Following the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead and more than 15 injured, America is battling with what many perceive to be a “national epidemic of school shootings.” And according to veteran journalist and expert opiate researcher, Sam Quinones, mass shootings—like the opioid crisis—are “American scourges” fueled by availability.
“Both are revved in part by commercial interests and in part by the collapse of community in American culture,” he writes. “Both persist because of the erroneous belief that there’s an easy answer to these complicated problems. Above all, both are about supply.”
At the root of both scourges, he says, is isolation and a conviction that we are entitled to a life free of pain. “We exalted the private, the individual, at the expense of community,” he says.
“Most gun owners are law abiding, just as many people have no trouble taking narcotic painkillers according to the prescribed instructions. Yet when guns, or opioids, are accessible in plentiful supply to everyone, without much monitoring of consumers’ backgrounds, and are then mixed with the isolation and disconnection in American culture today, havoc results.”
Quinones goes on to suggest community-driven measures for addressing the shooting epidemic, including ones that are now popular among American voters: banning the assault rifle and gun ownership among people who are mentally ill. A recent Harvard CAPS-Harris poll shows that 61% of American voters favor a ban on the AR-15 rifle — the same kind of weapon used in South Florida high school shooting. According to the survey, which was taken just days after the killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, 57% of voters say, “school shootings are pushed by a lack of attention to mental issues and not a lack of gun control.”
Furthermore, The Harris Poll’s 2015 survey found that over seven in ten Americans (73%) favor restrictions on firearms sales/ownership.
Still, Quinones says, finding solutions to both the opioid epidemic and mass murder will require a collective painstaking effort. “We must again act as bold, resilient Americans, tackling a problem with a can-do attitude. We must stop believing in one easy answer to complicated problems, and shamefully giving up when one doesn’t magically appear.”
Read Sam Quinones’ full op-ed at The New York Times.