Thursday Thoughts: Real Gun Control

gun control family dinner

What has happened in the last few weeks has been nothing but saddening. I remember when Columbine happened and that was the first school mass shooting that was really ran through the national media. That occurred when I was in high school. Fortunately, I grew up in a time when we didn’t have to worry about that in schools. When schools didn’t have security procedures. Gun control was not an everyday topic in the media.

Unfortunately, times have changed and mass shootings are no longer shocking. We’ve started to become calloused to them, which should never happen.

There are more than enough articles out there concerning the politics of this matter. This post is not meant to be political. I have my own ideas on what gun control should or shouldn’t be, as everyone does.

Cultural Change

There used to be a time when families would eat meals at the table at the same time. This was a time when families would discuss their days, what went well and what went wrong. When the bonds of the family were strengthened. Due to busy schedules, family make up, and many other factors, the concept of everyone gathering at the table for a meal has went by the wayside.

Music has gotten more and more vulgar and violent. Women are presented as objects and not people. Violence is romanticized and the value of life is no existent in many of those lyrics. The issue with music is that it easily gets in our mind where we repeat it to ourselves over and over. How many times have you caught yourself having lyrics go through your head, even with a song you have only heard once or twice?

Video games have also become more violent and graphic. I’m a Xennial, so I grew up when video games and the internet were taking off. I used to love playing video games, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it, in moderation. Having been in that generation that saw video games come about, I can tell you, playing Mario brothers and Duck Hunt were nothing compared to today’s games. I remember when Madden Football came out, you couldn’t tell the difference between any of the players. Now, they look like the actual players. The games now look like actual people. The same has happened with the violent video games. It went from shooting something that looks kind of human, to something that looks pretty real life. I’m not saying video games make people violent, but I do believe it desensitizes us to an extent. And there are some individuals that can’t distinguish reality from non-reality.

Social media has become interwoven into our everyday life. I have no issues with social media, as I use it for this site. It’s a great way to connect with other people or keep in contact with old friends that you might have lost contact with 20-30 years ago. However, due to social media, we have lost a lot of our face-to-face contact. With email so prevalent, we’re more likely to send an email than call or go see someone in person. I know I’m guilty of this even at work. Someone is sitting around the corner from me and I fire off an email to them instead of getting up and talking to them in person.

However, social media has caused people to hide from their problems and portray a life that is not real. It is easy to put up a facade that looks like you’re doing well and not dealing with any issues, but reality is, that someone could be desperately struggling inside.

Understanding Responsibility

There has to be an understanding of the power of a gun. I think Spiderman’s Uncle said it best, “With great power comes great responsibility.” A gun is a tool, a very powerful tool that has the ability to take away life. It can be used to provide food for the table, to protect your family and home, and even for recreation. On the other hand, it can be used to cause great damage and pain, even taking away someone’s life.

Maybe if we valued people and who they are, even our own family, we might not have all the issues we have today. The family table was where family issues were dealt with. In some ways it seems that stuffing our face with food makes us more willing to share. Seems silly doesn’t it, but think about it. When we haven’t seen someone for awhile what do we do? We go out to eat. We want to catch up with someone, what do we do? We go out and eat or have coffee. Going on a date or getting to know someone, we go out and eat.

Hey. . . conversations are sometimes awkward. There are whole books (and many of them) dedicated to how to be good at conversation or be more conversational. Anything from what posture you should have to how much eye contact you should make. When we’re eating, it fills in the gaps of conversation, which allows it to go on longer. It also allows us to have more time to think.

When there was an issue, it was at the kitchen table that many of those issues were worked out. The whole family was there, and you got everyone’s input even if you didn’t want it. But problems were solved, confidence was built, and deeper connections were made.

Do I think sitting at the kitchen table while eating is going to fix all of our problems? NO. . . but it can help. Venting to your family is far more productive than taking that anger out shooting people. Maybe those conversations will help realize someone needs help. And then it can be stopped before it happens.

Is There Data to Back This Up

A 2004 study of 11-18 year olds that had 4746 participants published in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that frequent family meals were associated with a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using marijuana; with a lower incidence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts; and with better grades

Another study in 2004, surveyed 12- to 17-year-olds by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, found that teenagers who reported having two or fewer dinners a week with family members were more than one and a half times as likely to smoke, drink or use illegal substances than were teenagers who had five to seven family dinners.

A University of Minnesota published study in 2004 found that adolescent girls who reported having more frequent family meals and a positive atmosphere during those meals were less likely to have eating disorders.

Researchers at Harvard in 1996 looked at the types of activities that promoted language development. Family dinners showed to be more important than play, story time and other family events. Those families that engaged in extended discussion at the dinner table, like story telling and explanations, rather than one-phrase comments, like “eat your vegetables,” had children with better language skills.

In one study of more than 5,000 Minnesota teens, researchers showed that regular family dinners were associated with reduced rates of depression and suicidal thoughts. In a very recent study, kids who had been victims of cyberbullying bounced back more easily if they had regular family dinners. Family dinners have been found to be a more powerful deterrent against high-risk teen behaviors than church attendance or good grades.

The more times the family had meals together, the better the emotional health of the adolescent, according to a study of more than 26,000 Canadian teens between 11 and 15 years of age. The teens had less emotional and behavioral problems, more trusting and helpful behaviors towards others, and higher life satisfaction regardless of family economics.

Teens that have frequent family dinners are more likely to report having excellent relationships with their family. One-and-a-half times more likely to have an excellent relationship with their mother. Twice as likely to have an excellent relationship with their father and siblings. Teens having more family meals together have a decreased drug use. They also have a decreased chance of having friends that have drug use.

What Does This Mean

We have a family problem in America. Violence always stems from somewhere, it doesn’t matter what the tool of choice is whether it’s words used, drugs or weapons. Our family unit in the United States has broken down. Our social connectivity has broken down in terms of face to face interaction. Families spend less and less time together. And sometimes as much as we hate those things, they are important, and vitally important to kids mental makeup that then dictates how they behave as adults. If we fix our family problems, then our society problems will start to correct themselves. Maybe something as simple as trying to have more family meals together could have a great impact. #bringbackfamilydinners

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