This piece, a work in progress, was collectively conceived, but written up by the five of us. We believe the violence exhibited by public shootings is symptomatic of larger issues. We propose this list of considerations not with finality, but rather with the hopes of sparking similar conversations about what else must be addressed for future prevention. (Morgan Huebner, Alyssa Indelicato, Ariella Patchen, Marina Sitrin and Ariel Taub)
We were in tears. We were angry. We were desensitized.
We are resensitized.
We are angry. We are in tears. We are hopeful.
We are writing from a sociology class at SUNY Binghamton.
Our class is about democracy. When we spoke about this latest mass school shooting this week, we began with our feelings and then collectively reflected on the possible meanings behind it. We broke into small groups for ten minutes to see what sorts of solutions we could come up with. The ten minutes became thirty. Many of us kept talking through our break. We continue.
The national conversation on the reasons for, and ways to prevent, mass shootings is limited. Most people are either asking the government for better gun legislation or to militarize schools and arm teachers.
We spoke about the patterns behind who the shooters are and how they are created in the first place. From there we moved to solutions.
We began with the below information about all mass school shooters since 1990: (We are not providing exact numbers as there are many definitions of what a mass school shooting is, and the data that does exist is often contested.)
- Almost 100% are male
- Vast Majority are white
- Majority committed acts of violence against women
- Majority engaged in racist and/or xenophobic activity
- Majority had been reported to have issues with anger and violence
We want to share some of our ideas and invite others to do the same. To think together about what we can do. Our ideas are in no way intended to be a blueprint or a list of solutions, it is intended as an invitation to a different sort of conversation.
Our first conversation about the reasons mass shootings happen was wide ranging – as you will see — so are our solutions. We spoke about guns, emotions – the lack of space or culture allowing us to share our feelings – especially men and boys. We spoke about violence. Violence in the media, in movies, in games and in our day to day interactions. How violence is normalized. Violence against women. The Male gender role – teaching “boys to be boys” and to not show pain, fear, empathy or ask for help. The lack of medical care. The lack of education – formal and popular. Our militarized history and present. Always being at war. Our militarized language. Collateral damage. Glamorizing strength, meaning power and violence. White supremacy. Racism. Anti-Semitism. Anti-immigrant language and action. The rise in violence against people of color.
We also clarified the difference between violence, rage and impulse control and mental illness. People are taught to be violent. We learn to react in rage. Sometimes this is related to a mental illness, and sometimes it is not. It does not help us to better understand mass shootings to place all people into a category of personal illness. And, it does not help us understand and support the vast array of emotional issues people grapple with to cast them all as mental illness, or demonize and pathologize mental illness.
We spoke of a culture of not talking to our neighbors. We discussed the dangers of silence.
And then the inspiring teenagers who are calling BS.
And now the walk outs creating a new wave and movement.
Many of us locate ourselves in this growing movement, and hope the below contributes to the conversation of how we might move forward in our day to day lives – demanding from our political institutions and recreating our society with our neighbors, classmates and people we work with.
Before we move to possible solutions, we must point out the vastly different ways in which the mainstream media has covered the current student movement for gun control and the Movement for Black Lives. We find this deeply problematic.
We invite everyone reading this to have a conversation like we did. Even if for only ten minutes.
How might things be different?
What solutions can we help enact ourselves?
We have many ideas. Below they are organized in the categories of: education; gun laws; popular education; health care; participation in politics and community building. (We did not all agree with each of the below – they are a list of ideas we see as a beginning.)
- No expulsion or suspension
- Instead, discussion groups, “workshops” and group therapy with the aim of teaching kids to cope with anger and other feelings.
- More positive spaces to socialize and find ways to make these spaces cool and accessible
- Change national history curriculum- let’s get everyone on the same page
- Devalorize war and violence
- Free higher education
- Begin education about the danger of guns very early (elementary school onwards)
- Workshops on unlearning racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia (also start early)
- Emotional and Mental health support structures and systems in every school
- Work on making asking for help unstigmatized
- Laws should be nationally standardized
- Extend process of getting a gun
- longer waiting period
- standardize background checks
- Require training
- Limit locations where sold
- AR15s should not be accessible and ban bump stocks
- Require an answer to why you need an assault rifle when buying
- What would this answer sound like?
- Monitor those who have bought assault rifles online and more seriously
- Eventually demilitarize police and army
- Introduce counseling to law enforcement who have fired a gun and assess their mental stability, health, and motivations before giving guns back
- Move towards arming communities and neighborhoods rather than police and military
- Government buy back policy- so there is incentive for politicians to desire regulation
- There is an increased normalization of militarizing more public spaces that results from panic
Participation in Politics
- Town meetings -no matter how large the community
- Encourage voter turnout, possibly through fines
- Voting on weekends or make a national holiday so all can vote
- Make politicians have to be more accessible – listen to people’s ideas
- Education on the role of money in politics
- Limit amount of money politicians can receive from any grouping
- Teach ways to control the violent tendencies stemming from violent video games
- Changing media perspectives of what masculinity is/looks like
- Find ways to check “fake news”
- Mend the bipartisanship that exists within the media
- Neighborhood assemblies
- Helping create bonds between neighbors
- More block parties
- encourage community gardens
- sports and non competitive sports
Popular and community education
- Social spaces where people can go in each neighborhood
- Places people can go and talk about how they feel (encourage it)
- Teach ways to manage anger
- Train facilitators and mediators in neighborhoods to help people communicate
- Teach the danger and history of white supremacy, racism, anti-semitism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia
- Violent behavior not condoned, especially with boys
- What role do neighbors have in reporting violence or threats? How many times can someone be reported before something else is done?
- Access to health care including mental health across all communities
- Education on, and change to, disparate treatment of people of color in the health and mental health arena
- No one turned away from care, especially if expressing violent feelings
- Work on ending the stigmatization of mental illness so people will seek help.
- Attempt to address root causes of or factors that exacerbate emotional disorders
- More support for domestic violence survivors and perpetrators