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Trump misses the mark on his gun response, and we deserve better.

It's time for more than just "thoughts and prayers."

On Feb. 14, a former student walked into Parkland, Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he shot and killed 17 people.

It was the 18th school shooting in this year's first 45 days. Like a number of other recent shootings, the gunman used a highly customizable AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Like many more, the shooter had a history of domestic violence.

In an interview with the Daily Beast, classmates of the suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, described him as “creepy and weird" and an "outcast" known for spreading anti-Muslim hate and wearing President Trump's ubiquitous "Make America Great Again" hat.


Students react following the shooting. Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg/AFP/Getty Images.

When it came time to address the country in the wake of this tragedy, Trump did what many politicians do in these situations: He blamed mental illness.

"So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior," Trump tweeted Thursday morning. "Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"

But then what? In fact, according to BuzzFeed, the FBI was made aware of Cruz as a potential school shooting threat back in September. Cruz allegedly posted online, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter."

At what point should he have been stopped? Trump placed blame on people for not reporting Cruz to law enforcement, when in fact, he was.

Then there's the matter of mental health.

Trump addressed the county from the White House on Feb. 15, 2018. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Speaking from the White House, Trump managed to avoid mentioning the word "gun" in his televised address. Rather, he tossed in a few religious references, saying, "In these moments of heartache and darkness, we hold onto God's word in Scripture: 'I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you.'"

He committed to visiting the school sometime in the near future, and said that the country needs to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health."

Gun violence isn't a mental health issue, and even if it were, our government is failing to address "the difficult issue of mental health," generally.

A 2014 study by Drs. Jonathan M. Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish set out to explore the connection between mental illness and mass shootings.

Together, Metzl and MacLeish examined four of the major arguments made in the wake of mass shootings: that mental illness causes gun violence, that a psychiatric diagnosis can predict future violence, that we should fear "mentally ill loners," and that gun control won't prevent future mass shootings.

What they found was that mental illness and gun violence have a tenuous connection at best, and that a lot of the rhetoric around that connection is vastly oversimplified.

Even if mental health and gun violence shared a convincing causal relationship, the fact is that this administration has repeatedly tried to gut Americans' access to health care — including mental health That leaves us with just two options: Either our politicians don't believe this is actually a mental health issue, or they think it is but don't care enough to fix it.

Neither option is cutting it. We deserve better — so do our kids.

Columbine was 25 fatal school shootings ago. We've done shockingly little to prevent this from happening again. Our collective shrug has created a generation that sees this as a normal part of life.

But even they're not having it anymore. On the morning of Feb. 15, Parkland students Kelsey Friend and David Hogg went on CNN, and pointed out what's painfully obvious about solutions that involve little more than offering "thoughts and prayers" and blaming mental health. "What we need more than [thoughts and prayers] is action," said Hogg.

"We're children," he said. "You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role."

GIFs via CNN/Twitter.

Gun violence is a complex issue, which is why it's so important that it be studied. Unfortunately, we can't even get that right.

In 1996, Republicans in Congress put an end to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s studies about gun-related injuries and death. Fearing massive cuts to their overall funding, the CDC agreed to end its gun violence research.

In 2013, President Obama lifted the ban on the CDC's gun violence research. Unfortunately, again fearing backlash from pro-gun members of Congress who control the agency's budget, they've been reluctant to wade back into the divisive issue.

The first step to address the epidemic of gun violence is to acknowledge that there is, indeed, an epidemic of gun violence in America. We deserve leadership on this issue that goes beyond shrugging and blaming mental illness or offering our thoughts and prayers to victims.

We need action — and we need it now.

Former officials from the George W. Bush administration and campaign launched a super PAC in support of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, declaring they "knew it was time to take a stand." They claim that they seek to unite and mobilize a community that is historically Republican voters. The group, consisting of at least 200 former officials, aides and Cabinet secretaries, formed "43 Alumni for Biden" to block President Donald Trump from winning a second term. They claim on their website that there have been "far too many days filled with chaos emanating from the highest levels of government" and that "political differences may remain among us, but we look forward to a time when civil, honest and robust policy discussions are the order of the day."

When I read about "43 Alumni for Biden," it gave me a great sense of hope. Even though I didn't vote for Biden and I'm not a huge fan, I am liberal and think it's important to accept anyone willing to admit that they are disappointed in their political party. It takes someone with real strength to admit the damage that has been done to our nation by Trump's presidency. It takes even more strength to say they voted for Trump, they were wrong and now they want to fix it.

My optimism has less to do with what side they are on and much more to do with the act of reaching across the isle. Almost all politicians have their heels dug on issues that align with their respective political party. The only thing worse than someone trying to prove that they are always right is someone putting all their energy into proving that their counterpart is consistently wrong.

What is even more counterproductive is the person who waggles the "I told you so" finger in the face of someone who has the audacity to change their mind and actually agree with them. Why anyone would shame someone for having the courage to admit they were wrong is a concept that befuddles me to this day. Yet it happens more often than not. The fear of being ridiculed plays a huge role in our inability to be vulnerable. We have an opportunity to come together as a country. As long as we all grow the hell up.

When a politician changes their stance on an issue whether it is because of new information or just a change of heart—especially after reflecting on things and keeping an open mind, they are labeled as a flip flopper. Somehow it seems like they have more credibility if they can say that they believed something all along because it makes them look smart. Ask yourself, who do you trust more: someone who always says they are right or someone who can utter the words "That's a really good point?" We need to take it upon ourselves to be the bigger person.

Remember all that progress you made in your relationship when you screamed at your partner with guns a blazing telling them how wrong they were. Remember when they responded by telling you that you had excellent points and they would try and do better from now on. Oh, wait. You probably can't because that never happens. But I could be wrong (see what I did there).

Now imagine a time when you might have made a mistake, and your partner speaks to you with tenderness and understanding with the inevitable dash of disappointment because, lets face it, you deserve it. I think we would all opt for the undesirable cherry as opposed to a full on sundae of shame.

We are imperfect emotional beings and protect our psyche like a dog learning the boundaries of a newly installed invisible electric fence. Once our pride gets zapped, we are less likely to venture out as far, and in fact, will most likely recoil deep within the boundaries of our comfort zone.

The people involved with 43 Alumni for Biden have been able to reassess the state of the Republican party to which they held such loyalty. Just because they are supporting a Democrat in Joe Biden, doesn't mean they need to turn their back on their traditional Republican views. This is about more than just taking a step back and putting aside any blind loyalty one might have to their respective political party. It is unclear what percentage of the organization voted for Donald Trump in 2016. I am going to guess not very many punched a chad for Hillary Clinton.

When you vote for someone, you have put your trust in them. That leads to defending any perceived missteps they may have had because you advocated and believed in them. The more controversy there is, the more you feel the need to justify your vote and defend them even more. Then you find yourself defending the fact that you are defending them and believe the negative news coverage is a lie or a smear campaign.

I did it with both Bill and Hillary Clinton in the midst of everything that was being said about them. Then I stopped and thought about what my thought process would be if it was George W. Bush that was being accused of the exact same things. It was the moment I realized I wasn't being honest with myself. The diagnosis? We protect our ego on subconscious and primal level and fear the vulnerability that comes with admitting that we were misguided. Once we are able to face that, we can really get to the core of why we don't budge.

We are going to need all the communication skills we can muster up because if you think the months were bizarre leading up to the 2016 election, I am pretty sure Kanye West has something special planned for us. Buckle your seatbelt and open your minds because just when you thought 2020 couldn't possibly have any surprises, things are about to get even weirder.