Author’s Note: This post talks about a recent mass shooting. This isn’t a post which will restore faith in humanity.
Recently there was a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people and wounded 14 more as of this writing. The alleged perpetrator was a former student, recent orphan, and trained briefly with a white supremacist group. Reports of the incident indicated that he used an AR-15 rifle during his attack.
Generally I try to avoid news of mass shootings, because the circus around them follows a haunting pattern of events. A day after the shooting, the news is just finalizing the basic questions phase and sensationalizing certain details. It depends on the overall narrative being constructed. Some reports already focus on the fact that the alleged shooter legally purchased his firearm. National leaders and state leaders are calling this a mental health issue.
This isn’t anything new.
We do this after every major mass shooting that happens. Some people blame guns, and others blame the mentally ill. Social media gets flooded with lazily-researched articles railing against whatever they’re mad at that day. That’s right; the deaths of people gets relegated to an excuse to type angry words into a machine. The sad thing is, I’m no different.
I’m mostly writing this because I had to sit through another stupid rant I’ve heard after every other mass shooting that makes it to the news. Up until that point, I’d done a good job of just avoiding looking into media and seeing the face of grief. Those pictures don’t do anything for me except remind me that being a voyeur to misery is a booming business. Nothing gets done except moving onto the next tragedy.
In the meantime, the mentally infirm and gun ownership get dragged through the mud. Platitudes get thrown around like they have real meaning. They don’t, but they make people feel smug about their opinions.
Personally, I want to deal with facts.
For example, here is an analysis of school shootings done by a private agency (because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can’t). It lists some initial findings on how school shootings affect students. Even shootings that don’t kill anyone can reduce student performance.
Facts don’t always make it to the public consciousness. Most often, it’s because facts don’t fit a political narrative. They just exist, uncaring about whether anyone believes them. It’s just that facts regarding gun violence can be useful when wanting to figure out how best to reduce it.
How is one supposed to deal with ignorance regarding mental illness in the meantime?
I didn’t handle the stupid conversation in a healthy way; I quietly walked off before losing my temper. I’d just heard that the alleged shooter had a long history of mental illness, but that it was law enforcement’s fault for not stopping him from getting a gun. It doesn’t matter that this isn’t how gun laws work; NRA talking points are always right. At the time, I had a choice of either opening my mouth and hearing more stupid things, or walking away and trying to get myself back under control.
The important thing for me to remember is that these tragedies are going to prompt people to say the first thing that comes to mind. If I get angry at the public displays of ignorance surrounding mental illness, I’d stay mad forever. It just hurts more when it comes from family.
Most of all, some families are going through a grim tragedy. They’re not getting listened to in public to help them; they’re getting used to sell media. I want to remember that these are people who deserve and need more respect than scrutiny at a dark time in their lives. It’s what I’d want if our roles were reversed.