On February 14, Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida with a semiautomatic rifle and killed 17 people, marking the 18th school shooting in the United States in 2018 and sparking again the political debate surrounding these incidents. Protests and rallies have already begun; some speaking out in favor of stricter gun control, while others advocate for better mental health care. Both sides are pointing a lot of fingers and not doing much else.

The need for a complex solution

What people seem to keep missing is the fact that Mass Shootings are not a simple issue, and therefore do not have a simple answer.

There are many factors that are at play in every individual’s life: family, friends, traumatic experiences, genetics, access to resources, mental illness, personality, and more.

Slipping through the cracks

The first issue here is what psychologists refer to as internalizing behaviors and symptoms. Individuals who are struggling with anxiety or depression are often overlooked because their symptoms are not very obvious or visible. With a disorder such as ADHD, there are usually very obvious signs such as an inability to sit still or acting out. This is particularly relevant in schools. Teachers often overlook kids who are struggling, identifying them instead as just “quiet”. While school psychologists are better equipped to notice and treat these students appropriately, schools do not have the funding to hire enough school psychologists, meaning that they are stretched too thin to be as helpful as possible.

For adults, there are still many health care plans that do not cover mental health, which makes it difficult for many to access the care they need.

Failure to notify

So frequently after a tragedy like this, people say that they were not surprised that the suspect did such a thing. This is often because the individual has voiced wishes or desires similar to the act.

These range from text messages between friends passed off as jokes to FBI tips. People need to be educated on these signs and issues so they know when to report and who to report to. Classmates in school can prove to be invaluable in this.

Gun restrictions

While I understand the argument that it is unacceptable to take guns away from responsible gun owners, there is also no possible reason why a 19-year-old should need a semi-automatic rifle.

A troubled teenager should not have been allowed to walk into a store and buy one. We should be more careful about the process in obtaining a gun. Those who are responsible will have no issues keeping or getting their arms. Those that should not have them might be weeded out.

Politics aside

When we get down to it, this issue is one that everyone can and should agree needs a solution as soon as possible. However, it transcends politics. It is not a two-sided issue. In order to enact change, we need to drop political convictions and work together to make changes in many areas regardless of party. We need better education, better access to mental health care, AND better screening measures for gun ownership, among other things. Politics should never matter more than the lives of innocent children.