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It’s not all about guns and games

February 1, 2013

Following the horrible death toll of 27 people at Sandy Hook Elementary, the phrase “school shooting” has popped into the news repeatedly over the past month. California, Georgia, Arizona and Texas have also had recent school shootings occur in their states.

Thankfully, school shootings remain statistically rare; however, they are affecting the political machine like no other. Arguably the biggest effect of all these school shootings is the debate on gun control, which went from being a hot-button issue to a full-scale volcanic eruption. Many politicians, organizations and citizens, notably of Newtown, Conn.,  are calling for gun control laws ranging from strict regulation to the complete ban of gun sales.

The National Rifle Association of America, among other organizations, has been far from quiet in its belief that anyone who thinks they are going to unarm American citizens can f*** off, and any advocates for stricter regulation are considered with a certain weariness.

Worst of all, the debate and subsequent political games draws attention away from other serious issues arising from Sandy Hook. I say this not to downgrade the importance of the gun control debate, as it is obviously important for a variety of reasons, but to shift focus on to other disturbing aftershocks I have seen.

On one hand, I felt incredibly touched by the heartfelt sympathy and support that poured from all over the world.

One example is a Facebook group I participated in that called for new teddy bears for all students of Newtown; over 800 bears were received, and they ended up going to other organizations because teddy bears and other gifts were already swamping Newtown residents. It’s amazing for two reasons: the bears were not needed as others had already heeded the call, and the donated bears were given to other children in need as a result.

However, with every bit of goodness comes a blight; although I saw many efforts all over to help Newtown, I saw other posts, articles and comments that were downright ugly. An example is one I saw on my Facebook: a picture of the 20-year-old shooter, Adam Lanza, smiling shyly and looking no older than 16 years old. The caption said “1 like = 20 punches, 1 share = burn in hell forever.”

Granted, this was clearly put together by a severely ignorant and (hopefully) young individual who has yet to mature fully…but it also had thousands of likes and comments.

Is this what our generation has come to? I’ve always thought that generation X, the generation given more intelligence, access to information and technological advances than any other, should oppose acts of ignorance and hate. One search on Google had numerous articles pop up about Lanza, most of which mentioned that he had

Asperger’s’ disease, a form of autism. Autism has a wide spectrum of dysfunction, ranging from very mild to severe.

I have no idea how much his disorder affected his thought process. I do, however, believe that messages of hate and violence towards a 20-year-old autistic shooter will not solve any problems or act as a balm for a grieving community.

The questions of the hour are ‘how do we solve the problem,’ either of gun control or mental health awareness or, quite simply, ‘how do we handle school shootings?’

We can’t. Not likely, not in this lifetime, not when the inevitable alterations that come with time clash with traditional ideals and beliefs and not when there are individuals who will show a disregard for human life for one reason or another. Ideally, we would walk our merry way down the middle road and everyone would be happy, but in real life, agendas would be questioned, law-abiding gun carriers would take up arms (perhaps literally) and the line between dissenting opinions would become an unconquerable fence.

The fact is, if everyone wants to prevent school shootings, which is ultimately the goal of gun control advocates and opponents alike, attention and legislation should not be focused entirely on guns. Stressing the personal responsibility each person has for his or her actions, providing information about mental disorders and how to get help and equipping all schools with professionals to help students with special needs (within medical reason), however, may be a good start.

Cassie Burton
News Editor

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