I was in elementary school when my dad took me out to our backyard and I shot a gun for the first time.
I knew that he kept shotguns in his closet and a pellet gun on top of our china cabinet in our dining room. I never liked guns and thought they were a scary thing to have around the house.
When I was in high school, I wrote an article for my rinky-dink school paper about gun control because honestly, I thought guns were the problem.
Let me give it to you all very straight: Guns are not the problem.
When mass shootings happen, we are so quick to blame the guns. After the recent Florida high school shooting, I have witnessed many people venting over social media about how we need more gun control.
Guns have been around for hundreds of years and mass shootings have only become a problem in the recent decades. We are so quick to discuss banning guns when mass shootings happen that we don't look at the bigger picture.
1.3 MILLION people die every year in car crashes. A little over 13,000 people are killed by firearms.
But are we looking to ban cars? No, of course not. That would be ridiculous. It's not the car that is the dangerous thing, it is the people driving it. Just like guns are only dangerous when you put them in the hands of someone who will use them in a dangerous way.
My biggest question is this: Why are we focusing on HOW the shootings happen instead of WHY?
America has a mental health crisis, NOT a gun crisis. 1 in 25 American adults have a mental illness. 45 percent of those individuals go without treatment. Whether it is due to lack of resources or lack of affordable health insurance, it is clear mental health is a growing issue in our country that is affecting a lot more than just the people with the illnesses.
If you haven't noticed, many of these shooters take their own lives after killing others. And if they don't, it is later released that they have a history of mental illness.
For example, on Valentine's Day of 2008, a former student from Northern Illinois University opened fire in an auditorium on campus then turned the gun on himself. He had struggled with schizoaffective disorder his entire life.
The shooter at Sandy Hook had suffered from anxiety, depression and OCD. He also turned the gun on himself after the mass killing.
Both shooters involved in the Columbine school shooting had histories of mental illness and BOTH committed suicide after opening fire.
ALL of these mass murderers were under the age of 30.
Majority of mental illnesses reach their peak of severity from late teens to early twenties.
People, guns are not the problem. We stigmatize mental illness. We do nothing about bullying. We ostracize the "weird kids" and laugh at them. We do not extend a hand to those in need.
Guns are not the cause of these mass shootings. The way our society handles those with mental illness and those who are "the odd man out" are the causes.
Do I believe the general public should have access to assault rifles and automatic weapons? No. But do I believe we need stricter gun control? Also no.
What our country needs is a better system for those with mental illnesses to seek treatment before it gets to the point where they break. I am by no means making excuses for these individuals who shattered thousands upon thousands of families with their horrific actions. But I do think there is a bigger picture and a better solution than just banning guns.
Guns are just a weapon of choice. Ban them and people will start building homemade bombs or acquiring grenades to throw and kill people.
The sad truth is, people will always find a way to hurt someone if they want to do it bad enough.
So please, stop blaming the guns. Stop with the ridiculous cartoons depicting Congress protecting someone with an NRA shirt over a bunch of children. Stop attacking second amendment rights that have been in place for hundreds of years without issue until recently.
We have a mental health crisis and the problem will only be fixed when we acknowledge that it is the problem in the first place.