It’s Not All About Guns. It’s About Education & Love

 In Promoting Tolerance

A wave of violence continues to flood the American landscape with repeated attacks of hatred. These mass shootings, most motivated by racism and bigotry, have been perpetrated by ill-minded and sick individuals.  Additionally, there is no doubt that the rise of neoconservatism and white supremacy combined with populist rhetoric have encouraged crime in our country. After each of these deadly onslaughts, many citizens demand stricter gun laws and tougher regulation. However, considering the dysfunctional mental state of these murderers, restricting guns may provide only short-term patches to a complex problem begging for longer-term solutions. Burdening our citizens with added restrictions only brings on a barrage of argument about the Second Amendment. While political controversy dominates the conversation, the root cause of the problem continues to be ignored: the lack of core-values education needed to raise and foster healthy mindsets in the younger generations.

Two mass shootings took place within less than 24 hours of one another: The first in El Paso, Texas followed by a second incident in Dayton Ohio the next morning. The El Paso shooter, 21-year-old Patrick Cruisius, is believed to have written an anti-Hispanic manifesto explaining his racist motives. Connor Betts, the Dayton shooter, killed his male companion and his own sister among seven others (CNN). No stable individual would ever think of shooting innocent people or, for that matter, a member of his own family. Behind the scenes of what we refer to as “a criminal mind,” there are wounds that have not healed. These wounds, particularly vulnerable to infection by hateful rhetoric and continued violence, further exacerbate over time.

Waiting for lawmakers to take a stand and demanding decisive action will neither heal the instability of these unhealthy minds nor educate our citizens as to how guns are to be properly used. Guns, like cars, have the potential to destroy lives, yet both hold beneficial purpose: In addition to hunting or leisure purposes, guns are to be used in defensive situations the way cars are intended for safe transportation. It is the finger on the trigger or the hand steering the wheel that makes all the difference, not the object itself. In light of this, those possessing guns must be fully cognizant of the destructive power their weapon holds. More importantly, proper training guided by fundamental values, ethics, and morals instilled from a young age are key to a long-term solution.

When it comes to gun control, it is worthwhile comparing the process of obtaining a weapon in other countries relative to that in our own country. In Germany, Japan or Israel, for example, guns are also available for purchase by its citizens. The major difference lies in the ease of actually obtaining a weapon. In most US states, all it takes is a quick background check involving criminal and immigration status. Beyond this and the requisite cash, the gun or rifle is yours. In Germany and Japan, it takes as long as 10-15 years to acquire a weapon, as one must undergo a series of exams, security checks, and training sessions (New York Times). In Israel, those holding a gun are army-trained, background-checked and educated about a gun’s purpose, responsibility and meaning: Israelis’ priority is defense. 18-year-old girls openly carry around fully-automatic weapons while casually walking the streets. Despite this, other than terrorist-led attacks, Israel has not seen mass shooting incidents like those we’ve experienced in this country. Unlike the US, gun culture in Israel and other countries is radically different.  One common thread in these countries is a strong civics engagement and education. While controlling gun ownership is important, education plays a crucial role.  This starts with the younger generation, among them, future gun owners.

Education in America has been seriously lacking in basic civic values. Subjects surrounding ethics and core principles have taken a backseat to vocational or pragmatic coursework in our schools. We need more instruction in diversity, respect, and inclusivity to instill what is civil and acceptable in our society. We need to bring global awareness into our classrooms, so children learn early on to accept all cultures, races, and ethnicities.

Parenting is also an essential piece to the puzzle. The teaching of empathy and love in the home instills a duty of responsibility to family and community. Positive experiences tend to mold our children into caring and conscientious citizens. Alternately, abused or neglected children can harbor resentments that, later in life, could manifest themselves in tragic ways.

While gun control laws must be strengthened, it is imperative that new generations of Americans receive a complete education, one inclusive of civics, healthy values, compassion, empathy, and love. Instilling diversity and ethics will mold children into accepting and becoming more tolerant individuals who can understand and respect differences. The solution to this complicated debate over gun control begins and ends with how our children are raised and the way their minds are educated over time: It’s not all about guns, it’s about education, values and love.

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