marksman and enjoyed target practice with my dad and the guys in my troop, but I have never killed a living thing and never wanted to. Other people use guns for hunting. There's nothing wrong with that either.

The problem, of course, is when guns are held by someone who is not mentally stable; how else could this latest massacre have happened? Insanity is another worldwide pandemic we have yet to beat, and it will keep on killing unless our gun laws change. According to the NIH, mental health issues are at the root of all homicides, suicides, and mass killings. Clearly, if people couldn’t so easily get their hands on guns, many of these crimes would never happen. Real gun control in the US will take a huge effort by those of us who have had enough, but now is the time, and we have to act.

Today you can buy a gun or make one with your 3-D Printer. You can also build a bomb with instructions easily found on the Internet. Ammo can be found almost anywhere, and the disenfranchised and deranged men and boys who are committing these acts of violence are not being watched or reported on while they are preparing. That has to change, too. It’s easy enough to come up with a profile of the shooters: They typically felt bullied, didn’t have a girlfriend, and didn’t have a close tie to their families.

The truth is, we can start to end this cycle of violence by taking greater responsibility for what our children do. A lot of this must fall on the shoulders of parents. One of the best things you can do is simply to have dinner as a family every night and talk about life; that alone makes a huge difference. I know this sounds too simple, but it works, whether you’re an advocate of gun control or an advocate for guns. Families and guardians of children should also do the following:

  1. Create a support structure for those you love.
  2. Look for and act on any warning signs.
  3. Check on your child’s social media accounts.
  4. Get your kid evaluated if you see or sense unusual behaviors.

If your child protests, especially to that last suggestion, remind them of who the parent is—and always remember that your job is to protect your children, to teach them how to live without you, and how to love.

If a child receives love and learns good values, chances are they aren’t going to turn into a murderer. Family ties are what hold us together—and when things get really tough and we find it hard to function or want to strike out in an unthinkable way, a family may be our only safety net.


Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms

Jonathan M. Metzl, MD, PhD and Kenneth T. MacLeish, PhD

Am J Public Health. 2015 February; 105(2): 240–249.

Published online 2015 February. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302242


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