In light of the National School Walkout after the tragic school shooting that took 17 innocent lives, a new hashtag surfaced on Twitter, #WalkUpNotOut. Essentially, what this movement was supposed to do was encourage students to be kinder to the “loner types” who sit by themselves and to include them in social groups. This was a new angle to cut back on school shootings, as opposed to the heavily demanded change in gun laws. However, the problem here is that kindness will not stop school shootings.

It’s a nice sentiment, but this implies that it’s not the man who shot 17 students fault, but in fact, the students and teachers attending the school who did not reach out to him.

There should be no blame on the students or teachers. Let’s look at some facts.

According to a report from the Crime Prevention Research Center, mass shootings have two unique aspects: most are in gun-free zones and most shooters have some kind of Mental illness brought up during the investigation into the shooting.

Mental illness aspect

The #WalkUpNotOut trend tried to address mental illness. In the previously mentioned study, 52 percent of mass shootings had mental illness brought up in the killer’s investigation. So, already, this solution of kindness would only be half effective since this implies that the other 48 percent had no or no reported mental illness. Mental illness is a disease. Downs Syndrome cannot be cured by being overtly nice and inclusive, this is an obvious fact.

Just the same, a mental illness cannot be cured with kindness—though it’s potentially a step in the right direction.

Richard A.

Freeman, the Director of the Psychopharmacology Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College and a specialist in anxiety and mood disorders, says that identifying who might and who might not be a killer isn’t easy. The statistic he gives is that only 16 percent of people with mental illness might commit acts of violence, opposed to the seven percent of people who are mentally sound.

It’s only a nine percent chance difference between the two. It would seem the easy solution would be to force some sort of institutionalization if any type of violent risk were identified by a professional. However, that could have damaging consequences. A potential risk is the social criminalization of mental illness, where people will assume any person with mental illness is fit to commit murder, thus causing further isolation. It would make people afraid to have a mental illness, which may result in people not going in for a treatment. We want to help people, not scare them.

Gun Free Zone

Moving forward, ask the following question. Why would somebody commit violence in a place where people could defend themselves?

Logically, it doesn’t make much sense, but there are crimes of passion and other factors that could result in shootings happening in places where guns are allowed. Regardless, every single school that has a Gun Free Zone sign on it actually has a sign that says “Shoot here! We cannot defend ourselves!” There’s a simple solution to this problem. Protect the unprotected places. Police or security should protect gun free zones with their own weapons, as the signs should refer to a citizen’s weapon, not theirs. If we want our children to come home from school, then we must protect the schools.

So, if the government won’t put any new gun control laws into effect, and identifying who the next school shooter is might cause panic and further isolation of those afflicted with mental illness, then perhaps we need to look at a third option: protect the unprotected places. Let’s stop fighting and start protecting what matters before it’s too late.