Monday, September 23, 2013

From Another Angle

Today I'm going to write about something that is a hot button topic. It might make some people angry, but then again, maybe not--I'm not even sure that I have a wide enough audience to stir up any emotions.

I'm talking about gun violence. A week ago today, there was a senseless shooting at the Navy Yard in DC. Like any time there is a mass shooting, my heart was breaking as I heard the news. As usual, I was sucked back to that time six years ago when I was a student at Virginia Tech--the shock, the desperate need to refuse to believe it, and the crippling fear of not knowing who was hurt. I hate hearing that there has been another shooting, and my heart fills with sadness when I know that there are people out there--moms, dads, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, best friends--who have to go through the same experience.

It seems that the immediate reaction to a shooting these days is to flare up about gun control--no matter the side you are on. For once, I would like for everyone to hold off on attacking each other over this issue, and just take a moment to send prayers, love, and positive thoughts to anyone affected by this tragedy. Everyone always wants to know the "why" to something so incomprehensible, and people will want someone to take the blame, but that will come later. In that moment, there are people hurting, and what they need is emotional support, not another angry debate.

Yes, there is an issue of gun control in all of these shootings. However, there is another issue as well--mental health. This article from CNN discusses this issue, and I'm hopeful because it seems as if lawmakers are starting to realize that there is more to it than gun control.

Please don't think I'm excusing any shooter's behavior because of their mental health issues, or because they were picked on, or whatever. Despite how I feel about a need for better resources for people struggling with mental illness, I still cannot manage to feel sympathy for the shooters.Maybe one day I will get there, but for now that feels like too much to ask.

I just hope that we can stop viewing this issue as guns vs. no guns, because there is so much more to the issue, and like most things in life, it's not black and white. We need to start realizing that there are people out there who are fighting some very serious mental problems, and their communities are unable to provide the resources they need to get better. We need to start attaching such a negative stigma to those who are suffering from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and instead be supportive and encourage them to seek help. Finally, there is a much larger issue going on in our society. It feels like the norm is to react in anger, rather than understanding; people have an "I don't care, not my problem" mentality, and it seems as if we're starting to care more about ourselves than others.

Again, please don't think I'm trying to place the blame on society for these shootings, because that is not where I'm going with this, not at all. I think there were many contributing factors that led up to it, but in the end it was the choice of each individual shooter, even if they were struggling with a mental illness.

I don't have a solution to any of it, and I don't think these thoughts I have are the end all, be all on the gun control debate. I can only hope that we start to realize that we can't stop these shootings just by passing a few laws and getting angry with our legislators; there's going to have to be a more conscious effort on our part as well to start looking out for each other, and to stop taking every opportunity to bring each other down.

If you are a prayerful person, please continue to keep all those families who have been affected by any senseless shooting in your prayers.

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