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Former Teacher's View: Hatred, weapons of choice both must be addressed

The National Rifle Association claims guns don't kill people; people do. That's an oversimplification. There are always two elements necessary to pull off the mass murders we've witnessed in America and around the world: hatred and a weapon.

Janet MrozThere are many psychological and societal issues that motivate a human being to commit murder, including mental illness, bullying, racism, battery, betrayal, and radical indoctrination. Any can result in deep hatred and lead to homicidal thoughts.

Average Americans are not equipped to address the mental health problems that may result in mass murder, so we need to advocate for increased funding for our schools so they can provide trained staff psychologists who can recognize and provide treatment for mental health problems in our children from an early age.

Likewise, we are reliant upon our federal security agencies to detect and deter radicals preparing to execute mass murders on our citizens.

Beyond that, we all need to step up to the plate to help eliminate the societal issues that breed the kind of hatred that results in violence. We need to start being kind to one another and showing respect and acceptance for our differences, rather than name-calling and belittling the people who do not look or think as we do. We need to teach our kids to end bullying and to be sensitive and respectful to the feelings and needs of others. These are things we all can — and must — do.

Beyond the hatred that motivates individuals to commit murder, they need a weapon, such as a gun, knife, explosives, or even a vehicle. It is the weapon of choice that has the biggest impact on the numbers of people who die as a result of an attack.

Odds are an attacker with a handgun or a knife will be limited to a small number of victims before being taken down by onlookers or authorities. However, if the attacker has access to an automatic rifle or explosives, or drives into a crowd of people, the result is much more likely to be mass murder.

The prospect of building concrete abutments to protect all pedestrians from homicidal drivers seems daunting (although this has been done to protect everything from Kwik Trips to the U.S. capitol).

But national measures to restrict or report the purchase of ingredients needed to make bombs seem possible. If a private corporation like Cambridge Analytica can steal my personal information from the Web and determine my age, interests, friends, and voting preferences, it seems plausible that national security agencies can track purchases of bomb ingredients and discover whether there are radical terrorist affiliations.

Our forefathers who wrote the 2nd Amendment had no clue that weapons manufacturers would be producing automatic weapons more than 200 years later. Even if they did, they specifically stated the right to bear arms was intended for an "armed militia," not for all American citizens.

Activists crying out and marching for gun control today are not asking our legislators to take hunting rifles and target pistols away from Americans; they are asking for common-sense laws that will take guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill, and children — and automatic weapons out of the hands of all civilians.

If it were left up to the NRA and the lawmakers it supports, we would keep adding to the number of civilians who are armed. If the NRA had its way, America would regress to the era of the Wild West where we're all packin' and "justice" is determined by the quickest draw.

Janet Mroz of Hermantown taught 12th-grade English in Minnetonka, Minn., before a 30-year career in customer service for an electric cooperative in Virginia, Minn.