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School shootings: What it’s about

The issue of school shootings isn’t just one problem: It’s about mental health, it’s about gun control, it’s about having the right guns in the hands of the right people and it is a constitutional issue. The Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights are as close to some as God and are almost held in the same light. 

Some believe the Constitution and the Bill of Rights should be unchanging, singular, and that there can be only one interpretation. Others believe in a living Constitution, one that evolves with time.  

A few years ago, I wrote a letter to this newspaper about a proposal by a local government official to arm teachers at Kent Center School. The proposal was in response to the horrible violence at Sandy Hook School. I would like to revisit this issue.

Founding Father and President Thomas Jefferson believed in a living Constitution. He argued that the Constitution should change with the coming and going of generations, but that the endeavor should be one taken seriously, rarely, and only when absolutely necessary. As he said, “I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and Constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.” 

Early on, he was rejected by most of his peers in his beliefs but a handful of states followed his suggestion.

The United States has one of the highest number of firearms-related homicides per year, and in recent years a growing number of school shootings. It is time to take serious and timely action at the federal level. 

Look toward the Swiss. They believe that a gun in every household protected them from invasion in the World Wars. It is hard to believe, but besides their standing army, their other form of national defense is a fully trained and armed populous. Because they draft all able-bodied of-age (18 to 24) men into the army, most households have a veteran, who is trained and armed. Yet one shooting occurred, involving an Olympic skier, and laws were changed. For a developed nation like us, Switzerland is one of the few nations in a similar boat when it comes to guns and gun violence. If they’re able to change, we should too.

Another example to follow is our neighbor to the North, Canada. Canada doesn’t ban guns, they just put far more safeguards on purchasing a gun. For example, if you’ve had any life-changing events, such as divorce, death, or anything else as grim or depressing, you’re going to have to wait to apply. You’re going to need recommendations for gun ownership from those you are close to. 

If you have a history of mental illness, that will take even more convincing (they don’t prevent people from owning if you’re mentally ill, but they will interview you.) You even need to go through an entire training course with tests. And even once you have a gun, the police will be constantly running background checks on owners.

School shootings are not a single issue. They’re a multitude of issues that culminate in tragedy. To fix them will not be easy, but it must done. It is a civic duty that we all must work toward fixing, by providing positive environments for kids of today and knowing that guns are in the hands of the right people. 

Guns shouldn’t be owned by unstable kids, they should be owned by stable and trained adults. We must come together for change, not turn against one another.

Jacob A. Finch lives in Kent with his parents and is a seventh-grade student at Kent Center School. These are his musings on current events, culture and technology.