I grew up with guns. As a young child, I grew up first knowing about gun safety because our dad hunted and had guns in the house.
He taught us about the dangers of guns, to never have the barrel face you or anyone else as one tiny mistake could mean death. I knew about the dangers of guns, gun safety, and how serious one must take it at a very early age, way before I even went to school.
At age 11, I was given the chance to learn how to shoot because I took an interest.
You would think that growing up on a farm with a dad as a hunter, I learned to shoot at home, but that was not the case. I learned at a firing range alongside a biathlon group. Â
Learning how to shoot at the range taught me even more about gun safety and how to be aware of other people around you. With so many people shooting rifles in one place, gun safety had to come first, before trying to better your skills, before trying to see your score, safety was the first thing you thought about and was engraved in me even more.
When I turned 12, I officially joined the group. I entered my first biathlon race and continued to race for four years. Â From the age of 11 to 16 I was surrounded by other people my age who not only had guns at home but, come practice time, had guns on their backs as they skied around on public trails. Never once did I see any gun violence.
Any young person has their troubles, and here was a bunch of them, competing against each other with guns and ammo on their backs. Not once was there a gun-related accident or incident.
To me, this means one thing. Gun control is not the problem, lack of mental health is.
No mentally stable and calm person would ever consider shooting another human being, no matter what troubles they may face in life.
We already have gun control, and it does a great job at filtering who can legally own a firearm. For my firearm licence, I had to take a safety course and pass an exam. On top of that, I had to have someone who knew me for five years or more answer and sign a form with questions about how they knew me, if I ever suffered from depression, and if they thought it would be safe to allow me to have a firearm.
You cannot receive a licence otherwise.
It is usually people who obtain firearms illegally who cause gun violence and mass shootings.Â
I don't know how to stop those people from obtaining firearms, but I know the answer doesn't lie in making it difficult for stable and responsible people to enjoy the sport of shooting.
Maybe we can't stop them from obtaining guns illegally, but we can help people before they get the thought in their head to shoot someone. We need more mental health awareness; we need more mental health options, and we need young people to start accepting each other.
Mental health needs to be popular, we need to make it common knowledge in schools, and we need to make it feel like a normal and shameless thing to seek help for. If you need help or comfort, it should be made easily accessible.
I realize there are school counsellors, but the problem is getting counselling isn't popular. Maybe it should be mandatory for every kid to have a quick one-on-one with a counsellor every month.
A quick check-up: what's new, what's on your mind and what's been challenging you lately? It would show students someone is there who cares and can give guidance.
Perhaps if this was implemented as early as elementary school, we would have fewer dropouts. It seems like a common-sense answer to me. If you are anti-gun-violence, be pro-mental health.
If the stories of school shootings strike a deep chord within you, then do something today that can actually make a difference. Donate to your local mental health organization. Let's take control and create the world we want to live in, one healthy mind at a time.