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As a nation, we all need to take a deep breath, shelve our political differences for the moment, and take a giant step back. Looking at the situation in its entirety is the only way we can begin discussing possible solutions.

The events that transpired on Valentine’s Day, 2018 have reopened the same wound Americans have worked so hard to heal from, time and time again.  A very troubled young man entered the freshman building of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. He was armed, mentally unstable, and prepared to take out as many unsuspecting students as possible.  17 tragic victims later, the young man fled. Only to be caught, mere hours later, and taken into custody.

The entire sequence of events was captured, basically from start to finish, live and across all of the major television news networks.  I remember sitting in my car at work, during my break, and flipping on the radio. My usual daytime news station was interrupted by a live update on the ongoing active shooter situation.  That was when I pulled out my phone, picked up a live-stream news channel, and watched as dozens of students were being guided to safety. After returning to my department, from my break, I remembered experiencing that horrible sinking feeling over and over again, as the death toll rose.  

My wife and I are parents to two young, vibrant girls.  I couldn’t help but think about all of them, as the news of this latest unspeakable tragedy began to sink in.  However, I also couldn’t help but think: “How soon are the calls for gun control going to start, this time?” I have watched the news cycles closely, through the various mass shootings, year after year.  Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and many other campus shootings. Each of these incidents was highly politicized, equally charged on both sides. At the same time, little to nothing resulted in the way of answers or solutions, either.  

All of this begs the question: How can we come together, as a nation, in order to come up with effective solutions to these tragedies?  The first thing I believe we need to do is end the ridiculous idea that the discussion begins and ends with gun legislation. Before anyone pretends to act as though this isn’t the case, I implore you to take a look at CNN’s “town hall”, from last week.  CNN, the student speakers, and Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel literally blame the NRA, gun owners, and Republican politicians for the Parkland high school shooting.  Basically, the message has been sent: If you do not agree with the Left on gun control, you are just as culpable as the individuals who callously murder innocent victims.

The highly toxic, polarizing rhetoric is not solely a problem manifesting on the Left, however.  Plenty of individuals on the Right have weighed in on the issue, with inappropriate comments, providing nothing in the way of valid solutions.  Case in point, Dana Loesch, spokesperson for the NRA. The conservative commentator, author, and talk radio host appeared on CNN on Friday to answer a controversial statement she had made during her appearance at CPAC, the previous evening.  The message she was pushing was that the mainstream media “loves mass shootings” due to the “ratings” their outlets enjoy while covering these tragedies.  She even went as far as stating that “crying white mothers are ratings gold.”

Both sides are wrong in rushing to this debate that everyone understands solves nothing.  The Obama administration wasn’t able to solve it. The Bush administration previously had failed to establish any effective policy.  So far, the current administration, led by President Trump has failed thus far to register positive movement toward protecting schools, in particular.  As a nation, we all need to take a deep breath, shelve our political differences for the moment, and take a giant step back. Looking at the situation in its entirety is the only way we can begin discussing possible solutions.  

Our politicians are not the ones we should be looking toward for the answers.  Experts in fields of study relevant to all of the circumstances, surrounding these tragedies and their perpetrators, should be leading these discussions.  As viable and effective solutions begin to rise to the surface, then the appropriate legislative bodies should be brought into the fold. This should begin at the local level, as one-size-fits-all measures rarely have the intended impact nation-wide.  Beyond that, if legislation is deemed necessary at a higher level (state or federal), then Congress and the President should be encouraged to do their part.

This is an issue Americans can work to solve together.  We need to stop shouting over each other about gun control.  We need to look at one another, not as individuals on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but as fellow Americans.  I believe we all care about the lives lost in each of these tragedies. Furthermore, I believe virtually all Americans yearn for the violence to end.  What we all need to realize is that we cannot legislate evil out of society. We can punish those who commit evil acts, but we lack the ability to see into the future.  Our job is to take the proper precautionary measures to protect one another, especially children in schools. We are all charged with that responsibility. In my opinion, that is the healthiest way to look at this situation, before seeking solutions.  I pray we have the intestinal fortitude to ignore our partisan differences, embrace one another as Americans, and work together on this one. Only by working together, will we have a shot at better protecting our schools and our children.