I struggled with my decision on whether to write this article or not. Bull Market Rodeo features commentaries on politics, policy, the economy and investing. I tend to keep my commentaries focused on the market and the economy. But the latest school shooting has occupied my mind for the last few days and I felt the need to express my thoughts here. I am not looking to spark angry comments or get bashed for my thoughts, but this one is different for me.
The mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday happened in my own back yard. I live less than 30 miles from the school. I have friends with children in the school. I coach with a travel basketball program that is based in that school district, and we have had a number of players from the school. This shooting was way too close to home.
I initially heard about the shooting Wednesday afternoon when my phone started blowing up with text messages and instant messages from friends in Indiana and Ohio. I was out running errands and had not seen the news on TV yet. My friends were concerned that the school might be where my children go and the school where I used to coach, but that was Park Vista High School. My friends saw Parkland and became concerned. My thoughts turned immediately to my friends Jeff and Kim and whether their son Mitchell was okay. Were Lou’s kids okay? What about the kids in our travel basketball program, were they okay?
When I got home, I immediately turned on the local news to try to get as much information as I could as I prepared Valentine’s Day dinner for my wife. We generally turn off the TV at dinner time so that our family can talk about our days, but Wednesday night we left the TV on. One thing I noticed about the local news was that they were focused on the victims and suspect.
After a few hours of watching, I had to turn the news off as it was literally making me sick. I tried to escape by watching a college basketball game, my favorite thing to do during the season. But even basketball wasn’t providing much of a relief for me. Eventually I turned on CNN to see if there was any additional information coming out. CNN seemed to be focused on the gun debate and stricter gun laws. Out of curiosity I changed over to Fox News and they were focused on the mental health issues of the suspect.
By watching three different news sources, I got three different perspectives about the shooting and it made me realize that we have a number of problems in this country that are creating these tragedies. We have a gun problem. We have a mental health problem. We have a bullying problem. We have a problem with a lack of respect for human life. We have a problem with various media forms that seem to glorify violence.
The different sides of the political spectrum tend to point to one item or another, but the fact of the matter is that these tragedies are happening because of a number of factors. Those that lean to the left of the political spectrum tend to point to gun control first and foremost. Those that lean to the right tend to point to mental health issues. Others point to the glorification of violence in video games, TV and movies. Still others point to a decline in morals and values. All of these factors need to be considered.
While I have watched the story unfold over the last two days, I thought about how I have probably crossed paths with several of the victims. I have been to Stoneman Douglas High School several times for athletic events and marching band events. I have probably crossed paths with the football coach and the athletic director, and both lost their lives helping their students.
One victim was in the marching band and another was in the color guard. My wife and oldest son were scoring officials for the state marching band competition back in November. They watched the band member and color guard member celebrate as Stoneman Douglas won the state championship. Only three months ago they were celebrating with their band mates, friends and families, and now they are gone.
The anguish and sorrow is still there and will be for a long time, but part of my emotional state has shifted to one of anger. I have kept quiet on social media about the shooting, but I have watched as friends posted various things. My anger stems from the posts that are using this tragedy to promote their views. Memes that show a cartoon of the second amendment shielding the NRA, people posting the second amendment, memes and posts from both sides depicting their views… Now is not the time for that.
I have followed several conversations without commenting myself. The name calling is ridiculous and unproductive – liberal idiot, gun-loving conservative, and moron, are some of the ones I saw and could print. It goes on and on and does nothing to help.
I am not vain enough to think that I know what the answer is, but I do know that name calling and bickering on social media isn’t the answer. I have owned guns in the past and have fired many different weapons. My father owns 15-20 guns, but he is a responsible gun owner that keeps them locked in a gun safe and only three people have the combination to it. I am not anti-gun and I support the Second Amendment. I also support the rest of the constitution. But one person’s constitutional right should not mean another person loses their right to live.
Until our political leaders sit down and have a civilized conversation and a bipartisan solution can be thought out and processed, nothing is going to change. We can’t afford to continue the typical party-line bickering and have nothing get done for another 10 years. Our children are dying. Now is not the time to side with your party on that premise alone. Now is the time to vote with your heart and your head.