This time of year, the Carlon family welcomes a regular visitor to our house, well, to the door of our house. We call her mamma bird and every year she builds a new nest in the wreath that hangs on our front door. She builds these wreaths twig by twig and takes her time until, eventually, it becomes the perfect sized little home for her soon to be babies.

It makes me wonder, how does she know how to do this or where to come back to every year? It’s not like birds go through some formal education process where they sit through hours of classroom education followed by a practicum. No, they are born knowing how to do this; it is how they are wired.

I know nature vs. nurture is an ongoing debate around human behavior; what are we born knowing vs. what is it that the process of socialization teaches us. Are we born with a blank slate and does society corrupt us or are we hardwired to be one way or another? Certainly we are more complex than the three little birds who just hatched on my front door, but maybe we need to get back to basics.

Now that these birds have hatched, I look out my front window and see mamma bird searching for food on the wet ground and see her fly back to the nest to feed her little babies. She’s doing what she’s been programmed to do to ensure their survival.

This week, another school shooting. Why does this keep happening? Mental illness? Every society has mentally ill people, yet those who live in the US take to to the extreme at a disproportionate level. Certainly, if they didn’t have access to guns this couldn’t happen, but limiting access to firearms is only one half of the equation. I think of it like treating the symptom and not the root cause; and this isn’t a bad thing, we all take things to treat symptoms, but wouldn’t it be better to focus on why so many of our mentally ill become perpetrators of heinous violence?

It makes me wonder, how many of these school shooters had a strong mama (or father) bird in their lives to build them that nest, to nourish and protect them; not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually? Did their parents take responsibility for them and teach them right and wrong or were their parents indifferent, selfish, and provide an all around poor example of how to be human? Did these shooters ever learn respect for authority, for laws, or for one another?

Daily, I witnessed how my father loved and respected my mother and how she, in turn, love and respected him. It wasn’t always roses, but they stuck with it through the hard times. Much like mamma bird, they worked together to build a solid nest for us and to nourish us. They didn’t take their responsibilities lightly and they knew that they had to work together to get it done.

We live in a society, though, where everything can be disposable. If it is broken, we don’t try and fix things, we throw them away. This is true of goods that we buy (the printer is broken? Just buy a new one!) to relationships (this just isn’t working out, I’m gone). I’d like to know, was the only commonality among school shooters the fact that they had access to firearms? Did they come from stable households where they were loved and respected? Were they ever made to feel loved in mind, body, and spirit? How were they made to feel valued? We don’t know a lot about those who perpetrate mass shooters (they typically are among the dead), but the trend seems to be broken homes, child abuse, fathers not present, and mental illness treated pharmacologically.

So yes, limiting guns will work but, maybe, so might focusing on the importance of getting back to basics when it comes to raising our children. I’d love to see a double-sided narrative where we work to limit or eliminate access to firearms as well as focus on the importance of raising our children with love, support, and instilling in them the golden rule; to treat others how they would like to be treated. Now the extreme left will tell you, “Not everyone privileged to be raised in such an environment,” and the extreme right will tell you, “You cannot limit our constitutional rights.” Both are basically saying, “We can’t do anything about that so let’s not even try.” When, quite possibly, the two most impactful solutions to an issue are at odds with each other because of ideology, we’ll continue to get nowhere. It’s time to stop the ideological bullshit and do what’s right for our country as a whole; treat the symptoms and the root causes.

I would love to follow these little birds as they leave the nest and mature. Do they stick together or do they go their separate ways? Will they eventually come back and visit where they were born or do they just move on to repeat the cycle somewhere else, independent of their mother and siblings? I suspect it’s the later and that once they are ready to leave the nest they are off to let the cycle repeat itself again. What kind of cycle do we want for our children? One where mental illness continues to lead to mass shootings, or do we want to really try to put an end to it by acknowledging what’s really going on, setting ideological differences aside, and working together to stop it?