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Opinion: Banning guns doesn’t get at the root of the problem

People who see more than a gun ban as a solution to mass shootings deserve a seat at the table now more than ever

When I read about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, I immediately started crying. The fear the victims must have experienced, the heartbreak their families have to endure, and the loss of so many lives –is absolutely harrowing. Like everybody else in our nation, I want an end to this repetitive cycle of vulnerability and violence.

However, after viewing countless post-crisis social media posts, I’ve come to the realization that many view me and those who share my perspectives as evil proponents of violence. Our crime? We don’t think that what happened means that guns should be banned, or at least, we support someone who holds such a view. Take the case of Andrew Pollack. He lost his 18-year-old daughter in the shooting. When the news of the tragedy got out, he drove around the area, terrified and mournful, showing people pictures of his daughter on his phone, wondering if anyone had found her. While he was doing this, someone took a picture of him and posted it online.

Rather than being sympathetic to his tragic loss, people took to Twitter to insult him. Why? On the day he lost his daughter, he happened to be wearing a Donald Trump shirt. Rather than empathy, he received criticism, blame and comments such as this:

Subsequent accusations target anyone who owns a gun (which is between 37 and 42 percent of Americans)– of being at best, ignorant, and at worst, complicit in mass murder. If this is truly the case, we would be living in a terrifying world, where multiple school shootings occur daily.

Some people may have led you to believe that they do. After all,  CNBC, ABC, and other news sources empower advocacy groups that claim 18 school shootings have occurred in 2018 so far. However, some advocates of gun control define a school shooting as “any discharge of a firearm at a school — including accidents — as a ‘shooting.’ It also includes incidents that happened to take place at a school, whether students were involved or not.”

One of those cases included a fully grown man killed himself with a gun in an empty school parking lot after the school was closed and empty for the day. Of the “school shootings” that happened in 2018, two were suicides, eight lead to zero injuries or deaths, and most of the remaining eight were the result of accidents. In reality, in the past 28 years, exactly 22 school shootings resulting in the deaths of two or more people have taken place. This number is still tragic, and I’m not arguing otherwise. However, it is not comparable to the false statistics flashing across your screen.

The truth of the matter is that most gun owners do not use their guns to murder. Gun ban supporters often don’t consider that critics may think what they think not because of ideological reasons but just because it’s just not effective policy. After all, everyone wants to end tragedies such as what happened at Parkland. We disagree on how to do it. If anything, it distracts from the tangible actions we can take within existing gun laws to make change.

A gun is merely an object. While it might assist someone in causing catastrophe, it cannot motivate them or their thoughts.

In the case of Parkland, there were a number of actions the government could have done to prevent the shooting before we even get to banning guns. Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who ended 17 innocent lives on Feb. 14, had a history of violent tendencies. He was expelled from his high school for making violent threats. He reportedly abused his girlfriend.  His social media was full of concerning images of small animals he had tortured and killed, purely for the purpose of killing.

If that wasn’t enough, Cruz had publicly expressed that he desired to be a “professional school shooter.” His post regarding this desire was reported to the FBI, but, the FBI didn’t do its job right.

While agents talked to the individual who reported the post, they never followed up on it, never investigated, never talked to Cruz, and didn’t address it until after he killed 17 people. How? And more importantly, why? One could hope that if the government did its job right, this wouldn’t have happened. This continued failure to perform only fuels my skepticism of empowering the government to amass more power.

It also undermines the huge potential that reasonable reform could have on the situation. Reasonable reform could include extensive and appropriate background checks which could have been stopped Cruz’s attempt to purchase his weapon, and perhaps this tragedy. In the state of Florida, a background check consists of checking for a criminal record through an FBI database. I find this insufficient. I do not believe that an 18-year-old, recently expelled from high school for violence, and having reports of desiring to be a professional school shooter reported against him to the FBI, is a desirable candidate when it comes to buying a gun.

The survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy and many others argue that this is ableism or discrimination against the mentally ill. However, when viewing it under the strictest legal scrutiny, withholding guns from individuals with mental illnesses leading to violent, homicidal or suicidal tendencies is necessary to national security and is therefore constitutional. Now, even this shouldn’t be an umbrella ban against those who suffer from any mental disorder. It should impact disorders that have the potential of leading to violent behavior. I do not believe that someone with bulimia, generalized anxiety or agoraphobia, all of which are mental illnesses, should be banned from owning a gun merely because they are mentally ill. However, if mental illnesses are associated with homicidal and suicidal thoughts and desires, such as antisocial personality disorder or positive schizophrenia, or result in prescriptions that have such side effects, it is reasonable to want to restrict imminently dangerous weapons from such individuals, for both the sake of their own safety and that of others. Such a system should be one of individual analysis and consideration rather than a categorical ban.

A gun ban also doesn’t get at the root of the problem. A gun is merely an object. While it might assist someone in causing catastrophe, it cannot motivate them or their thoughts.  It is no secret that radical groups, whether radical religious terrorist groups like ISIS, or white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups recruit people who are already outcast from mainstream society. Nikolas Cruz, similarly to another young but radicalized shooter, Dylann Roof, was a known white supremacist.

The case of Nikolas Cruz cannot be broadly generalized as “a gun issue.” If shootings as horrific as this one were being committed by otherwise unquestionable individuals, not suffering from severe mental health issues, not dependent on psychotropic medications and not affiliated with potentially violent extremist groups, then perhaps one may begin to question the issue as one related to guns. I cannot accept stripping Americans of all guns will stop mass shootings while such other factors exist.

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