Like clockwork, the mainstream media is using the tragic school shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas to push for greater gun-control laws. They are joined by all the usual Leftist bloviators, including far too many Catholic bishops. In response, many on the Right, such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz, are pushing for armed guards at all our schools. Neither solution, however, even attempts to look at the roots of the problem, and both solutions would do little to solve the problem and likely would make things worse.
Whenever a tragedy like this happens, social media and the 24-hour news channels are awash with immediate “hot takes.” None of these hot takes, whether from liberal or conservative commentators, look beyond the surface problem; they complain either of too-easy access to guns or not enough security. Below the surface, however, are a multitude of problems, most of which have no easy legislative solutions (which is why they are ignored).
What are some of these underlying problems? They are legion.
First, most of these shootings happen in public schools, which too often are breeding grounds for malcontents and the mentally unstable. This should not be surprising, as the very foundational principle of public schools is a lie: that “secular” education is possible. Boys and girls are a composite of body, mind, and soul, and any education that ignores one aspect—such as the soul—will fail to truly educate the human person. Further, public schools are Petri dishes of experimentation of the latest educational fads (including demonic ones like encouraging boys to say they are girls and vice versa), most of which do nothing to form well-adjusted young men and women.
Modern public schools are also fundamentally unsuited to the education of boys and young men. They too often want these bundles of physical energy to sit still for hours each day, and then when they naturally rebel against those unnatural restrictions they are punished or, even worse, medicated.
Another problem that can’t be ignored is the impact of the Covid lockdowns and restrictions. There’s some evidence that these policies had an impact on last week’s Buffalo shooter, and we know there’s been an increase in mental health issues among young people from the lockdowns. The idea that you could simply force every child in America to essentially be in solitary confinement for months, then require them to wear masks all day and keep their distance from their peers, then convince them that they could kill their grandmas if they weren’t super-duper careful, then tell them that everyone is a dangerous vector of disease, and this would have no impact on their mental wellbeing is ludicrous.
Then there is the problem of fatherlessness. Most of these mass shooters do not have fathers in their lives. We live in a culture where manhood in general and fathers in particular are demeaned and degraded. To be a strong father is something to ridicule rather than to praise. Add to that our divorce culture and you have a recipe for young men with no models of how to be mature, well-balanced adult men.
There’s also the lack of healthy communities. Drive through a typical American suburb in the evening and what do you see? Kids playing in the street and grownups interacting? Hardly. You see empty yards and blue light emanating from house windows as everyone stares at their screens from separate rooms. This is not healthy for the body, mind, or soul.
Another factor is the weakening hold of religion on our culture. Since the 1960’s, but particularly since 2000, more and more people are leaving organized religion altogether. Young people today are often brought up not only to be non-religious, but anti-religious. The “nones” now dominate the landscape. Studies have shown that religious people are healthier and happier, yet families are increasingly fleeing religion as if it were a deadly virus.
And of course there is the underlying abortion culture that permeates our society. Any country that allows its most innocent members to be dismembered for convenience is fundamentally demonic and will reap the consequences. Pope John Paul II called it the culture of death, and death seeps into every crevice of our society. Pope Francis calls it a “throw-away culture,” and he’s right: we treat human life as no more valuable than the wrapper from a McDonald’s cheeseburger. It’s insane to think that doesn’t impact the modern mind.
These aren’t even all the underlying problems; we could mention excessive (and violent) video game playing, widespread sexual abuse of minors, the negative aspects of social media, an unwillingness to let boys settle their differences with healthy physical confrontations, and much more.
So, what is the solution? It should be clear that these are not easy problems to overcome, and none are solved by more legislation. Making it harder to obtain a gun doesn’t address any of the above issues, and likely will cause other, worse problems.
But armed guards at every school won’t help, either. A number of years ago, while I was involved in prison ministry and regularly visited a number of correctional facilities, I had to go to the local public high school to register one of my home-schooled daughters for a test. This was a typical suburban, middle-class school—not inner-city or known for any violence. I was struck, however, by how much visiting that school reminded me of visiting a jail. The security was similar and the constant surveillance was similar. No one was free to walk the halls without explicit permission and a pass. Teachers and guards hovered over the students while they were eating lunch. While I understand why a school might do this, it’s not a healthly environment. If you treat people like criminals, they will act like criminals. The negative psychological impact of spending all day, every day in such an environment cannot be dismissed.
It’s possible for individual families to address and overcome the problems I mentioned above. Homeschool your kids, don’t get divorced, go to church, be part of your community—these are ways to make sure your kids are far less likely to turn out to be the shooter or the victims of these attacks. Yet on a macro scale, none of these problems are solved easily or overnight. It will take a massive cultural shift—specifically a shift to Christ and His Church—in order to truly overcome them. Until then, we need to do all we can in our own families and communities to address the real problems that lead to these tragedies instead of looking for a silver bullet in the form of more legislation.