There are few things more morally offensive than proposals to end gun violence, especially gun violence among children, that do not work.
Evidential reasoning couldn’t be more clear on the topic of gun control: It doesn’t take guns away from violent criminals. Even if that weren’t the case, gun control has a history of leaving civilian populations vulnerable to tyrannical governments.
With political extremism on the rise, gun control proposals are more dangerous than ever.
However, this leaves us with a significant dilemma: Mass shootings are also on the rise. Guns have been more accessible in previous times, with fewer regulations governing them, than they are today, but mass shootings were nowhere near as prevalent. What’s changed?
I submit that gun violence isn’t a gun access problem, but a mental health problem.
Suicides are also alarmingly on the increase. There’s a mental health crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen since the decline of the Roman Empire. Mental fitness is severely neglected, which is unfortunate for the same reason gun control proposals are unfortunate: We have mountains of evidence pointing us in the correct direction yet we move in an opposite way.
I’ve previously worked as a research associate on mental health. I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews with at-risk youth and coordinated the research with various literature reviews on the subject to determine what allows youth to make positive life choices, even those from unhealthy backgrounds, and what causes youth to make negative life choices, even those that come from healthy backgrounds.
There are four characteristics of resilience-positive mental health, and they all begin with A: Achievement, people need to feel as though they’ve accomplished something. Autonomy, people have to feel as though they have a degree of control over their lives — they need to take ownership over themselves. Acceptance, people need to be ratified by their peers and have a network of support. And lastly, altruism, people need to feel as though they’re having a positive impact rather than a negative impact on the lives of others.
Consider their negations. People who feel like they’re failures, or as though they have no control, or are rejected by their peers, or are reclusive and inward with their thinking, tend to have much less mental fitness than those with the opposite characteristics.
Achievement. Youth should be encouraged to take up hobbies that give them a sense of accomplishment. This isn’t the suggestion that everyone should be given a 1st prize trophy, where kids can easily detect the lie. But rather wood working, auto-repair, arts, sports or martial arts — these things have an end result, something that can be discerned as an area of excellence.
Autonomy. Although structure can be positive for kids, asphyxiation is not. Kids should receive more autonomy as their reasoning capabilities increase. Regulations designed to eliminate choices that could lead to failure, will wind up guaranteeing failure. Each of these, in turn, must be weeded out to develop a child’s healthy, decision-making criteria. Youth need to be taught to take ownership over their lives.
Telling a child “Don’t smoke!” isn’t nearly as effective and going over the impacts of throat and lung cancer, and asking them if they wish for that to happen to them, then asking what they could do to prevent it. Make them the decision-drivers.
Acceptance. Sports clubs, inclusionary church groups, strong friendships with mentally-fit people, artistic communities, after school clubs, book studies, gaming communities, and fan clubs can all contribute to sentiments of acceptance.
Altruism. Volunteer groups, insisting they help friends, and teaching them how to empower others, increases the probability that youth will make positive life choices rather than reclusive life choices.
Mental health is deteriorating in our culture. There are various causes of this but the remedies have been known to us for decades. People need to take ownership over their lives, reflect on their accomplishments, have a network of support for when life goes wrong, and have a desire to help others. Developing these traits will do far more to end gun violence than statistically failed approaches like gun control.
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