There’s a lack of pragmatism in play today, but having similar problems play out in similar ways time and again would seem to support the point. Having extensively researched the mass shootings we’ve had in the US over the years, along with the different factors that play into the radicalization, I can point to four general issues that may play a role seeking a solution. Gun control, hate, mental health, and religion. Before jumping to any conclusions on where I’m going here, hear me out.
Gun Control: In the wake of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, Florida passed comprehensive, bipartisan reform. While controversial, as any reform is, in the year-plus since it went into effect, Florida hasn’t been subjected to another mass shooting. The “red flag” provision to remove firearms from those who’re determined to be severe mental health risks has been used successfully on numerous occasions and arrests have been made for threats made against others on social media. At the time we were passing the reform in Florida, which I supported to the ire of many listeners who otherwise usually agree with me on issues, I raised the question about whether this should become a national model for reform. We should be willing to have this conversation. Gun ownership has reached record highs. The law may not be perfect, but it’s been effective thus far and has struck a good balance between the right to responsibly bear arms and deal with the risks posed by those who aren’t of sound mind.
Hate: We have terror watch lists for a reason. It’s increasingly clear that racism isn’t just a matter of freedom of expression but radicalization. The forums where radicalization is occurring should be treated with similar scrutiny as foreign adversaries who could cause us harm. What’s been happening in many of these attacks has been telegraphed to a degree and is a form of domestic terror.
Mental Health: This ties to gun control and religion. What we should be asking ourselves as a society is why is it that guns aren’t new, mental health conditions aren’t new, but the proliferation of violence and mass murder is? Since Columbine in 1999 through today, we’ve seen a ramp-up of these problems that are only getting worse. What’s the only catalyst change over the last 20 years that didn’t exist previously? The internet. There’s endless evidence suggesting that the average user of social media feels worse after using it than they did before. All recent mass shooters have had social media accounts with negative material. As we’re aware, some have even “broadcasted” their attacks on social media. It’s clear that social media plays a role, a highly negative role, with increasing violence in our society.
Religion: I can go on and on with this one. I can point you back to the Harvard Research showing a direct connection between those who adhere to religion and those who don’t. By the age of 20, those raised with religious practices on average are 18% happier, 30% more likely to help others and 33% less likely to engage in substance abuse.
What’s more, those who fared best were those who prayed daily. In other words, having faith in one’s life in any capacity provided benefit. But what have we done as a society? Just the opposite. How is it that we think we can remove God from all government buildings, including schools, make it taboo at work and society at large, yet expect something positive to come from it? You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the notion that there’s good and evil all around us. If there’s an absence of good what do you get?
None of this is easy. Playing cheap political games and doing nothing is what much of the country has been doing for some time. Pragmatism seems to be in short supply these days. If you’ve made it this far and you’re not mad, you're probably part of the solution.
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