I want to offer a different way to address gun violence in our country, one that might be more individually empowering and ultimately effective today than our current proposals.
Almost all of our commonly proposed solutions—fewer guns, more guns, background checks, licensing, better mental health coverage, etc.—are external solutions that leverage behavior and systems and therefore fail to address 1/2 of the problem: Internal solutions that leverage mindsets and culture.
Furthermore, I believe the solutions we propose are disempowering; as individual citizens they give us almost nothing in our daily lives to effect real change in terms of violent crime. Crusading to either protect our gun rights or limit availability of certain types of guns are worthy causes, but their results aren’t guaranteed, and the average American has about a 1/300,000,000 effect on policy. The solution I propose has an immediate effect on those around us.
I propose that we make a daily effort to include the outcasts of society, especially in middle and high school when group identity formation is the most important in development. We do not have to be friends with the weird and mentally unstable; we do not have to call them on the phone or listen to their rants or invite them to our parties (although those could be worthy causes as well); I propose we simply smile. We make them feel like they’re a part of the community.
Yes, it’s just a smile, a nod, a hello. But to someone who’s not used to being seen, acknowledged, and included, it could be a reason not to bring a gun to school. It could be a reminder of the common human dignity that murder violates.
Next time you see a person you normally avoid, make eye contact and say a polite hello. You can still maintain your other boundaries. You’ll never know the effect you might have.
Almost all of us can agree that we want to reduce gun violence, what we disagree on is how to do that. Although many will deem this internal, individual solution ineffective, I don’t believe anyone will actively campaign against it. Sure, befriending the outcasts is a very small step, but like the butterfly that causes a hurricane in complexity theory, you might save hundreds of innocent lives. You might already have, and you’ll never know it.
Most importantly, you can do this right now, and start affecting our culture at large. You can do it with almost no extra effort in your daily routine, while continuing your other gun violence reduction efforts.
Me, I’ll be smiling at you all.