Photo by annie bolin on Unsplash

When Will the Shootings End?

“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable. It was over.” This was a tweet from Dan Hodges three years after the Sandy Hook Massacre.

Yesterday it happened again. There was another school shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, that killed two and wounded four others, including the gunman.

When with the shootings end?

Fear is reactive and stems from unfamiliarity

I thought it a bit ironic that yesterday I released a podcast episode in which my guest, Richie Crowley, spoke of conversations he’d had with locals as he rode his bicycle across America. The topic: guns.

What stood out for me in our conversation was when Richie stated that unfamiliarity breeds fear, and rather than having conversations that help allay our fears, we tend to stay with the familiar and react from that place of fear.

We need conversations, yes, but we need real action that will stem the epidemic, an epidemic that is normalizing mass shootings in the United States at schools, stores, public events, and in the workplace. This epidemic has a numbing effect, but as I watched the press conference yesterday I was moved. I saw a spokeswoman in the background whose pained and contorted expression was that of a person whose heart was shattering in real-time. Her pain became my pain. I so wanted to be there with her and comfort her.

When will the shootings end?

Feeling Marginalized and Discounted

At the heart of this, I believe, is the need for people to feel that they count, that they matter.

As an American living in France, I’ve faced the dismissiveness of clerks at banks, cell phone stores, and car dealerships because I could not produce an electric bill to prove I had residency. To be unable to get reasonably necessary things such as a cell phone, bank account, or a car and to be told, “Sorry can’t help you.” after having been well established in my American life for close to 30 years is maddening. It felt like I did not count, although I am a person living in a foreign country legally.

When the clerks’ energy felt dismissive, their air judgmental, I could feel the ire rise inside me. I thought I matter! I exist! I count! But nothing I could show them would grant me the things I was attempting to gain.

I am unable to get a standard cell phone plan, one where you don’t have to reload minutes each month, even though I now have the right papers. That is unless I pay a 265€ non-interest bearing security deposit. I also had to rely on the kindness of my landlord. He vouched for me with his id card and other documents so that I could open a bank account. Not being able to do these things has the power to make a person feel marginalized.

I admit it doesn’t feel good to be treated like you are an outsider and unacceptable. It made me feel angry. And for a less self-aware person, these feelings could quite easily erupt into an argument or even violence.

When we attach ourselves to or identify with something, we can tend to believe that this is how and why we matter. This validation can come in different forms. For some in the US, it comes as the right to bear arms, even automatic weapons, whose sole purpose is to kill a lot of people in the blink of an eye.

When will the shootings end?

Identity and Attachment as a Salve

In 2008, then-Senator Obama made this remark:

“You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Obama was criticized for this remark, and perhaps he should have been. But maybe one reason some continue to resist changes to gun control laws is because it is something they still have, can identify with, and haven’t lost. Perhaps this makes them feel like they matter.

On some level, I get it.

We all need to feel like we count, that our existence matters. Without this sense of validation, we might cling to things that make us feel relevant–guns, political affiliations, or even having a standard cell phone plan you don’t have to reload each month.

Feeling that you don’t count in whatever manner that comes about–by being bullied, discriminated against, or marginalized in some fashion–can result in extreme animosity or even mental breaks that can send a person into action to remedy slights, judgments, or injustices, perceived or otherwise. And sometimes, those who suffer from mental illness are not seen thus, in a sense, might not rise to the level of “counting” in society, not until they commit a horrible act such as a mass murder.

From Columbine to Sandy Hook to Parkland to Aurora there was a shooter who felt he didn’t matter or whose mental health issues didn’t matter and so were not taken more seriously. I am sure that this will be the case for the Saugus shooting from yesterday.

When will the shootings end?

Feeding Our Wolf

I don’t know when the shootings will end.

But I do know that we need to have conversations about those things we find unfamiliar and which scare us–guns, gun control, mental health issues, our differences, and even our similarities.

We also need to find a way to be more compassionate and aware of our feelings of marginalization and those same sentiments in others from our communities.

We need to recognize our frustration, annoyance, and anger in situations where we feel disparaged or discounted.

We need to notice and aid those who need assistance, be it in seeing their own relevance or ensuring they are not a danger to themselves or others.

And above all, we need to understand the Truth of who we are; that is, at our spiritual essence, we matter. We matter far beyond those things to which we feel attached or with which we identify, and which we have lost or have been denied.

I recently heard a story called the “Wolf of Gubbio” in which St. Francis of Assisi was sent to get rid of a wolf that was eating the townspeople of Gubbio. St. Francis went to meet the wolf and returned with a simple and unexpected message. He told the townspeople, “The answer is simple. Feed your wolf.”

Though the townspeople did not want to have anything to do with the wolf or to consider it as part of their community, they listened and fed the wolf.

Remarkably the killings stopped.

When will the shootings end?

Perhaps when we feed our wolf.

--

--

--

Bold, fledgling entrepreneur, author, podcast host Discovering Courage, Finding Freedom, Living in France! Adventures.Insights. Stories. thecouragecatalyst.com

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

When School Shootings Become Expected

The Paternalistic Push for “Permitless” Carry

On Guns, Biden is Trying

I don’t have any spare children

“If You See Something, Say Something”

America Is The Wild, Wild West

The Failure of Gun Background Checks

They Said… ‘The Teenagers Scare The Living S**T Out Of Me’

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Patricia Brooks

Patricia Brooks

Bold, fledgling entrepreneur, author, podcast host Discovering Courage, Finding Freedom, Living in France! Adventures.Insights. Stories. thecouragecatalyst.com

More from Medium

On Violence

Community | Wellbeing

I am Coping. Mental Health Awareness &