As a 2004 graduate of Michigan State University, I have some connections to the area and I am very upset and angry about the mass murder that occurred at Michigan State on February 13, 2023. I have a friend who was scheduled to teach in one of the halls where the shooting took place–later that week. I am upset because of the loss of innocent lives. I am angry because our culture and government have put very little actions into place, despite mountains of research, to work on preventing mass shootings.
In this case in particular, the murderer had had multiple complaints filed against him and he was still allowed to legally purchase multiple guns. Unfortunately, given multiple factors (loose or non-existent gun control laws, a lack of collaboration between police, courts, and mental health professionals, a culture that celebrates violence, etc.), these types of events are all too common. Unfortunately for the Michigan State University community, tragedy just struck the community with three dead and five gravely wounded.
In fact, The United States of America is the only developed country (“first world”) nation on the entire planet Earth where mass shootings happen with such regularity. That’s right. There have been a few mass shootings in other developed countries–and other random acts of violence–but statistically, the United States is well above any other country in this type of mass violence against unarmed citizens. Here is some useful data on this fact.
What measures can we take to prevent tragedies like this in the future?
Well for a start, actual gun control in the United States would likely reduce the availability of guns to people who are bent on destruction. For instance, if I want to drive a car, I have to take a class, take a test on driving safety, register the car with the state, get a license, and renew it every few years. And driving a car is dangerous—even though a car’s sole purpose isn’t shooting a target or killing another living being, cars are responsible for at least 46,000 deaths per year in the United States. Why isn’t a similar system that is used to regulate the drivers of vehicles established for those that want to purchase and use guns?
Responsible gun owners would still be able to have their guns, but it would limit the speed with which one could access a gun and also limit those who don’t know how to use them properly. Why are we talking about guns? Because there are no other handheld weapons that can nearly instantly kill multiple people standing nearby—guns do this by firing a bullet or bullets through the body of a fellow human being. In most cases, these bullets wound a person by penetrating their body and causing a loss of blood or hitting a vital organ—resulting in death. Other times, people who are shot do not die, but live with a major disability as a result.
*Note to hardline gun advocates: You may believe in a well-regulated militia against a “tyrannical government” as your reason for fighting all gun control measures among private citizens, but you are missing the point. If you have taken a look at the US military lately–Their capacity for destruction is unprecedented in the history of the world (from drones to jets to robots to tanks to bombs and missiles–your guns and little militia will NOT stand a chance against a “tyrannical government.” Times have changed.
No, gun control would not fix the issue of mass shootings–but it would reduce the ability of “less sophisticated” perpetrators from accessing guns so easily. It would likely not stop the sophisticated sociopathic type killers (such as the Las Vegas shooting that killed 59 and injured over 500). Again, there is no panacea for stopping violence, but there are “common sense” actions that State and Federal Governments could take to make it more difficult to purchase weapons such as a gun, which would then correlate to the availability and opportunity stats of crimes and likely decrease such incidents.
Not that guns are the only issue, however the United States of America does have a massive gun violence problem (not even considering mass shootings), and part of that comes from absurdly easy availability, lack of waiting periods, lack of background checks, the gun-show loophole, etc. As stated above, there are less steps needed to own a gun than there are for registering and driving a car (with a legal driver’s license). There are 120 privately held guns in the United States of America per 100 citizens. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death in children under 18 years old in the United States.
The United States of America also has a cultural problem with the glorification of violence through all sorts of social media, movies, and music, as well as through youtube, TV, and radio “talk shows.” I am not sure what the solution for this problem is, but I do know that the market speaks and so you can do your part by not supporting movies, tv shows, radio shows or any other publications that glorify violence or minimize human rights.
The United States of America also needs massive police reform in multiple areas. For instance, why do the police have to handle so many mental health safety checks? One idea is for more funding for a division of mental health workers to be embedded in the police force and work to help de-escalate potentially violent individuals and petition for others to not have access to firearms. I’ll leave police reform to the experts. But certainly expanding police services and collaboration with a department of mental health (filled with licensed therapists and behavioral experts) in every police department would certainly help identify potential offenders and help the police in many situations.
The above ideas are not the full solution by any means, but they are some ideas in which we can help the citizens of the United States have a more safe and peaceful existence. Critical thinkers of all ages understand that there is not a one size fits all solution to almost any problem. There are many headwinds in the United States that have brought about the current volume of mass shootings as well as deadly gun violence, in general. However, any person or pundit making a straw man distraction or “all or nothing” argument about gun violence is deceitful and or cynical. There are many solutions—and it is true that nothing will EVER prevent all violence—but there are many actions the local and federal government of the USA can take to reduce violence now. As a private citizen, it is important to think about progress in our own lives and in our communities. We have some power if we work together. Any type of meaningful change is usually hard fought and slow, as many defend the status quo.
● Take Action and Get Involved to Prevent Future Violence
- Donate to or sign the petition for The National Violence Prevention Hotline
- Bring in mental health programming to your school or workplace through Be Nice
- Get involved on the fight for common sense gun laws
- Learn about how we can change how the Police force functions by integrating mental health workers
- Stop patronizing cultish YouTube personalities and talking heads on the radio and TV that minimize the gun violence issues in the USA, placate a simplistic worldview with simple answers and catch phrases, as well as minimizing mental health concerns in our country.
- Get involved in the lives of those who are isolated or seem like “outcasts” to see if there is an opportunity to have them seek mental health help.
Do NOT wait for others to take action. Spending even 1-4 hours a month working on this cause can and will make a difference over time.
● If you believe someone in your life may become violent
- You may need to call 988 or your local police department to get real-time advice or request a wellness check.
- If they are not threatening you, you may get involved in a conversation with them. Try to engage them on the personal issues they are facing and offer help or encouragement.
- If possible, engage them in conversation about possibly attending counseling.
- Remember, in hindsight, almost every mass shooting that has occurred in the last 25 years, someone knew that it might happen or they were worried about the person involved before the shooting began. Sometimes it is important to be nosy and get in your neighbor’s business.
As discussed in the previous article, if you or someone you know is experiencing mental health symptoms due to this mass murder event at Michigan State University, please seek help, some referrals are in the previous article we published.