Since the tragic school shooting in Florida, there have been no shortage of theories as to why it took place. And, as is common in today’s society, there is no shortage of blame. I have a different theory from most, but it requires some background history.
In the late 80s and early 90s I was very much involved with the military. For some unknown reason, my fellow officers and I and the NCO’s were continually being contacted about joining the NRA. For the most part, none of us joined the NRA. I am not a member today, even though I strongly support the 2nd Amendment. There was a major controversy taking place at the time about assault weapons in the United States. All of us in the military were very familiar with the M-16 rifle. The Vietnam veterans were intimately familiar with the rifle and its characteristics as they utilized the weapon in a combat environment. The M-16 was adopted by the military in 1964, replacing the heavier M-14. The rifle utilized a high velocity 5.56 mm cartridge, with a 20 round magazine. Later, along with other improvements, that capacity was increased to a 30 round magazine. By taping two 30 round magazines together, 60 rounds were available in a matter of seconds by changing magazines.. With the use of a selector switch, the military version rifle could fired automatic or semi-automatic.
So here we were with the NRA facing off against Congress to determine the future of assault weapons in the United States. I place part of the blame on the NRA, because they were using the 2nd Amendment (and their political contributions) as a sledge hammer to bludgeon politicians into assuring there would be no restrictions on any weapon. Let me point out that this is the primary purpose of the NRA; to assure there are no restrictions on any weapon. In other words….they were doing their job as required by their very extensive paying membership.
But, I also put part of the blame on Congress. Many of these politicians received significant funds from the NRA in their election and reelection campaigns. So at a time when common sense could have prevailed, nothing happened. For instance, there could have been a limit as to the number of rounds for magazine capacity. I was a hunter, and the largest capacity that any of my hunting rifles or shotguns had was 7. Where I hunted, if you didn’t hit what you were aiming for in the first three shots, you were pretty much screwed. Mostly, the third shot was a desperation/frustration shot after having missed with the first two shots. So could the magazine capacity been limited to 8? 10? Should assault style weapons have been banned from the beginning before becoming available to the civilian population?
The reason my fellow military compatriots and I did not join the NRA was because we felt that only the police and the military should have that weapon. Military and police ‘wannabes’ began buying the M-16 and other assault style weapons by the millions, even though they weren’t for hunting and were not very good target weapons. There have been over 8 million M-16’s produced. But the real winner of the assault weapon sweepstakes is the Russian AK-47. Originally designed with a 30 round magazine, later versions allowed for a 40 round magazine and a 75 round drum magazine. Russia was the initial manufacturer of the weapon, but then China and many of the old Soviet satellite countries began knocking them off. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the gun markets were flooded with some version of the AK-47. While attending gun shows in the early 90s, a person could purchase some version of the AK-47 with a case of ammunition for $200! There are over 100 million AK-47s or it’s knockoffs in the world!
Now we fast forward to today and face the tragedy that there have been over 200 school shootings in the United States. In order to be classified a ‘mass shooting,’ there must be four or more victims. In the first two hundred years of this countries existence, there were 7 mass shooting school incidences. (The first occurred in 1764 in Pennsylvania, when a schoolmaster was shot by marauding Indians, and nine students were bludgeoned to death!) Since July 4, 1976, this country has experienced 17 mass-murder school shootings! Twelve of these shootings have taken place since 1999, beginning with the infamous Columbine School shooting in Littleton, Colorado. If we include school shootings with less than four victims, the number of school shootings would increase to 17 since Columbine.
Why the large increase since 1999?
Well, for one thing, let us look at our entertainment since 1999. For starters, our television and our movies have become more violent, more sexually explicit, and more vulgar. During my childhood, what use to take imagination now takes little imagination as everything in so explicit. We did not see the murder, but would see blood on a wall or shadows on a curtain. Today, many programs are a compendium as to how many ways a victim can be murdered. The more gruesome, the better. What happened to comedies? What happened to shows showing a normal, stable family environment? What happened to westerns? What happened to variety shows? If you don’t remember these shows, ask your grandparents. They can give you a list.
Video games. Have you seen some of these? They are very similar to our TV and movie entertainment, except worse! You may think they are a cartoon, but these games are nothing like any cartoons during my childhood. Killing, sex, and vulgarity are the mainstay of many of these video games. (Can’t the Angry Birds become the Happy Birds?)
Our news reporting does not miss an opportunity to sensationalize a tragic event. I had to stop watching the news for four days because of the Florida school shooting. There was not a facet of that event that was not discussed at depth….24/7. Unfortunately, because of this extensive news coverage, what is a tragic event for the sane becomes a pathway to infamy for the disturbed. (Gee, if I kill a bunch of people, I can be on television!) And, because of their extensive, in-depth coverage, they almost provide a road map as to how the crime can be done.
What happened to respect? We don’t respect the police. We don’t respect our teachers. We don’t respect the opinion of others. We don’t respect the rights of others. It appears to me that the word ‘compromise’ has been removed from the English language and replaced by the word, ‘confrontation.’ I was continually told while growing up that I should ‘respect my elders.’ Now that I am an elder, that is not working out real well for me. What’s with that?
So how do we stop school shootings in America? It has been proposed to arm certain teachers. An ‘in-school’ reaction squad. Check. We can provide in-depth background checks for gun purchasers. Check. We can raise the minimum age for purchasing a gun. Check. We could ask for military and police retirees to volunteer to assist in providing school security. Check. Have our legislators enact legislation against high capacity rifles and pistols. (Pistols are actually the murderer weapon of choice.) Check. Increase gun violation punishments. Check. There are a myriad of things that can be proposed or enacted. Many of which I do not agree. But here is the one thing and one problem no one has ever approached……..
Our world and our society has changed significantly during my lifetime. The technological advances have been amazing. The technological advances have impacted every facet of our society: how we eat, how we travel, our recreation, information resources, our military hardware, health treatment and services…..the list is endless!
But the one thing that has remained constant during this entire tumultuous period? Parenting. Our kids are bombarded and are exposed to sensory overload like no other previous generation. Who is responsible for the movies and television that children are subjected to and watch? The parents. Who controls the usage of video games? Parents. Who teaches respect for others? Parents. Who has the best idea if a child is emotionally or mentally disturbed? It would be the parent.
I empathize with anyone who has lost a child to violence. But the fact remains, a gun or rifle did not load itself, jump out of a box, and then deliberately kill. It requires the human element to pull the trigger and that is where the weakness of our murder prevention system lies. Most mass school shootings are done by the young. Blame others if it makes you feel better, blame the guns if it makes you feel better, but until our young are raised by parents that get into every aspect of their children’s lives, you can expect more of the same. Stop being a friend and begin being a parent. Its a much more difficult job, but society will get a better result.