For the most part, I stay away from controversial subjects beyond the scope of animal training and behavior, but this is a topic I’ve thought about for a long time. When I work with people and their animals, I’m often explaining to them that their animal’s behavior is not really the problem. It’s just a symptom of the problem and punishing or suppressing the behavior isn’t going to solve the actual problem. This issue is no different.

Gun violence isn’t the problem. It’s a symptom of the problem.

Earlier this year, I was chatting with my son about life in high school. Since he’s still in high school, I get a first hand account of what goes on there.

Did you know that most schools have a ‘no touch ’policy? On the surface, that sounds like a great policy to have, seeing as how there have been so many cases of sexual abuse from people in authority across every organization that cares for kids in any capacity.

The problem with this policy is that we’ve taken it to the absolute extreme. There’s no balance between the natural touch of healthy relationships, which we all need, and the inappropriate touch of abuse. So there’s no pats on the back, no hugs, no hand holding, nothing.

People wonder how a student can shoot up their fellow students— well, there’s part of it. How do you feel connected to people you’re never allowed to touch in even the most natural and innocent of ways?

Bullying is of course a really big deal nowadays and there’s constant talk about speaking up if you’re being bullied or know someone who’s being bullied but oddly enough, all of the bullying campaigns are directed towards our youth. Who exactly do you think our kids are learning to be bullies from?

Now I’m not one to use the word “bully” lightly as I think it’s a term that is far overused these days and many people label anyone who disagrees with them on any subject, a bully, so when I finally decided I had to step into my son’s middle school to address an incident of bullying, it was with absolute certainty that this was bullying and not just my kid being upset because he didn’t like something the teacher said or did.

And there it is. The fact that the bully was a teacher and not another student. Parents and teachers are running these anti-bullying campaigns while simultaneously modeling bullying behaviors for our kids.

When I drive my son to school, I’m dumbfounded by how many parents tailgate me the entire way there. I’ve had parents pass me in no passing zones and have even had parents pass me on the right, driving up over the shoulder of the road, on the grass, to do it. What message do you think this sends to their kid, and mine? That the rules/laws don’t apply to them? That nobody is more important than they are and nothing is more important than what they want? That other people’s lives are not their concern?

We all hate each other and we’re teaching our kids to hate one another as well.

Did you know that there are over 76 groups on Facebook titled “I Hate People”, or some variation of the same? Racism, hatred, and paranoia are all on full display in the Nextdoor app and it is disturbing. We’ve lost our compassion, empathy, and consideration for ourselves and each other. It’s all about me, me, me, where everyone is so concerned about their “rights” that they’ve forgotten what’s right.

People complain about kids constantly being on their phones and disconnected from society, and blame their behavior on the internet and social media, but who do you think they learned that from? Facebook is full of “funny”memes like this one, spread around quite often by parents:

Every day we model this for our kids. How to disconnect. How to isolate. How to avoid other people and our responsibility to other people. How to hate one another, and then we wonder why one of our kids walks into a school and shoots up all his classmates.

Sure, we can blame it on mental illness, but lets be real, where exactly is that mental illness coming from and how are we missing it until it’s too late? Of course nobody saw it coming. We’re all so wrapped up in ourselves that nobody cares enough to see it.

If we really want to end school shootings, how about we start modeling love, compassion, and consideration for others instead of constantly preaching about “my rights”?

Why don’t we start showing our children how to connect with the people around them on a personal level and foster a sense of community, instead of doing things like complaining that someone threw away a piece of trash in our garbage can instead of carrying it all the way home to their garbage can (I kid you not, true story!).

We don’t really have a gun problem so much as we have a ‘value of life’ problem. If we don’t start teaching our kids that every life has value, it won’t really matter what kind of gun control we have in place.