Children, Schools, Guns, and a Culture of Overindulgence by David Bredehoft


                      OPINION/EDITORIAL


I opened my newspaper, turned on the TV,  and logged on to my computer and the headlines screamed out at me!

"Texas community struggles with second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history"

"The U.S. is uniquely terrible at protecting children from gun violence"

"The staff of Uvalde's local paper cover the worst day of their lives"

"Robb shooting claims 19 children, 2 teachers"

"Shooting at Elementary School Devastates Community in South Texas"

950 School shootings since Sandy Hook, including 27 school shootings so far this year


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How many Columbines, Red Lakes, Sandy Hooks, Parklands, Santa Fes, or Uvaldes do we have to endure before we really do something about gun violence other than standing for a moment of silence and offering our thoughts and prayers? Have school shootings become the new normal in America? Have we become numb to gun violence?

According to Education Week “There have been 27 school shootings this year. There have been 119 school shootings since 2018, when Education Week began tracking such incidents. The highest number of shootings, 34, occurred last year. There were 10 shootings in 2020, and 24 each in 2019 and 2018.” How did we as a culture get here? A country where 311,000 students since 1999 have experienced a shooting at school. A country where 12 children die each day from gun violence and another 32 are shot and injured.

As we struggle with our grief, anger, and fear we search for answers and solutions. Why? How could this happen again? What causes a person to do this? What can we do to stop it?


Causes and Solutions

To date, a variety of causes and solutions have been offered to solve school shootings. Frank Robertz, Director of the Institute for Violence Prevention, believes the cause stems from mental illness, pent-up anger, misguided malignant fantasies, low self-esteem, being bullied, the need for media attention, the lure of becoming a copycat, and access to weapons. The National Rifle Association’s past president, Oliver North, blames it on Ritalin, video games, and lack of religion in schools, while a Republican congresswoman from Tennessee even blames school shootings on pornography.

The solution then is to identify troubled teenagers and youths at risk, listen to cries for help, monitor social media for troubled teens and provide them with mental health support. Further, all adolescents not just the troubled ones need to learn healthy social skills (e.g. empathy and conflict resolution) and restrict access to guns. Still, some insist the solution to this problem lies in school safety, locking down schools, and arming teachers with guns, while others are convinced the solution is sensible gun safety laws.

There is no single cause or one simple solution to this complex problem, only multiple contributing factors. Could our culture of overindulgence be an overlooked contributing factor?


What Is Overindulgence?

“Overindulging children is giving them too much of what looks good, too soon, and for too long. It is giving them things or experiences that are not appropriate for their age or their interests and talents. It is the process of giving things to children to meet the adult’s needs, not the child’s.

Overindulgence is giving a disproportionate amount of family resources to one or more children in a way that appears to meet the children's needs but does not, so children experience scarcity in the midst of plenty. Overindulgence is doing or having so much of something that it does active harm, or at least prevents a person from developing and deprives that person of achieving his or her full potential.

Overindulgence is a form of child neglect. It hinders children from performing their needed developmental tasks, and from learning necessary life lessons" (Clarke et al. 2014).

Our research found that overindulgence involves more than Too Much. We found three types of overindulgence and it occurs in one, two, or all three of these ways simultaneously.


1. Too much (toys, clothes, privileges, entertainment, sports, camps, etc.).

It is estimated that Americans own 390 million guns, more guns than people in the U.S. Three percent of gun owners own half of the guns in the nation. The number of guns manufactured per year has increased from 3,040,934 in 1986 to 9,052,628 in 2018. There were 20,726 gun deaths by firearm (excluding suicides) in the U.S. in 2021. Eight million AR-15s and its variations in circulation. "Our federal, state, and local governments are spending a combined average of $34.8 million each day to deal with the aftermath of gun violence across the country. The total annual bill for taxpayers, survivors, families, employers, and communities is $280 billion."

3. Over-nurture (over-loving, giving too much attention, doing things for children that they should be doing for themselves, etc.).

2. Soft Structure (not requiring chores, not having rules, not enforcing rules you do have, or not expecting children to learn skills, etc.).

For two decades Congress and the Dickey Amendment prevented the Centers for Disease Control from conducting research on gun violence and public health. Ninety percent of voters want to require background checks for all firearm sales, and more than 60% of Americans support banning assault-style weapons however congress has yet to pass any legislation to mandate it. In 30 states a child can legally own a rifle or shotgun.


Could our culture of overindulgence be an overlooked contributing factor to this complex problem?


Practice Aloha. Do all things with love, grace, and gratitude.

© 2022 David J. Bredehoft


© David J. Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson 2004-2022;  bredehoft@csp.edu