Jonathan Drake / Reuters
After 17 people, mostly teens, were shot and killed by another teen last week in Parkland, FL, what seems to be a real movement is growing, propelled by kids devastated by their friends’ deaths and wanting to prevent such a massacre from ever happening again.
Their rallies and marches and lie-downs probably won’t have much effect in the short-term, as some of the Parkland teens learned as they witnessed — and some of them wept during — today’s lightning vote by state lawmakers along party lines to end debate on an assault weapons ban, which killed any further consideration of the bill in the Florida legislature’s current session.
But their persistence can make a difference in the long run, especially if they — and we — widen this to include the dozens of kids shot on the streets of Chicago or Camden or in other communities every week. We can even broaden the approach to include the 200 people, including many children, who died in Syrian air strikes in the last two days, because the roots and solutions are the same.
The kids in Parkland, FL, have the advantages that we want all our children to have: a great education in an affluent community so that they are prepared for and feel confident enough to know how to communicate in social and mainstream media about what they want, and to do it in an informed and cohesive way, with their community at their back. This means support and advice from parents, teachers, mentors and other adults who have created and maintained that environment for them.
Most of the kids living on our nation’s Indian reservations, in poor African-American communities, in poor white communities that don’t have the advantage of good schools, safe neighborhoods, well-paying jobs for their parents, affordable housing, great health care, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, swimming pools and parks….these kids don’t have the support or wherewithal or access to that same megaphone. It’s not that they aren’t capable, or that their parents couldn’t be capable of providing the same support that the kids in Parkland have. But they live in conditions created by us adults and our traditional systems that prevent them from realizing their dreams. Creating those conditions of opportunity for everyone is the responsibility of the adults….all of us adults.
But ACEs science clearly shows even the advantageous environment of Parkland, FL, is not really safe, as the kids found out. Their first response — that this is a gun regulation issue — is right. There’s no reason why any kid in this country needs an assault rifle, bump stocks or anything else.
But that’s just one tiny, tiny, tiny part of the solution. This isn’t only a gun regulation issue. It’s a systems change issue. All of our systems have to change their approach to changing behavior — whether it’s criminal, unhealthy or unwanted behavior — from a blame, shame and punishment approach, to one that is based in understanding, nurturing and healing….in other words, the science of adverse childhood experiences — ACEs. The great news is that many organizations and communities already have, and are achieving results that many people thought were not possible.