The gun control debate is causing children to die. And not for the reason you think. It has nothing to do with evil gun makers and their advertising or right-wing, gun-hoarding extremists. Nor does it have to do with naive, feel-good liberals or their far-left and semi-fascist policy proposals.

No, it's not the fault of either the left or the right.

It's everyone's fault.

Here's why. Gun control (arguments for or against it aside) is clearly an issue that isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Instead, America has been locked into this back and forth for years about red flag laws, about waiting periods, about a national gun registry, about the constitutionality of gun laws, about banning guns altogether. For years this has been the conversation that the media and our politicians have decided to host. And we have joined the party and raised our cocktail glasses to toasting the rhetoric of those we agreed with.

And the consequences of that choice — which we made — are that innocent children continue to be murdered. Now it's time we put a stop to it.

This is where the nice intro usual goes into an argument for or against gun control. That would only perpetuate the problem Instead, I call upon you — parents, teachers, students, community members, town aldermen, mayors, police officers, doctors, all the people of our towns and cities — I call on you to take real, immediate action to stop school shootings and other attacks and make it harder for people to harm our children.

Do not get sidetracked by the gun debate that the media and politicians are propagating around us. It is just that: a distraction from the real solution. The problem we are facing is one of violence. We must ask ourselves, what can we do? What options do we have? What steps can we take that can reduce or prevent school shootings or school attacks?

Columbine happened in 1999. It is now 20 years later and America has done virtually nothing to prevent this sort of occurrence from happening.

So I ask you: what can you do to prevent this? Here are a few of the things we need to understand:

We need to better understand the causes, signs, and symptoms of the underlying problem of violence in our schools.

We need to understand what exactly it is that causes someone to want to harm other people, sometimes people they have never met before.

We need to understand, from the attacker's point of view, what they target and why.

We need to understand the various emotional states that lead to violence against fellow students and learn to spot them.

We need to understand what goal the attacker has in mind. Harming other people isn't the goal; it's the means to achieving the goal. So what is it that the attacker really wants?

Here are some suggestions:

We could have better armed security (e.g. police or professionally trained private security guards or trained faculty members) at each and every school.

We could make our campuses more secure through security doors, monitoring systems, metal detectors, and better training for staff and faculty.

We could have a more robust mental health network to help guide the development of our youth and to help discover mental health issues before they become dangerous to the individual or others.

Our local doctors could insist on more mental health checkups as part of other routine checkups.

Faculty and other adults in the community could form stronger relationships with our youth which would help the transition into adulthood for the younger generation and would also put the community in a better position to detect problems before they happened.

Churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and other community organizations could take steps to engage with families and teenagers more often, including teenagers in important functions.

Schools could more actively promote the joining of clubs and participation in extra-curricular activities.

Students could be tasked with coming up with their own emergency plans in case of a threat.

Our county could hire a third-party security firm to analyze our strengths and weaknesses and provide a comprehensive plan for making our schools more secure, including proper emergency drills and plans.

Local businesses could engage with their teenage customers more often, in an attempt to build a better sense of community.

We could employ simple techniques to identify children that are being left out of social circles.

Those are just a few suggestions. They are things that are in our control right now. They are things that you and I can do. They are things that we don't have to wait on Washington for. We can get started right now.

Some of you might say, “But we're already doing X, Y, and Z.” I bet the Santa Clarita thought they were doing enough, too. The problem is that we aren't doing enough. We aren't doing enough because we wake up and go to work and fight traffic to come home just so we can jump on Facebook or watch TV. We aren't doing enough because we talk about how we should help but we don't even bother to mentor our friend's children. We want better communities but we don't say “Hi, how are you” to the young adult pumping gas at the pump next to us because he seems different or strange. We aren't doing enough when we don't talk to our own children about violence and problem solving and social skills.

There's another thing, too, that we need to understand. This isn't a “school shooting problem." That's the symptom of the problem. The problem is that, for whatever reason, a number of our teenagers are left out of social circles or have other challenges that lead them down the path that ultimately results in an expression of violence. That is the problem we need to solve.

Let's come together as a community. Let's each contribute what we can, no matter how small it may seem. Let's help those that need help and save those that need saving. Let's solve this problem.

Christopher Ballard

Hickory NC

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