Armstrong Williams

Growing up in rural South Carolina on my family’s farm, I developed a love, appreciation and, most importantly, a respect for firearms. To this day, I remain a collector of firearms and a supporter of the American right to keep and bear arms as enshrined in the Second Amendment.

I was taught that safety is paramount to gun ownership, so I have always encouraged responsible gun ownership and use for all Americans. With that being said, I have noticed a disturbing trend in our country: an ever-increasing number of shootings and gun-related deaths.

And while the quick response from some, namely the left-wing mainstream media and liberal politicians, is to ban weapons and become more restrictive, it appears to me that we have serious mental health and poverty issues contributing to gun violence.

I don’t believe that banning guns will result in any significant decline in shootings attributed to these two categories.

In the United States, since January 2021, we have had 195 mass shootings, with 245 people dying and approximately 731 wounded, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker. While it’s important to acknowledge that there is not a universally accepted definition of what constitutes a “mass shooting,” these numbers are staggering. They are some of the highest numbers in the industrialized world.

Let’s contrast 2021 with when I was growing up, when mass shootings simply weren’t a problem. I believe that this is the direct result of the era and the family structure: Parents were involved in their children’s lives and children were taught discipline and respect. By and large, members of my generation were raised in households with two parents, and we were taught how to deescalate and talk things out when problems arose.

Today, that no longer seems to be the case. We have a moral and social failing in our country that has caused an increase in mass shooters, predominantly young men. One has to pause to think about what’s different today from 30 or 40 years ago. It certainly isn’t guns, because it’s harder to get guns today than it was in the past, when you didn’t have to go through nationalized background checks. When I was growing up, you could purchase a firearm with no questions asked, yet we didn’t see so many mass shootings.

America’s young men are struggling with mental health issues or are broken and living in poverty with single mothers struggling to survive. Many of them are clearly crying out for help, and we owe it to them to listen. Mental illness in this country has been stigmatized for far too long, so much so that many families are unwilling to confront their own past with it and certainly aren’t willing to acknowledge what their children may be experiencing.

But even the families that recognize mental health issues might not have the resources or the know-how to get the proper help. This could all be changed at the federal level through more funding for treatment of mental illness. We also need program funding at the state and local level to assist schools with recognizing these signs early so that necessary steps can be taken to mitigate potential violence.

Another important facet of this dialogue is religion. I know we don’t often talk about religion these days, but it instills moral and ethical values that are key to a society’s success. It creates boundaries that inform us of what is good and what is bad. Many of the greatest thinkers known to man have talked about the importance of morality and ethics for all civilized people, how they are key to a good life and setting boundaries against bad behavior.

We often hear or read arguments from the left about inner cities, such as Baltimore or Chicago, being examples of violence run amuck that highlight the need for more gun control. However, proponents of these measures don’t always want to deal with poverty, family breakdown, education or economic opportunities.

When people are better educated, financially secure and are happy with their family life and their community outlook, they are more likely to be constructive members of society and less likely to go down a dangerous path. Today, there is clearly a lack of pride, security, belonging and ownership that is so fundamental to continued success of any society. If we start focusing on those things and truly tackle them without making excuses or trying to blame everything on the system, I am confident that we may actually be able to solve the root of the problem.

We can acknowledge that we have a problem in our country with gun-related deaths and the young men who typically carry out such heinous acts. But with that discussion comes the responsibility to take a nuanced approach to finding the root of the problem. I can assure you that simply banning guns won’t solve this multifaceted problem.

Tackling mental illness and the problems in our inner cities are the exact steps we should be looking to take.

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