HomeWashington Twp. NewsLetter to the editor

Letter to the editor

It takes a village to halt hatred and violence.

By Kevin M. Levy

On May 7, the Washington Township Sun published a letter to the editor from Dominick A. Ruggiero, Jr., proposing quasi-solutions to school shootings. His “solution” was to increase stigma on students afflicted with mental illness and victims of bullying by alleging that they are the prime sources of school violence.

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Ruggiero’s argument misses the forest for the trees and falls to the false assumption that victims of bullying are the perpetrators of violence. Those living with mental illnesses are far more likely to be on the receiving end of the abuse, and Ruggiero’s proposed “psychological testing” does not address the issues of violence.

If the problem of school violence starts at home, it starts because of the desensitization towards holding students accountable for their bullying. As we learned from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, perpetrators are not the bullied, they are the tormentors of other students. The MSD shooter was not “ostracized” because he didn’t fit it — he was avoided by his classmates because of the danger that they felt he posed to the school.

The shooter was a bigot, as these mass shooters tend to be: homophobic and racist. Pretending that the mental health of a school shooter is root of violence is shortsighted. The recent stabbing attack in Toronto was motivated by misogyny — the attacker believed that he was entitled to sex from women. The shooter of a church in South Carolina was inspired by a cause to incite a race war. The shooter of a nightclub in Orlando was motivated by his urge to kill members of the LGBTQ community.

The common thread in these cases is not mental instability — it’s unbridled hatred.

But hatred alone does not kill. Easy access to firearms enables those motivated by the hatred in their hearts to murder en masse. It is not a violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms to require firearm purchasers to pass a thorough background check. The issue in school shootings is not bullied children — it’s the bullies who can all too easily obtain access to guns.

The crisis of ongoing school violence is not going to be remedied by subjecting children to intrusive psychological examinations, which will likely not prevent school shootings. We need to seriously address the prolificity of guns in America, our tolerance of intolerance, and protect those who are the real victims of bullying and violence. Conflating bigotry and hatred with mental instability helps no one and will not keep students safe.

Anthony is a graduate of Rowan University and a proud freelance contributor for 08108 magazine. He has past bylines in The Sun Newspapers and the Burlington County Times.

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