Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

When I listen to any political person rail against guns as a fix for school shootings, I get upset. The focus in wrong and yet it persists and dominates headlines. This tells me there is a lack of real concern to address violence in our schools.  Instead we get political correctness.

Journalists, look at the statistics and challenge statements that aren’t true. Gun free zones are targets. Any teen knows that if you want to take as many people out in a shooting, go to the defenseless.  Schools are filled with defenseless kids at the mercy of someone whose intention is to wreak as much havoc and loss of life as possible.

Schools are often the center of community life in small towns and suburban areas-another  reason they are chosen for shootings. The attention of an entire community is gained when a sick person shoots students.

So what can be done to lessen the chances of violence?  Notice I didn’t say stop school shootings. Unfortunately, even when we know what to look for in a shooter and want to prevent  violence, a disenfranchised person with a motive of revenge can’t always be stopped. And that is what is frightening. We don’t know the tipping point for a disturbed individual even when we know the signs.

What we do know: We know the profile of a typical shooter:

  • disconnected to secure relationships (many have father vacuums in their lives)
  • belief in aggression as a means to an end and a way to cope with negative feelings
  • motivated by revenge, prejudice and self-centered sadistic feelings
  • lack of empathy, emotional intelligence
  • untreated mental illness
  • consumer of violent media
  • major life stress that triggers events
  • social media poster who often warns of their hate and intentions
  • severe problems in feeling accepted and getting along with others
  • history of abuse or ineffective parenting
  • fascination with guns and weapons
  • feels powerless and unimportant so seeks fame through violence

What can be done?  Multiple interventions are needed. It’s not a simple solution like gun control.

  • Enforce gun laws, but in reality, criminals obtain guns no matter the law. That’s why they are called criminals!
  •  Arm schools so shooters know students aren’t sitting ducks.
  • Pay attention to threats and social media posts. Maybe it is time to assign a school person to scan social media on a regular basis.
  • Have incentives for peers, adults and school personnel to report possible threats and disturbing comments. People MUST speak up.
  • Use school resource officers-retired police and law enforcement people who will be at schools, get to know kids, and keep their ears to the ground.
  • Teach conflict resolution and how to solve problems without violence. Discuss the impact of violent solutions to problems.
  • Know the warning signs, identify at risk kids and get them connected to mental health services–this means we need to evaluate our community based mental health programs and their access.
  • Stop supporting violent media–it has violent impacts on the developing teen mind, but no one seems to care much about this data. Glorifying violence helps reinforce the sick mind of someone considering violence. Why do we need violent media? What does it feed?
  • Build relationships with alienated kids who appear rejected and troubled.
  • Look for the influence of fathers on alienated boys. All the shooters are males and need strong fathers active in their lives.
  • News media to start acting like journalists and look at what has worked and failed instead of blindly repeating political messages.
  • Stop taking God out of culture and vilifying religion! What transforms the heart of a person? What changes retaliation into reconciliation? Revenge to repentance? A heart change in the most important change that can be made in a teen or adult’s life and yet we are moving more and more away from spiritual solutions to secular ones that promise no change of heart. We are losing our moral compass, creating self-centered, narcissistic people incapable of empathy and care for others. And this should be out number one concern. So rather than a court order to take down the 10 commandment’s monument  in Oklahoma, maybe a reminder, Thou shall not kill, is needed.

Dr. Mintle is the author of We Need to Talk, a book about navigating  interpersonal conflict 

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