Darrell Berkheimer: A root cause of mass shootings considered
March 2, 2018
As with many other issues in our world, mass shootings must be examined for their root cause rather than the various symptoms.
And a major root cause is how our culture has changed.
A few days ago I read the anonymous response to a blogger who was advocating for gun-toting trained security workers in the schools. The man writing the response said the long-term solution is to return our U.S. culture to the values of right and wrong, good and evil, with which so many of us were raised. This is what he wrote:
"When I was in high school in the early 60s, I never worried about someone coming into the school and randomly shooting teachers and students. There were plenty of guns in the 60s (I had a .22 rifle), and it was easy to buy more because there were very few restrictions outside of big cities."
But we need to acknowledge that we can’t legislate morality or ethics
— just as we can’t legislate against stupidity.
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He noted he faced plenty of bullies in school, because his family moved frequently and he was bullied in every one of the schools he attended. Then he asked:
"So why didn't the U.S. have a school mass shooting incident every few weeks like we have now? Or to make it personal, why didn't I bring my rifle to school and take care of the bullies, and the teachers who supported them?"
He said he didn't take his rifle to school "because I knew it would be wrong, evil, and immoral to act that way. It would be barbaric. It would be uncivilized.
"It would be shameful, bringing shame on both my family and me. … It would show a total disrespect for life. It would mean that I might hurt people who never did anything bad to me.
"These are all things that I knew for certain — things that I thought about and cared about. Where did I learn these things?"
He explained he learned those thoughts and feelings "from my parents and grandparents, from my teachers, from the Bible and our minister … from our neighbors, from movies and television, from books like "To Kill a Mocking Bird," and from just being immersed in the culture of the United States during that period.
Then he observed that today's culture, however, is quite different from 40, 50 and 60 years ago. He noted "the Ten Commandments can't be displayed, the Bible is ridiculed (there is no Hell, there is no soul, there are no consequences); parents, grandparents (if they are present at all) and teachers don't believe in judging or shaming children for their behavior … and movies, radio, television and popular literature don't teach morality.
"So now, if you feel like being a professional school shooter, why not just go for it?"
I think his assessment citing our cultural change speaks as much to the root cause as any other factor. It underscores the values most of us were taught — at home, in school and if we went to a church.
How, when or where are such values taught today?
And what is our most important objective in raising our children?
Isn't the main goal we face in raising children one of preparing them for their future, so they can live and work in a harmonious way, and in a safe environment, through the rest of their lives?
And shouldn't that be the objective of our education system as well — most especially when the family situation does not provide a means of working toward that objective?
If broken families fail to provide such instruction, where else can our children receive it?
Is our education system concentrating too much on teaching science, math, technology, and emphasizing rote memorizing of history while neglecting the importance of social skills?
Of course, families should be teaching good and evil, right and wrong, morality, ethics, social relationships, civics and anger management. But if some families — perhaps too many — are failing to do that, where do those children receive such instruction?
Don't misunderstand; my objective here is not to criticize the schools, nor to add more burdens to our teachers. Teachers already are expected to do too much. And too much emphasis is given to test scores — especially in the elementary grades.
But I think we also need to consider redirecting some of our public-school efforts — to concentrate more on the emotional well-being of our children and students. And to do that, we must reduce the workloads heaped on our teachers. In addition, teachers need the assistance of on-site trained counselors.
Another man, who wrote that he almost became a school shooter in 1996 when he was a mentally depressed and bullied teen, explained two things kept him from doing it. He said the one was because he didn't have access to an automatic rifle. Because it was during the 1994 to 2004 national ban.
The second reason, he said, was merely receiving a bit of compassionate love from a couple people who showed they cared about him. So let's lighten the load of our teachers enough so they have more time to show caring when needed.
Of course, we must continue to teach the basics; but was it a smart move to drop civics classes from our schools? And I understand the schools in some countries are spending considerable time teaching manners, courtesies and other social skills — especially during the early school years.
I'm not suggesting that such a change in our education system is the major solution to a complex and multi-faceted problem — only that it's another approach worthy of thoughtful consideration.
I also believe we need legislation to control access to military-style weapons, high-capacity ammo magazines and related accessories such as "bump stocks." And we need background checks to prevent terrorists and the mentally ill from buying guns, plus more attention to dealing with mental illness. None of those actions would take away the constitutional right to bear arms.
But we need to acknowledge that we can't legislate morality or ethics — just as we can't legislate against stupidity. That brings us back to the realization that morality, ethics, right and wrong, good and evil must be taught — just as they were taught to the man who explained why he didn't take his rifle to school.
Obviously, our immediate need is the ban on military-style weapons, and a mandate for thorough background checks.
And it should be just as obvious that we also need long-term, cultural-change solutions.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He is the author of five books available through Amazon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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