The mass killing of 17 innocent victims at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., has once again shocked our nation. And as of Tuesday night, a threat on our own school in Plattsmouth has us shaking our heads.
It’s difficult for most of us to understand how any teenager could be so angry and hopeless that he or she would walk into a school and murder young people and teachers, knowing full well, his actions would get him a lifetime admission to a federal prison at best or possibly the death penalty.
Many people’s first reaction is to take away the right to bear arms, something that is guaranteed in our Constitution in case a hostile force tries to overtake us with ground forces.
My worry has always been that stricter gun control or abolishing Constitutional Amendment II would leave guns in the hands of criminals who obtain them on the black market and leave citizens who hunt or need to protect themselves in dangerous situations without. Of course, there is little need for anyone to have an assault rifle. It would be prudent to ensure proper background checks are completed on people purchasing firearms.
In Great Britain, the public may own sporting rifles and shotguns if they are licensed but handguns have been banned since 1996 when the Dunblane school massacre occurred in Scotland.
British citizens have long been accustomed to these restrictions, unlike the more than 240 years Americans have had the right to bear arms. Nevertheless, I don’t intend this column to be about gun control.
I think the issue of mass shootings goes beyond weapons and into the atmosphere of anger in the United States, the inability for many young people to cope with disappointment and a lack of confidence building in families and schools.
I’m not blaming our educational systems. I’ve always believed you can reach almost any student in a one-to-one setting. Of course, that is economically unfeasible for public and private school systems. A ratio of one teacher to 12 students is also good, but again, the financial aspects may not be available.
No matter where you live, the home has a great deal of influence on a child. If he or she is abused, berated and beaten, it’s difficult for the youth to grow up confident and self-actualized. They pass the abuse down, generation after generation.
We hope that child welfare will catch some of the worse cases. We pray that our school guidance counselors will catch any red flags a youth raises before committing a heinous act such as the Columbine, Sandy Hook Elementary and Parkland shootings. But with so many students to help with scheduling, emotional problems and classes, it’s hard to take everything in.
Besides that, very few insurance programs cover mental health, even though stress causes heart attacks and contributes to many other ailments.
In this technology-laden world, the bullying may start at home but escalate at school via the Internet and the use of cell phones.
No one person can predict such atrocities, but each of us can keep our eyes and ears open when it comes to any person who is distraught and hopeless.
I asked Plattsmouth Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Richard Hasty what he thought caused such violent reactions as these shootings.
“I’d have to ask whether the young man ever had anyone point out what his strengths are, then help him develop those strengths so he could use them in a positive way every day of his life,” he replied.
Obviously, Nikolaus Cruz was lacking the resilency, confidence and self-understanding that would have made him choose another path in his life other than gunning down people.
Growing up can be very difficult. I don’t know many of us who would like to return to those good old junior high years when bullying was sanctioned in order for the weak to become stronger.
As far as I’m concerned, every one of us should treat people in a dignified and positive manner. It doesn’t cost a dime to do so.
It would be a start, anyway.
Before Feb. 14, Cruz told a girl he was going to kill and rape her. She reported it, but police said, “We can’t act on what a person intends on doing.”
We all need to be aware when hearing such threats that the person saying them is seeking attention and if he/she doesn’t get it, the verbal negativity will escalate from threats to action.
There is no excuse for taking another person’s life in this manner. Cruz must be held responsible for his actions. But there are multiple aspects that play into such violent acts.
Society needs to bear some of the blame because we are often too busy to reach out and comfort those who are hurting or help lead them to someone who can help.
We all can start by following the Golden Rule. Treat your neighbors as you would wish them to treat you.