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Beyond gun control: Exploring the underlying issues of school shootings


Joe Raedle | Getty Images | AFP

PARKLAND, FL: Nekhi Charlemagne writes a message on a cross setup in a makeshift memorial in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 19, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested and charged 19 year old former student Nikolas Cruz for the February 14 shooting that killed 17 people.

John Burger - published on 03/06/18

Experts look at prospects of virtue education, forgiveness and responding to red flags.

The national conversation since the February 14 Parkland, Florida, school shooting that left 17 people dead has been dominated by gun control. The general expectation now seems to be for legislators to fix the problem of school shootings with laws that will make it impossible or extremely difficult for people with bad intentions to get guns.

Accompanying this debate, several commentators have raised the issue of mental health. And, late last week, President Donald J. Trump reportedly called a meeting at the White House of companies that produce video games, apparently to explore the question of what role those games might play in leading young people to act violently against others.

And yet, as a nation, America seems to be no closer to finding an answer to why some people carry out mass shootings, especially in schools, and what can be done to prevent them in the future.

If lawmakers are able to find the perfect gun control measure, will that make the problem go away? If government spends more money on mental health care, will that solve it? If entertainment executives can be persuaded to produce video games with no violence, will our society have found the answer?

Or are there other, deeper issues that America is not talking about—and might not even know that they need to?

Aleteia surveyed several experts, including medical and mental healthcare professionals and researchers, to get their take.

More to read: South Florida massacre raises 2018 national death toll of school shootings to 23

Since 2013, there have bee 59 deaths in school shootings nationwide, according to the group Everytown for Gun Safety. Though there has been debate over the advocacy group’s inclusion of incidents such as accidental firings and suicides near campus, which seem to make the problem sound worse than it is, excessive anger is “becoming far more prevalent,” in the view of Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, director of the Institute for Marital Healing outside of Philadelphia and a spokesman for the Catholic Medical Association. A major source of that anger, he said, is school bullying.

“When children are bullied the response is very significant anger,” Fitzgibbons said.

Dr. Gregory Bottaro, author of The Mindful Catholic, sees certain similarities among many school shooters in terms of social isolation and the proclivity to violence, indulgence in video games and social media, a “narcissistic disregard for social norms” and “a detachment from what’s normal in society, which requires a kind of empathy for how your actions affect other people.”

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