We all saw the news last week of yet another school shooting. I have to say that I am fed up that so many children and teenagers in the United States could, one day, be faced with a shooter in their own school. It shouldn’t happen, and yet it does.
I remember going through safety drills at school and noticing the scared faces of the younger students. I remember thinking how unnatural it was to have such drills in a place of learning to keep the future of our race, it’s children, safe. How is it that animals, when under attack, protect their children—and yet, we haven’t arisen, as individuals, to make all the changes we can make to kick school shootings in the annals of our embarrassing history?
Prayers are very good; we should be praying for the kids at each of these schools, those who made it and those who didn’t, as well as for the amazing adults who protected them as much as they could. But prayers are meant to fill us with energy to arise and make a difference. And we can, each one of us, do a lot of seemingly little things that will no doubt add up and tip things towards a safer future.
And while school shooting are the main thing I would like to see eradicated, I also want to contribute to creating a world in which no one leaves their home with the threat of any sort of violence hanging over their heads. Small act can contribute to the betterment of the world, so here are the small acts we can do to eradicate school shootings—and even, violence in general—from our collective reality.
At the Level of the Individual: Study Your Reality
Every single neighborhood is different. Take the time to be still; open your eyes and see what the people around you need, what the community around you needs, and how the institutions should, in your opinion, act. Channel the initial rage into a willingness to see things differently—which will help you see opportunities to act that you may never have seen before.
At the Level of the Individual: Reach Out To Those Suffering
One thing I noticed is that in many cases, the perpetrator was isolated; left alone, he seems to have had the time to mull over some pretty dark thoughts to the point of doing the unthinkable. These people are not easy to be around or to talk to; but they are also the ones who need it the most. As an individual, it’s exhausting to nurture a relationship with someone who has so much darkness in them. However, as an individual, we can talk to our groups of friends and encourage all of them to reach out, collectively to anyone who is isolated and alone. One thread cannot carry the weight of an elephant; but is all the threads are weaved together correctly, the ensuing fabric can carry such weight, if not more. It can support the isolated, the depressed, the oppressed, the bullied—and not only potentially contribute from keeping someone from doing the unthinkable, but also, potentially contribute to preventing bullying and suicide.
At the Level of the Individual: Engage Gun Owners in Conversation
Again and again, we make the mistake of demonizing groups of people, putting them on the defensive. I am sure that most gun owners also wish for school shooting to end. Don’t focus on the ones who are irrationally attached to their guns at the expense of the lives of children. Rather, look for the gun owners trying to find a solution that will allow them to keep their guns while keeping children safe. Have conversations with them about how to create a society where gun ownership can go hand-in-hand with the eradication of school shootings.
Very few people are able to be fair-minded when being attacked; but maybe if we engage in a constructive, open conversation—if we go from “us versus them” to “us versus the unsafe environment for our children”—maybe then, being on the same side, we can make a change.
At the Level of the Community: Create Support Spaces for the Suffering
Parallel to individual efforts to reach out to those who are suffering, we can create spaces where those who are suffering can go to in order to get support. Support can be quite simple; it can simply be having something to do to channel negative feelings, such as sports, reading, arts and crafts, etc. Love playing soccer? Maybe a neighborhood park would be willing to host weekly “drop-in” games, and all they need is for someone to ask. Love reading? Maybe a neighborhood library would be willing to start a book club if someone asks. Love arts and crafts? Maybe a neighborhood coffee shop would be willing to start a weekly arts and crafts drop-in group if someone asks.
Sometimes people just can’t think of asking for help or of creating a space where people who need help can get it. My neighborhood has all of the abovementioned—and they were all created in response to requests from clients. And all the events mentioned allow for relationships to emerge, and have contributed to create, within the urban jungle that I live in, a place where neighbors know each other and people stop on the sidewalk to have a chat.
At the Level of the Community: Don’t Support the Gun Industry
Don’t buy guns, don’t romanticize guns, don’t take shooting lessons. These are the easy ones.
A trickier question is that of guns in the media. Should we boycott any media—television, movies, and books—than contain even a single gun? Should we boycott them if there are guns other than in the hands of law-enforcement agents? What about inspirational movies in which someone moves beyond a life of gun violence?
I am not sure where to draw the line, but I do think that extremely violent media is the first that needs to go. So let’s start by boycotting those we personally think are extremely violent. Let’s have conversations about the need for guns in media, and collectively, see where we should go.
At the Level of the Institutions: Make Your Voice Heard
Write to your representatives at the local, regional, and national level. Even if you are not in the United States, make sure that your country does have good gun control laws and that they are not being undermined by the gun industry and other interests. Encourage others to do so, as well.
It might seem like a big task, but you can simplify it by not reinventing the wheel each time. You can send the same message, with small adjustments, to your local, regional, and national representative. Similarly, your family and friends can send the same messages as well, only changing the signature. And resend your messages regularly, until you have a satisfactory answer. Imagine if you and your family and friends—so, about 40-50 people at least—all send the same messages every single week. And imagine if even only 5 of your friends engage their family and friends. Right there, we have 300 people sending messages every week. I think that each reader can easily get a group of 300 going—now imagine your local, regional, and national representative getting all these messages, week after week, asking for schools safe from gun violence, until they respond to be in a satisfying way. Pretty powerful stuff, no?
The items on this list may seem like they cannot effect change in of themselves. But yet again, we have to remember, that when a drop joins forces with other drops, they can become an ocean.
What have you done or intend to do to contribute to safer schools?