In light of the Uvalde Texas Massacre, just how long will politicians ignore this simple solution to curb the majority of school shootings in our country?
Flowers Placed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX
Article Written by Jett James Pruitt
Yesterday, May 25, was my seventeenth birthday. Despite enjoying a lovely time with my family at SeaWorld in Orlando, the air — usually filled with giggles and laughter — was now clouded with silent mourning as news about the 19 children and two teachers killed in Uvalde, TX blasted across phones throughout the amusement park.
Although this was the 213th public mass shooting of 2022 — and the 27th American school shooting of the year — the public sentiment around this tragedy suddenly felt different. Somehow, this one hurt more. And just like the tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Americans are particularly moved by the senseless killing of children who have yet to enter puberty.
As a teenager who lives one hour away from the Parkland, FL school shooting that killed 17 students in 2018, and 15 minutes away from Dreyfoos High School where a former student was shot by police after driving his car through a fence on campus a mere 12 days ago, school shootings have become a normal hazard of American adolescence for me and other members of Generation Z.
Remembering the Victims of Parkland, FL
This time it was Texas. This time the shooter had just purchased two AR-style rifles 48 hours after May 16, his 18th birthday. This time, the shooter blasted his grandmother in the face after posting photos on Instagram celebrating the purchase of his guns with earnings from a part-time job at Wendy's fast-food restaurant.
As I have asked out loud numerous times before, what does the average teenager in America think about such details?
We see the guilt in your eyes, America.
We hear the stories of how it was "so different" when you were growing up. We hear the apologies from our parents, our teachers, even news anchors — yet I can't remember a time before active shooter drills or when politicians passed a set of laws that even attempted to provide a solution to the problem.
As I have written previously in my first book Through The Eyes of a Young American, I believe the underlying problem has two root causes that need to be fully addressed: 1) the lack of free mental health services and effective mental health laws that should automatically take dangerous people off the streets and 2) the proliferation of AR-15 style semi-automatic assault weapons that have no place in the hands of 18-year-olds. Period.
Yet, all of the adults in the room keep saying the same thing: that it is the NRA (National Rifle Association) that keeps putting pressure on our politicians to stay inert despite the country's cries for change. However, last time I checked, the NRA is weaker than ever and attempted to file for bankruptcy in 2021.
So, who is this "Master" the politicians fear more than the wrath of the American people?
Are gun manufacturers really more powerful than the estimated 67 percent of adults who fully support individual handgun and hunting rifle ownership, yet still want to see a full ban on AR-15 semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazine ammunition for individuals?
On top of this, we are still allowing the most dangerous weapon of all — a troubled mind — to freely roam our streets, our communities, and our schools. The shutting down of mental health institutions, coupled with the fear of reporting others exhibiting strange behavior due to "Karen syndrome" or personal retaliation, is making this problem exponentially worse by the day.
As I have written in previous articles, those who have mental health challenges must be treated with the utmost kindness, respect, and dignity. But we must identify those who are a threat to themselves and others earlier and act immediately to remove them from the general population until treatment has time to take effect.
In my home state, the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971 (more commonly known as the "Baker Act") was designed with this notion in mind. It allows for law officials and family members who recognize the need for a person to receive emergency mental health services to be temporarily committed if they appear to be suicidal or dangerous to others.
But what about the teenager who just appears clinically depressed or has an odd fascination with revenge or firearms? What about the individuals who fall short of the high benchmarks set forth by laws like the Baker Act?
And what options do they have? At this time, very few.
The average cost of a psychiatrist is $200 an hour in America, with the number of visits limited by most insurance plans. The cost for a 30-day residential program for the treatment of depression is between $14,000 and $27,000 in the United States.
So, what does a family who earns too much for Medicaid, and too little for high-end services do when the school calls and says that their child is exhibiting odd behavior?
We as a society need to remove the stigma, barriers, and costs associated with mental health services. If we can give out free vaccines to individuals for the sake of protecting the health of our country, we need to rethink the concept of socializing mental health services, making treatment both free and widely available to all who want it.
More importantly, we need to write tough but fair laws that allow family members and close observers to separate anyone who may pose a danger to others, and re-open plenty of clean, humane, and pleasant facilities dedicated to serving those who need mental health services long-term.
And all of the aforementioned needs to change, but it's a long-term solution.
So, what can we do right now — almost instantaneously — to prevent the momentum of school shootings in 2022?
We need Congress to pass a federal law to increase the legal buying age of a firearm from 18 to 25 years old.
Yes, you read that correctly. Not 21 years old, but 25 years old — the same age a person must be to rent a car.
Is gun ownership less of a responsibility than renting a car?
Will changing the age of legal gun ownership to 25 stop mentally ill individuals from enacting mass shootings across the board? Absolutely not. But this one tiny law will definitely curb impulsive, troubled young people from legally obtaining fire arms three years before being able to purchase cigarettes or beer, and puts gun ownership on the same level of responsibility as entering into a contract with a car rental agency.
Even die-hard, gun owners and advocates will agree that a little age and wisdom can come in handy when dealing with such dangerous weapons. It's a win-win for their case as well.
And if it prevents even a single school shooting from taking place, it will be worth the effort.
Then, once we pass this law, we can dig in and do the hard work of passing reasonable mental health and gun control laws that makes sense to the millions of Democrats and Republicans crying out for change.
We can do this, America.
Just have the guts to make it happen.
What are your thoughts? Please share this article with your comments.