Let’s talk about this.

My heart breaks for Florida, and for all of the lives lost.

My heart breaks for the young man who felt the need to do what he did, and for the help he didn’t receive.

And my heart breaks for every single person who is trying to make this a political issue. Let the families mourn. Don’t use their grief to push an agenda.

I grew up around guns. One of my grandfathers has a huge gun cabinet in the room that I used to sleep in when I spent the night. My father owns guns, and he enjoys cleaning and shooting them. My brothers own guns, and my boyfriend owns guns. I have seen my dad and my brothers shoot guns. I have gone with my boyfriend to the gun range, and have watched him shoot his guns. I have shot guns.

I grew up understanding that guns hold incredible power. I was taught to recognize, like driving a car, guns can take lives. When learning to drive a car, we are taught how to handle the vehicle correctly, in order not to harm ourselves or anyone else. We are taught that misuse has severe consequences. (But there are people who still insist on using cars to destroy and kill.) I was taught proper precautions and safety measures while using a gun, and while we were young, my brothers and I weren’t even allowed to point fake guns at each other. By being surrounded by guns and observing first hand their intensity, I learned to respect their power. I understood that it was my action and intention that caused the gun to fire.

As a psychology major, I also recognize the power of thoughts, and the powerful disillusionment that mental illness causes. I have known many people who have committed suicide. I know of even more who have struggled with severe depression. I know how debilitating PTSD can be and the trauma it can cause. Those illnesses are real, and can stimulate heartbreaking behaviors.

I also know how wretched bullying can be in schools. The statistics for teenage suicide is rising. This issue needs to be addressed. How many more children need to die before bullying is severely punished?

How many parents listen to their child’s cries for help, because of depression, thoughts of suicide, incidents of bullying, etc.? How may parents provide their child with an unstructured life, and let the child do whatever he or she desires? How many parents instill in the their children the responsibility and power of words, actions, guns, cars, the Internet, video games, etc.?

By simply claiming this issue is a “gun control issue”, a band aide is being slapped on an already ignored issue. If a person has the intention and motivation to kill, no amount of laws or control will stand in the way.

We can’t, as a culture, continue to ignore the signs and symptoms of disturbing mental illnesses, and then wonder why these things happen. Yes, guns answer how these things happen. But simply pointing to the availability of guns doesn’t answer why.

My heart breaks for the families and the school. My heart breaks for the broken boy who took so many lives. My heart breaks for this nation that continues to divide over this issue. My deepest prayer is for our government to proceed with wisdom while navigating the weeks to come.

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