Gun control: 1 variable in vastly difficult problem

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I long for the day when America’s children do not have to go to school in fear of a mass shooting. We all share the same sentiments. There is no excuse for such carnage and violence in our schools. Too many times the mentality of “that would never happen here” has ravaged the lives of small communities. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and now Parkland, Florida. There is no simple explanation for why such evil finds its way into our towns. The 24-hour news cycle has made us numb to reports of mass shootings.

Inevitably in the hours after the shooting in Florida we all ran to our corners of public opinion. We engaged in Facebook discussions. We immediately pivoted to our talking points. We searched for answers, and we mourned for the parents and students who lost their lives. Too many times we go through these motions. Now we leave the shooter, whose name I will not dignify with recognition, to our justice system. There are so many factors to the problem of mass shootings in America. To name them all would be a daunting task. To answer them is an even more formidable issue. But if there is any time for discussion, it is now.

A few questions come to mind as I begin to diagnose this issue. I would first be careful to note that the breakdown of the family structure is a variable in this problem. The shooter in Parkland reportedly went through a traumatic past like many of the other mass shooters in recent history. As a nation, we have seemed to move past the traditional family values that once held us all together. Now the question becomes who, if anyone, knew or suspected that he was headed down a dark path? Did no one become alarmed when he purchased an AR-15? This brings us to the focal point of public debate. To assert that more gun regulation laws would have prevented this shooting is inconsistent with a vast multitude of other variables. Recent reports suggest that the FBI was tipped about this individual. Why was no action taken? Other students at the school where the tragedy took place claim that the shooter had a violent past and was at one point expelled for violence and fighting. If this is indeed the case, then why were no flags raised? Additionally, if a student that was expelled for fighting and violence was expelled then how was he able to pass a background check? Was no one concerned when he began to purchase large amounts of ammunition? These signs alone were enough for someone, somewhere to say something. Even if some type of gun legislation were passed, how would that solve the societal problem of not reporting someone that is perceived as mentally ill?

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To prevent tragedies such as this from ever happening again we must begin to be proactive in our solutions rather than point fingers at the method of attack. Gun control will not cure the breakdown of the family or stem the tide of mental illness. We should all collectively be having a conversation about how to better assess the needs of those who may be mentally ill. Lawmakers can legislate many things. Our American culture has conditioned us to believe that laws and regulations are what keeps our towns safe and secure. While this is true one fact remains. Evil cannot be legislated. The evil hearts of criminals will not be stopped by enacting a law that outlaws a certain kind of weapon. A singular law designed to ban a certain type of weapon does not answer or solve some of the most pressing concerns about mental health and mass shootings in America. The largest terrorist attack in American history was committed without the use of a firearm.

Some have argued that the thoughts and prayers of our elected officials are simply not enough. I would argue the contrary. The Lord hears all prayers and cries for help. We must not become fatigued by the polarization of our political system and public debate. Instead, we should earnestly and tirelessly work together not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans to approach this issue with a renewed promise to extinguish the desires of those who wish to do us harm. Only then can we hope to make real progress.

Joseph Duncan is the chairman of the Claiborne County Republican Party. He can be reached at