Start with love, not guns

Studies have shown there’s been 1,624 mass shootings in the past five years in the U.S. alone. The most recent one in Parkland, Florida, has awakened a desire for a change of gun laws.

But what if the change we need is really within ourselves?

Studies show mental illness is the main reason behind mass shootings, but what about bullying? Let’s take this one word and transform it into what it really means: hate.

Experiences of hate drives some individuals to become mass murderers. Therefore, the cause of this horrendous crime cannot solely be blamed on mental illness.

 The Rio de Janeiro school shooting where Wellington Oliveira took the lives of 12 students, occurred in April 2011. It’s documented that before he pulled the trigger, he had some final words. What he said made my blood run cold and sent chills down my spine.

 “The struggle for which many brothers died in the past, and for which I will die, is not solely because of what is known as bullying. Our fight is against cruel people, cowards who take advantage of the kindness and the weakness of people unable to defend themselves,” Oliveira said, moments before the shooting.

What he said was a call-to-action. Oliveira, and many others like him, took people’s lives to grab the world’s attention. Some mass shooters are trying to spread a message. We may ask ourselves “Why?” or “Wasn’t there another way?” I believe that there is an answer to both of these questions.

Why? Because the Facebook posts of “stop the bullying”, “stop the hate” hashtags, billboards reading “speak out against bullying”, and “step-in and stop the bullying” commercials are not enough.

The things being done to stop hate, are being ignored so we can focus on gun control, when we already hold the power to control the guns.

Wasn’t there another way? What is one supposed to do when their message of love is being “returned to sender” because we’d rather “Keep Up With The Kardashians”, than keep up with humanity.

Whenever a mass shooting takes place, we are ready to turn our own mouths into guns.

“They’re sick and twisted, they need help, they deserve to burn in hell, they should receive the death penalty, they are monsters.”

What if our negative actions and words helped create the monsters inside of them?

I’m not saying that all mass shooters are victims of bullying, or that we pulled the trigger of the mass shooter’s gun. I’m not saying the way these shooters choose to grab our attention is right either.

It’s sorrowful lives have been taken in order for someone’s life to be ended, and one’s voice to be heard. It’s painful to internalize innocent lives are taken when they don’t deserve it.

What I am saying is mass shootings can be reduced if we start doing self-evaluations of how we treat other people. Once we start using our words as creators instead of weapons, then we can change the violence that surrounds us.

I’ve encountered people with the worst attitudes, people being cursed out without cause. People become victims of hate, for no reason at all.

When someone verbally, mentally, emotionally, or physically hurts us, it’s unfair. But when we do the exact same things to someone else, it’s justifiable.

It’s time for change.

We need to start treating people the way we would like to be treated. Once we began an inner-work of positivity, we’ll start to conquer the evil amongst us.

Because nothing else is working.

Political figureheads do almost nothing, #stoptheviolence social media posts fade away about a month after a heartbreaking attack, and rallies often disappear until the next mass shooting.

If no one else changes for the better, we have to.

Anytime I evaluate a problem, I remind myself that it starts with me. I have the capability to affect someone’s life in a negative or positive way; I choose positivity.

We all have the chance to fight against violence by using the power of love.

Let’s take the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, as an opportunity to better ourselves for the empowerment of another.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi.

mtjgxb@mail.umkc.edu

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