This week there have been two high profile tragedies, one at a mall in Oregon, and just today another at a school in Connecticut. Both involve guns. Both involve innocent, unsuspecting victims. Both leave us with more questions than answers.
I’m saddened to be writing about this topic again (I previously blogged about the tragedy at a movie theater in Colorado). In that post, the attention was directed largely towards the media and their role in reporting and perhaps indirectly contributing to both the trauma and the future occurrences of gun violence.
As with most issues, my perspective is continually evolving. I’m torn by the (human) desire to know, and to understand, what has happened. I find myself seeking out reporting on the incident, even after criticizing the media coverage of such events. I also find myself searching for answers, not just to the question of why but also to the question of what can be done to stop this type of tragedy.
The bottom line is, in my opinion, we–as a society–need to take action to avoid the loss of innocent lives in senseless acts of violence. In considering the events mentioned above, I’m struck by the fact that gun laws and restrictions probably would not be an effective solution. (An exception to this might be a ban on assault weapons, which may have resulted in fewer deaths.) In at least one case (the Colorado movie theater tragedy), access to quality mental health care and intervention might have prevented the loss of innocent lives and (likely permanent) emotional toll on those in the theater and the collective psyche of the country. In looking further back to the Columbine shooting, addressing bullying in schools might have prevented unnecessary deaths and injuries. Another possible deterrent–tougher sentencing laws–likely has had little impact historically, since the events mentioned all resulted in the deaths of those responsible for the violence.
Again, I find myself questioning the role of the media in all these incidents, in part because it is the part of the puzzle over which there is some degree of control. The common denominator in any major incident is reporting by the media. Although the media is not responsible for the incidents themselves, they do have the unique opportunity to influence large numbers of people and our reaction, now and in the future, to such events.
I would suggest that ultimately, the media could be part of a solution in preventing (at least some) unnecessary mass deaths and injuries. I would like to see reporting on past events with a focus on the families of the shooters. I realize this may seem odd to some. In my view, this is one area that is largely ignored in reporting. Perhaps it is time to focus on the impact that such events have on another group of victims–the families left to deal with the fact that a relative has committed a horrendous crime. Perhaps knowing the potential impact on their families would deter at least a few of the potential assailants. I don’t know if this might influence persons considering violent acts such as these, but I think it might be worth considering.
The bottom line is that this latest incident leaves us with many questions and few answers. For the sake of innocent victims, we need to seek answers and take action to prevent recurrences of such violent acts.