America needs a lesson in empathy

To stop school shootings, we need to value human life more than we do guns


Picture taken at the March For Our Lives protest in Tampa

Alanna Felton, Editor-In-Chief

School shootings are now a weekly occurrence here in America.

We are 20 weeks into 2018, and as reported by CNN, there have been 22 school shootings so far in which one or more people have been injured or killed.

Ever time one of these shootings take place, the phrase “Never Again” can be seen trending on social media and printed on signs carried by protesters.

And yet, it did just happen again. This past Friday on May 18, up to 10 people, the majority of whom were students, were killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas.

The more these shootings take place, the more desensitized to them we become. We see pictures and articles and news broadcasts discussing mass shootings so often that we begin to forget about the very real faces behind them, the human lives that are so senselessly snuffed out in each of these incidents. We retreat into the distance of observation from afar, accepting tragedy as the new normal. But this is not normal.

To pretend that mass shootings are inevitable, and to say that there is nothing that we can do to prevent more lives from being lost, just isn’t true. Regardless of the polarization surrounding gun control, it cannot be denied that countries which have stronger gun control than America do not experience mass shootings on this scale, if they experience mass shootings at all.

According to The New York Times, America has had 270 million guns and 90 mass shooters from 1996 to 2012. In sharp contrast, no other nation has had more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters from 1996 and 2012.

Disregarding political beliefs, it is a simple, irrefutable correlation: less guns equals less gun-related deaths. If we as nation really want to do something about these shootings, to take action to prevent them from happening again, then we need to enact new gun control legislation.

Individualism is something that many Americans consider to be at the core of our national ethos- we pride ourselves on being a nation that protects personal freedoms. For some, that includes the personal freedom to own guns of any kind. But when does individualism become an excuse not to care about the lives and safety of others?

While I agree that personal freedoms are important, I also do not believe that they supersede the preservation of human life. Why is someone’s right to own an assault weapon, to buy a shotgun with little to no background check at a gun show, weighed at a higher value than the lives of innocents?

Our nation is suffering from a widespread lack of empathy. Many Americans’ seem to have developed an every-man-for-himself mentality, one which focuses on only the welfare of themselves and their families.

But we do not go through life in a vacuum, we interact with other people everyday, and we need other people to make the world go round. And it’s not just the people we interact with that matter. We should all be able to care about all human life, regardless of if we know the people affected personally.

I believe that caring about other people should be at the core of our nation’s ethos, more so than individualism. We should all value human life more than we value access to guns.

Many have suggested that the best way to prevent school shootings is to place armed guards in schools.

But more guns will not solve this problem, they will only contribute to an already-growing atmosphere of paranoia and mistrust. What does it say about our nation’s values that our first solution to violence is more violence rather than reasonable legislative reform?

Santa Fe High school had a plan in the event of a shooting and two armed police officers, and 10 people still died. It is not enough to plan to address gun violence itself, we have to address the root cause of these shootings: easy access to guns in our country. Or they will continue to happen again and again and again.

For children born in the 2000s, attending school with the lingering knowledge that their day could explode into gun violence is an accepted fact. But we can’t allow these shootings to become business as usual, and we can’t lose sight of the human lives ended or damaged every time they take place.

Americans need to choose to care about one another. Because if we as a nation can’t learn empathy, if we can’t make the choice to value human life more than we do guns or NRA money or partisan lines, than this cycle of violence may truly be doomed to repetition.