Jensen-Coon: The Deeper Issue – Beyond Gun Control


By Kelcy Jensen-

Sex, drugs and rock-in-roll used to be what made parents anxious about sending their kids to public schools and out into the world. Now, parents’ fears stem from society’s inability to control violence. It would seem there has been a rise in school shootings and mass shootings in general. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 39 mass shootings since the beginning of 2018, – mass shooting meaning more than 4 killed in one location – several of which have taken place at schools. That is a startling number.

Gun control seems to be everyone’s solution, and perhaps there are some regulations that could be enacted to help protect schools against violence. Do these potential enactments have to entail taking away gun rights? What about other weapons? These questions are debatable, but answering them won’t provide a solution to end mass killings. If we get rid of guns, I do not believe mass murders will cease; crimes will only be committed in different ways because people who plan and execute these types of crimes are willing to be creative in order to achieve their aims.

I have often felt that President Trump makes some ridiculous comments. Although, in an address, after the Florida shooting President Trump on speaking about a solution to gun violence wisely stated that we need to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health.” In my opinion, people kill people with weapons as tools to achieve horrific ends. What needs to be addressed is the state of the individuals who are committing these heinous crimes. It is time that mental health is addressed and taken more seriously.

Altruism: according to the dictionary this is defined as the principle or practice of unselfish concern for devotion to the welfare of others. What does altruism mean to us as individuals? Is it something that we think about often, and maybe even make daily goals to achieve? When the Beatles sang, “all you need is love,” did we take this to heart? I think we carry more responsibility to ensure those around us are looked after than what is commonly believed. The government cannot know how every individual is doing on a personal level in order to help those that are suffering and on the verge of doing something crazy. It’s up to us as a community to step in.

We need more systems of stewardship and altruism to engulf our communities. The pivotal moment for this idea to be effective comes before people hit their psychotic breaking points. Prevention requires early attention. Our system of regulating individual children in schools is more important than regulating what weapons are in their homes. This type of system needs not only to be implemented in schools but all organizations, communities and households.

In a study done on poor urban African American communities, researchers discovered the power of altruism in changing the lives of those who embrace it. Researchers decided to do this study on this specific population because of the high rates of violence: witnessing violence, being victims and losing loved ones to homicide. Many members of populations susceptible to violence are at a higher risk of committing violence, being incarcerated and dropping out of school because of the devastating conditions they’re immersed in daily. These individuals were also all classified in poorer socioeconomic statuses, and 40 percent of these teens knew someone who had been murdered in the past year. I am not sure all of us can actually imagine the devastation and psychological strain these types of traumas create for young people.

The researchers, Rious and Cunningham, in their article “Altruism as a Buffer for Antisocial Behavior for African American Adolescents Exposed to Community Violence,” found that those who showed more altruistic behaviors were less likely to engage in antisocial behaviors i.e actions intended to cause distress to others, a characteristic commonly attributed to violent criminals. Even in the face of serious community violence those who showed more altruistic behaviors—going to church, engaging in extracurricular activities, giving up their time volunteering—were less likely to show antisocial behaviors.

Altruism is an important factor to enhance the lives of young kids because it can increase their chances of a brighter, less violent future. What if each kid had an assigned friend looking out for them or a peer they could trust? In the most recent shooting in Florida, the suspect, Nicholas Cruze, reached out in several times in a cry for help. He posted pictures online, and he texted the boy he was living with before and after he committed the shooting. He went to his peers first. I think having some kind of regulatory system involving the students would promote unity, altruism and safety. This would also give adults and leaders more insight into what is happening to each individual on a more personal and detailed level.

Helping people become better is not just a matter of governmental policy; it is a task that takes a whole community’s commitment. We need the people with the most influence on at-risk kids to help make sure they are participating in activities that will help foster altruism and prosocial behaviors. We are not going to stop these kids from finding access to weapons, drugs and violence if they really want it; but we can influence their outlooks on the world and their actions in it.

It is time to pay it forward and look to a kinder tomorrow. Why not start a chain of kindness that ripples throughout countries and cities? We can begin here and now in Salt Lake City and on our campus. All it takes is a kind act by one to inspire another. While doing this please remember the value of being aware of another’s emotional and mental health. The government may play a part, but the greater responsibility is on the community to look out for one another, to do good in the world and to prevent those who may be capable of harming others from causing pain.

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