Tom Eblen

Face it: Politicians won’t pass gun control. How can the rest of us help our kids?

Students and community members hold hands in prayer before classes at Paducah Tilghman High School in Paducah, Ky., Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. The gathering was held for the victims of the Marshall County High School shooting on Tuesday.
Students and community members hold hands in prayer before classes at Paducah Tilghman High School in Paducah, Ky., Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. The gathering was held for the victims of the Marshall County High School shooting on Tuesday. AP

We might as well admit it: Too many Americans love their guns more than their children, or at least more than other people’s children.

No matter how many kids are murdered and maimed in schools such as Marshall County High, politicians will never have the courage to stand up to the National Rifle Association and enact common-sense gun-control laws.

All anyone in power will ever do is offer empty “thoughts and prayers” — and lots of excuses. They will piously stand for moments of silence, hoping those moments aren’t interrupted by more gunfire in other schools.

If that’s the way it’s going to be, maybe we should approach this problem differently. Maybe we should look deeper. Maybe we should put more time, energy and money into figuring out why so many kids pick up these easily available guns and start shooting.

Of course, if we did that, we would have to admit that, as a society, we are lousy at identifying and helping children in crisis. It’s too much trouble — and too expensive.

We also aren’t good at showing children how to resolve disputes without violence. And we often fail when it comes to teaching them how to be kind to one another.

We are bad at teaching children all of these things because many adults haven’t learned them, either. Too many of us are angry, self-centered, always focused on trying to get ahead regardless of how it affects other people. Children learn from the examples of parents and other authority figures they know or see on television, in movies, online or in video games.

State Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, called for the Kentucky legislature to allow local jurisdictions to decide their own gun control laws, saying the legislature is teaching children how to react to an active shooter, but doing little to preven

We don’t yet know why a 15-year-old boy at Marshall County High in Benton drew a pistol Tuesday morning and shot his classmates until he ran out of bullets, but many other school shootings have been committed by students who were bullied.

Kentucky has laws and rules against school bullying, and that’s good. But enforcing those laws takes teachers and staff. How is that going to happen if politicians keep cutting school budgets because they’re as afraid of raising taxes as they are of gun control?

And then there is this: What message does it send children when bullies are elected to the highest offices in government?

Because Kentucky politicians have spent three decades ignoring the need for tax reform, funding public education has become a biennial game of “Survivor.” No wonder schools don’t have the staff, training and resources to identify troubled students and get them help before there is a crisis.

Making schools safer isn’t just about putting more police officers and “school marshals” on campus and doing more “active shooter” training. Getting to the deeper problem means hiring more school counselors. It means having smaller classes so teachers have a better opportunity to get to know students, to mentor them and to spot trouble early.

Religious people often blame school violence on an increasingly secular society, as if religious differences and disputes weren’t one of the greatest causes of violence throughout human history.

Rather than wasting taxpayer money trying to post the Ten Commandments in schools when federal courts have repeatedly ruled it unconstitutional, maybe Christians should try posting other Scripture and see what the courts think.

I would nominate this quote from Jesus Christ: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” If the courts think it crosses a line between church and state, it could be posted without attribution. It’s good advice, regardless of who said it. But it would still be controversial. That’s because, according to Matthew 22:39, Christ didn’t go on to say, “unless they’re different from you.”

Let’s face it. School violence isn’t caused by a failure of faith, or even the easy availability of weapons. It is a human relations problem. It is the result of too little understanding, empathy and compassion among people, and often a lack of fairness, justice and equity in society. If we can’t remove the tools of violence, we can at least address its causes.

Four Marshall County High School students describe the shootings that killed two classmates and injured 18 others.

Tom Eblen: 859-231-1415, @tomeblen

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