Baby steps towards progress

Small Steps Make A Bigger Impact – Overcoming Violence

In Family, General, Opinion, Parenting, Safety, Security by Michael SheehanLeave a Comment

I had to write something. A majority of my articles are about tech, but every once in a while I need to focus on the other part of my brand name – “dad.” I have 3 daughters. They all live at home. Two of them go to schools in the community, one in high school and one in middle school. These past few days have been hard. I cannot fathom the pain, the suffering, the confusion, and the heartbreak facing all of the parents, friends, teachers and faculty, the first-responders, and the community surrounding Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school. Having to bury your child at such a young age, without that child being able to realize their dreams and ambitions, is something no parent should ever face. It’s devastating.

End gun violence at schools

Yet, all that politicians do is offer “thoughts and prayers.” It’s a broken record. And there is no action. Again and again.

When babies were murdered in Sandy Hook, we all thought (or hoped) that something would happen. But as the media is all reminding us now, there have been many fatal school shootings since that tragedy. Politicians seem paralyzed to do anything. They talk but do not act.

Are they afraid of what their constituents will think? Are they worried about losing votes or funding? Do Special Interest groups have such a strong hold that it is causing paralysis? Do they simply think this is a battle they cannot win?

Or is it because the problem is simply too massive. That is stretches deep into all corners of our society. Or that people are afraid of changing this too dramatically or drastically.

Change is hard. Really, really hard. But simply ignoring a problem won’t make it go away. If anything, it festers and grows and becomes even more difficult to overcome. And when action (any type) is taken, it is often too late. This week, we lost 17 beautiful lives before their prime (children and adults, students and those who teach and nurture).

Is this the tipping point? We have asked this each and every time our society is affected by violent acts similar to these. But…well, you know the answer.

Small Steps & An Example

Let’s think about this another way. Let’s say there is a busy road. People speed on the road all of the time. There have been near misses, accidents, and injuries on the road. The road is documented as being dangerous and people continue to get hurt.

Speed bumps

Using the current state of action (or in-action), people are saying “Yep, that road sure is dangerous” and “I hope people will slow down.”

People blame the road, or that cars are too fast, or say that we must have the right to drive and that people should be more careful.

Lots of words, but no action.

As children, we learned not to bite off more than we can chew. This concept is an important one. You could choke on too much. And perhaps, we should look a bit closer at this.

One school of thought would be to just close that road down completely. Ban all traffic on it. Heck, “build a wall” to block any passage on it. But guess what? That traffic will just find another route to get from point A to point B, and, I would guess the same problems would be present on that new route.

But, I’d like to offer a different school of thought – let’s take smaller steps to reach that end goal.

Using the road metaphor, you could start by reducing the speed limit. That simple action would have an impact on some of the travelers. Some would, indeed, slow down. Others would not. That’s just how humans work – not all obey the rules. But it would be a start.

Next, you could put in a speed bump. While not a complete barrier, it would slow down traffic. Again, some people would still speed over those bumps, but more people would be affected. So, of the initial traffic pool, some would be slowing down from the new speed limit, and of those who were not slowing down, some of those may now reduce speed because of the physical limitations on the road.

Then, speed traps set up by law enforcement could be used to catch the outliers. Or those residents or businesses who live on the street could be empowered to report those who still speed. Through community and governmental cooperation and communication, the outliers – those few who continued to speed – could be identified and an intervention could take place.

Yes, I realize this is over-simplifying things. But sometimes simple examples are a bit easier to understand and digest.

Doing Nothing Helps No-one

Again, it’s soul-wrenching to watch these tragic events unfold, to hear the stories of loss, and to know how fragile life truly can be. We do hear stories of heroes in these tragedies, how some individuals sacrificed their own lives to save others. But honestly, I don’t WANT to hear about the heroes – there shouldn’t need to be heroes in the first place because these acts of violence simply should not be occurring.

Baby steps towards progress

But, if we, as a society and community, continue on this path of in-action, there will be more fallen angels.

To go back to the road example, instead of in-action, let’s start by doing small things. (And, I realize that some of the things I mention below might not be “small” but when you add them up, they would be huge.)

Just some “small” actionable ideas here on our current crisis:

  • Raise the age of buying weapons to 21.
  • Impose extended waiting periods.
  • To drive a car, you must have a license that is renewed regularly. You have to take a test (write and physical). You have to pay registration for your vehicle every year. You have to carry insurance. If you want to drive, you must do this. Make this the same for buying and owning a gun.
  • Background checks, in general, must be expanded. And, the databases of counties, states, and federal levels should all be linked.
  • If you have a history of mental health issues, this should be a prohibiting factor in the ability to purchase a weapon.
  • If you have a history of violence or domestic abuse, this should also be a prohibiting factor.
  • While weapons for protection or hunting maybe should be allowed depending on the circumstances, “assault” type weapons should be highly regulated if not banned.
  • Items that convert semi-automatic weapons into automatic ones or ones that cause mass-casualties should be banned (e.g., “bump stocks” and high-capacity magazines).
  • Affected families of victims of gun-violence should be allow to sue the gun manufacturers freely (even though we are a highly-litigious society).
  • Schools and communities should be trained to watch for society outliers – to know the signs of someone who needs help – prior to an individual doing something tragic.
  • Local governments should fill in where the federal government is slacking or immobile. They can move faster and potentially be more effective locally.
  • Contact your government representatives.

Easier said than done, right? Yes, I know, these aren’t “small” but it’s definitely different than banning all firearms (which would be impossible), and better than standing by and doing absolutely nothing.

After the tragedy in Las Vegas in October, 2017, VICE wrote an article about gun laws America should pass but won’t. It’s a sobering look at how some legislators have been trying to do smaller things, but cannot due to a lack of majority.

And, I typically stay away from politics, but unfortunately, this current administration is rolling back any possible progress, according to Margaret Hartmann of New York Mag.

Lastly, Adam Gopnik so poignantly writes in his New Yorker article, “building small barriers to gun violence reduces all gun violence.”

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This is exactly the point I’m trying to make. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start slowly. Build those smaller barriers or speed bumps one at a time, and one after another. The changes are smaller, and small changes are more easily embraced than massive ones. People get used to smaller changes and when the next one comes, are potentially more inclined to accept them.

I know my words won’t be seen by many. I also realize that some readers may not agree with my opinions or views here. That is your right and I respect that. For me, this was important to simply get out and express. However, I do hope and pray that action by legislators will ramp up and get out of the stagnant sludge of politics. We pride ourselves on how great we are as a nation. I fully embrace and believe in this. However, there are so many other nations that are much better role models than us when it comes to gun violence. I’m truly ashamed by our lack of progress, or action at all for that matter. I do hope we can be leaders again.

Until then, hug your family. Relish in your friendships. And try to make a difference in bettering the world. The small things count, especially when you add them all up together.

HTD says: Tragedy has been striking our society a bit too frequently these days. This violence, compared to natural disasters, CAN be controlled and reduced over time. But only through actions, even small ones, can we make any type of progress.