police briefing after school shootingToday started like any other American Tuesday, and the alarming reality of yet another school shooting has flashed across the national newswire.

It’s become a rather common story: School Shooting. X Students, Gunman Dead. Some crazed teenager or lonely adult decides they can’t take it anymore, load up on ammunition, and often with a stolen firearm unload on someone or someones at a place that is supposed to be a sort of safe haven. And for a day or two, maybe a week if it’s bad enough, the cable news channels will be covering every aspect of the event, from the motivation of the gunman to 3D breakdowns of just how things unfolded.

But I wonder, just how of this even seems real to us anymore? When was the last time something like this happened and it shook your soul? I mean, more than the obligatory five minutes of “Gee, that’s awful. I can’t believe someone would do that.” If you’re like me, it was probably Sandy Hook, where one man fatally shot 20 students, 6 teachers, and the his own mother.

It was horrible, and it caused many of us to ask some tough questions, but did you know there have been more than 40 school shootings in the US since Newtown, Connecticut?

Time and time again, the cry of the people is something along the lines of, “How can we stop the next shooting?” or ,”So what can we do about all these shootings?” And usually, “what can we do” is a subtle way of hinting that the government must do something to prevent another massacre. It’s natural, when horrible tragedies and circumstances out of our control take place, it’s completely natural to look to some higher form of power for answers.

Unfortunately, in our culture, the first higher power many look to is the government.

So what can we do?

When I was in elementary school (circa 1992), these shootings were almost unheard of. It’s not that they didn’t happen, but they were certainly rare.

And now they get their own hashtags. #RHShooting

There really is a problem in a country where there are grade school campuses under attack in state after state, and so frequently that you just come to sort of expect one to happen every few weeks or so. It’s definitely a problem, and it is definitely getting worse. We need to do something as a nation about the violence we’re all so accustomed to.

I have an answer, but everyone will probably hate me for it. Spoiler: it doesn’t really involve the government.

It involves an entire generation getting off its lazy parental rear end and starting to teach respect to the next generation. Respect for life, respect for others, for people’s thoughts and ideas. Respect for firearms. My generation didn’t grow up learning very much about respect. At least a lot of us didn’t.

Am I oversimplifying? I think not, because though respect is just one word, teaching and demonstrating the meaning and effects of that word will take the rest of your life. Let’s face it, respect is just gone. Father’s Day commercials are about dads that can’t do anything right. Some little boy telling his mom to Listen Linda became the most popular story on KFOR, and still comes up in conversation three months later! Authority is old-fashioned. Reality TV is all about losing respect for people as you get to know them. We’re in the midst of a culture that seems to place value on cutting down and making fun of others in order to look better or come out on top.

Listen, I’m for gun rights. I don’t believe taking away guns from people who have to volunteer them (i.e. honest people) will help one bit. Not to mention it’s the opposite action of what started this country.

But the government can’t fix this problem. In fact, it didn’t even cause it!

We have to learn how to respect one another as human beings, or we’ll wipe our own species off this planet. There’s no ‘crazy gene’ that people started to be born with 30 years ago causing them to lose mental control and go on rampages. Mental illness may be at the root of most, if not all of these mass shootings of late, but that’s a pretty broad brush and an easy answer.

Even in the most extreme cases where a sociopath with no apparent motive starts taking lives, a background check won’t stop him or her. A sign that says ‘no firearms’ won’t do it. No armed security guard, no vigilant citizen, no amount of force could put an end to all the violence in our country. But without respecting a troubled, mentally ill person on the edge, you’ll never reach them in the first place to try to stop another disaster. Respect. It’s the easiest thing, and it’s the hardest thing.

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