e shooting that took place on Florida State University’s campus Thursday has hit all of us at UF hard. Because FSU is only about 200 miles away from us, I assume we have all realized that Strozier Library could have easily been Smathers Library.
I’ve been moved by the empathy and sympathy our community has generated through the way of hashtags like #FSUnited. I want to commend our Student Body and faculty for the support we’ve shown to FSU in this rough time.
But I want us all to care about more than just showing solidarity for others when these tragic events occur. We should be thinking about what can be done to prevent these tragic events from happening again, especially with the frequency that they’ve been happening at in recent years.
My favorite satirical piece ever published by The Onion is one titled “’No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” It pokes fun at how our society voices sentiments of grief whenever shooting sprees happen, even though we are the only developed nation where this sort of thing happens on a fairly regular basis.
The Huffington Post reports that since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012, there has been an average 1.37 school shootings each week school is in session. This statistic is terrifying, and yet our nation has still failed to initiate gun reform.
A lot of people would say that these school shootings are issues of mental or emotional health and access to health care, not an issue of lax gun control. Myron May, the FSU gunman, was reported by the Miami Herald to have been showing symptoms that would indicate mental illness. He believed he was under surveillance and heard voices in his head, according to those who knew him well in his last few weeks of life.
My friend Ryan Baum posited a very important question on his Facebook status following the incident: Why did May have access to a gun but not the help he needed?
It needs to be understood that when tragedies like these strike, it’s not a binary issue of either gun reform or mental health reform. It’s about both.
In this country, we have created a gun culture that glorifies firearms. Guns flood our movies and television shows. How many people interpret the Second Amendment — which is outdated, anyway — in a way that leads to the idea that everyone should own a gun, as if guns solve all problems? If you fear someone attacking you with a gun, many would tell you that the solution would be to have your own gun, and be prepared to defend yourself. The process by which guns are obtained is so lax, people who really should not own guns still access them.
At the same time, we have also created a stigma in this country surrounding mental illness. People struggling with mental illness often don’t have resources for help available to them, cannot afford the resources if available or refuse to reach out for help because they’re afraid of how they will be perceived by others.
It’s great that when tragedies occur involving gun violence, we can all band together, support each other and push forward. But I’m tired of seeing gun tragedies happen. We need to abandon the idea that there is nothing our society can do to end this pandemic because that’s a false claim.
As a society, we all need to rethink the ways we conceptualize and address mental illness.
We also need to rethink the importance we place on guns. What should we value more: easy access to guns, or the life of every future victim affected by gun violence?
Once we do those things, maybe we can stop fearing that the next school shooting will take place at our university, our brother’s high school or our sister’s elementary school.
TehQuin Forbes is a UF sociology junior. His columns appear on Mondays.
[A version of this story ran on page 6 on 11/24/2014]
[The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Alligator.]