Lessons Learned From Sandy Hook Elementary School

Welcome to Format Free Fridays, the one day a week when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited Advice.

A week ago today, a sociopath broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut and murdered 26 innocent people, 20 of whom were children.  According to ABC News, this massacre was the 31st school shooting since the Columbine school shooting in 1999.  In the same period of time, there have been a total of 14 school shootings in all the other countries of the world, COMBINED.

Following each American tragedy, gun supporters quickly warn us that we can't have a conversation about gun control.  To raise the issue is to be accused of politicizing a tragedy or infringing on the Second Amendment.  I find such accusations to be a manipulative ploy intended to distract us from the real issue.  Today’s post is not a plea for gun reform. It is a Call To Action for Gun Reform.

The causes of school shootings are complex and many factors do indeed contribute to them. I am an expert on the subject. I dedicated my dissertation and PhD research to identifying the epidemiology of bullying in an effort to end school violence. With that said, and as important as it is to understand those contributing factors, the solution to school shootings is painfully simple. Video games do not kill people.  Music does not kill people. Unresolved mental health issues do not, in and of themselves, kill people. Do not be distracted by such divisive arguments. Those variables may be contributing factors and are worthy of long-term investigation, but only 1 thing killed people in each American school shooting: Guns. And the short-term solution is insultingly simple: Gun Reform.

Fear sells guns, and in the years since the Columbine shooting, Americans have been buying.  The gun lobby, like many American conservatives, fears a government takeover as well as thieves ransacking American homes and relies on the right to bear arms as the anecdote against it. As long as this paranoia remains an acceptable norm, as long as we nod in understanding instead of reacting in shock to this clinical level of paranoia, we remain part of the problem.

School shootings have become the modern day American terrorism. Today I’m asking you to decide not to tolerate it any longer.  What if we decided that there simply won’t be a 32nd post-Columbine school shooting? What would that look like?

The NRA wants you to focus on grief, which is really a manipulative ploy to let time pass in the hope that emotions will cool and your attention will be diverted by tomorrow’s news story. Don’t let that happen. They’re insulting your intelligence. School shootings need not be our normal. We can have a Zero Tolerance for School Violence. But you’ll need to do something today to ensure that reality for tomorrow. I challenge you to do more this time than you have following the last 30 school shootings by clicking here now.