I saw a list of questions asked on a FaceBook post from one of my former teachers today. The list was long and pretty comprehensive, asking about the consequences of arming teachers in public schools. Ranging from who would bear the ultimate liability of an accidental shooting to who would pay to arm teachers and train them, there were some pretty good questions on the list.
The thing I found annoying about the list of questions wasn’t the questions themselves, so much as it was an attempt to spark a conversation in an echo chamber. I know I’m guilty of this, too, asking questions just to spark a conversation and to be told I’m right. Maybe that wasn’t the intent, but that is how the conversation and the comments quickly went- only one person dared to say anything other than the idea of arming teachers was ridiculous and dangerous. That person, a fellow Los Alamos High Schooler, made the comment that cars were actually more deadly than guns, and had been used in more killings than guns were by terrorists. While high schoolers in the US might not be terrorists, cars certainly account for more deaths and injuries among high schoolers than guns do, but no one is up in arms about that. According to the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) 2820 teens died in car accidents in 2016. Now, I’m not sure about the math, after all, I didn’t get an A in any of my math classes in school, but I’m pretty sure there have been nowhere near 2820 injuries or deaths by guns in that same year. I could be wrong, the data is hard to find.
According to some statistics I could find, there were roughly 8000 teens that died in 2015 due to accident, suicide, and homicide. That included all deaths, so roughly 3000 of them were killed by cars. That leaves 5000 for other accidents, homicides, and suicides. Suicide is shown to be a major killer in teens, and, yes, guns were used in many of those instances. Homicides were also 40% higher in black communities than white communities. That seems interesting to me, as, at least in my experience, black communities tend to run way more Progressive Democrat and have stricter gun control laws. Again, I’m basing that on my experience of living in cities, and not the whole of the country. I’m sure if I dug down a little bit it would not be hard to show that most of the black community lives in inner cities, and when looking at maps that show how counties vote, the big cities are overwhelmingly Democrat.
So what does that tell me? White kids die in car accidents because they are talking on their phones, texting, or drinking and driving, while black kids die due to homicide. Could just be my white privilege speaking though. But we don’t hear about the gun violence in the inner cities, we only hear about gun violence when it starts affecting the whites. That’s interesting, isn’t it? So maybe more gun control is needed in the inner cities, where for the most part it is illegal to have guns anyway, and more phone control in the suburbs. I mean, we are talking about trying to save lives, right? And auto accidents are not a problem in cities- no one has a car, they all ride busses and trains (again, in my experience).
If we are really concerned about kids dying from terrible things, I think the conversation needs to be bigger than the tools that are used. Cars, phones, alcohol, drugs, and guns are all tools used to kill kids. Why is the only one that is constantly attacked the guns? Because it’s low hanging fruit, and one that gets people riled up on both sides. But the conversation shouldn’t be about which method or tool a kid decides to hurt himself (herself, itself) or others, but why the kid decided to do it in the first place. How are they coming up with the tactics to do something like that? There seems to be an incredible amount of planning involved in these shootings, down to how they are going to get the most casualties. Where is this developed? It can’t be from the lessons taught in school, there has to be some other influence. Video games, maybe? Movies?
I think the thing that saddens me the most is that the kids feel their only outlet for anger, hurt, or rage is to kill and hurt others. Obviously there is a problem with teens right now- not just in the murder side of things, but in the suicide part as well. If there are 5000 kids killing themselves or others each year, there is something seriously wrong with how kids are being taught to cope with the challenges of life.
This isn’t new- I know I struggled with depression as a youth, and often had thoughts of killing myself. I never thought about using a gun, mine was more along the lines of driving really fast into an over-pass wall on a freeway. I don’t know why I felt that way, I think I had friends growing up (though its interesting that I’m only in contact with a very few people from that time in my life still), but I never felt like I really fit in. I had some real issues, and didn’t start to get them figured out until the end of my senior year. By that time I had learned to overcome rejection and the peer pressures of high school.
One of the most important things in my life came at that time, too. I was introduced to religion my senior year. I had gone to church as a kid, occasionally, with my families, but never really got into it. But something changed my senior year- I started questioning, started wanting to understand and know more. I was invited to several churches, got to attend some different services, and finally was given a Book of Mormon to read. That book changed my life, and gave me clarity I had been seeking for my entire life. I’m not saying that teens are killing themselves and others because they don’t go to church, but is it possible that the depression I felt in my life stemmed from not knowing who I was, really, and what I was on this earth to do? Can religion, of most any kind, help to give people a direction, and maybe just as important at that time of life, a community to teens? Can it help get them through that trying and difficult time?
I think it can. And if you don’t believe in God or Jesus or any thing like that, that’s fine, I’m not trying to convince you of the doctrine, I’m just stating that finding a faith gave me direction, and helped me get through the end of that trying time, and then through the next few years when some of these teens have gone off the deep end. The ages between 16 and 21 seem to be really dangerous for kids, and having a positive community support system, like the ones found in church youth groups, could be amazing at helping people get through without killing themselves or others.
Definitely something to think about. How can we help kids get meaning in their lives? Will that help? I think so. It did for me any way.