Ignoring problems do not make them not exist or not impact you. This media clip of the mother of 14-year-old Florida shooting victim Alyssa Alhadeff is heartbreak and primal rage scream for all of us to see. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone unleash such a soul-piercing plea to “do something.” Since the Florida shooting, there is now a country of energized kids asking to “do something,” “try something,” “do anything,” and make Florida’s shooting the “Never Again” moment. As a mom, I just keep hearing: do some adulting to prevent another shooting. We should be owning it.
People always ask if I started a gun responsibility organization because I knew someone who was killed in a shooting. Well, yes, every mother who speaks like this is someone I know. I’m a mother, and that would be me unleashing my heartbreak and rage into that mic. Enough is enough. Every shooting has now perfected the smooth PR-managed response. The same resigned thinking that has perfected the heavy sigh. It’s time for us to think harder, work together.
We know there’s 10 percent of extreme on both sides and the rest of the country lives in the “bell-curve” middle saying “do something.” Those 10 percent are invested in being “right” but don’t offer actual new ideas. Form task force? Pilot programs? Propose immediate funds to begin exploring the problems and solutions in-depth? Say you don’t have all the answers, but we should try? That’s a good first step. Social problems left to grow need 100 ideas thrown on a whiteboard and willingness to try-and-test. Re-calibrating what’s broken. Get resources — human and otherwise — on national and local levels adapted to working together. Some empathy and positivity to grease the runway doesn’t hurt. Nothing will get done if we live in a constant state of finger-wagging spitball matches. America is a big and complicated country with over 300 million people, so if you’re fighting for something pragmatic — not amping-for-Armageddon or dreaming for peace-love-kumbaya — we need some agility in working with some people who are “not like us.”
It’s understandable if you don’t want to get involved in the gun safety “debate.” It is messy, ill-mannered and divisive. If you’re the ‘splainer or hand-wringer, please help by refraining from superficial one-answer solutions. This issue does not have one answer. There are a bunch of areas to address — one being mental health. But that needs thought out solutions on how that one influencer of gun violence innovates and fixes across agency/medical/state/law enforcement/school/family etc. Broad and vague answers like “mental health problem” will not produce cogent actions with results. We need tangible goals, leaving blame-game at the door and then some grind-it-out implementation.
School shootings, whether there were eight or 18 this year, are simply not OK as our American narrative. We all know that. Our country is a big and powerful country, filled with smart people, the latest in new technology and financial gravitas. We also have a lot of empathy and big-heartedness. Somehow we have taken a wrong turn and normalized this human toll, becoming the smallest thinkers on this topic.
Social change will take decades. There will have to be hundreds of efforts to tackle this. Just like responsible drinking-and-driving — it took a full generation to stigmatize the irresponsible.
With a clear eye in one direction, we can begin fixing parts of what is causing this. Perhaps if we start with reduction of school shootings as one of our first goals, it’s an awesome first step. Right now, there’s a lot of angry and heartbroken moms and families out there. But we also have teenagers who have the best BS radar around. If we can’t fix it, they will — because they will have grown up watching a generation of adults do nothing on their behalf.