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  • Writer's pictureHoward McBroom

Jacksonville, Florida

Guns are not our problem. Hate is our problem. This past Saturday, a young man named Ryan Christopher Palmeter armed himself with two guns and proceeded to carry out a shooting fueled by his hatred against black people. Palmeter was 21 years old, lived with his parents, had no job, no girlfriend, and was a college dropout. Back in 2017, he had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital and was under 72 hours of observation. After 72 hours, he was let go without being officially diagnosed with a certifiable mental illness. That was his only encounter with the mental health system and apparently it did not go on his record, so he was legally able to buy a gun. His mental state had been deteriorating for several years and he had stopped taking his medication a month before he carried out the shooting. Just before his rampage, he left a message to his parents on his computer about his manifesto of hatred again black people and a suicide note that highlighted his plan to kill himself after he killed as many black people as he could. His parents called the police, but by then it was too late.

Palmeter first drove to a black university where he was armed and ready to go but was confronted by a security officer who told him to leave. He left and proceeded to drive to a Dollar General store just a short distance away from the campus. He then got out of his car and shot and killed his first victim, 52-year-old Uber driver, Angela Carr, who had just dropped off a passenger. Palmeter then went inside the store and shot and killed his second victim, a 19-year-old store clerk who was working to earn money to support his grandmother who had raised him and his siblings. Palmeter’s third victim was a 29-year-old restaurant manager who had walked into the store not knowing two people had just been killed. Palmeter shot and killed him right in front of the man’s girlfriend, who fortunately managed to escape. Palmeter then committed suicide. In eleven minutes, three people had been shot dead and a community was traumatized beyond belief. The families of the victims are beyond heartbroken.

Palmeter had nothing going for him except hate and the power of a gun. To people like him, guns and violence are the ultimate power. What do we do about these people who have nothing going for them? Without help, they simply have no future. If you want to succeed, you have to have the skills to be able to hold a job, get a girlfriend, get an education, and live a good life. Palmeter had none of those things. His parents didn’t help him and neither did the mental health system. They let him go after a 72-hour observation period in 2017 without any follow-up. Palmeter had nothing but hate and the power of a gun. What reason did he have not to carry out the shooting? We need to figure out how we can stop these people from committing such crimes. I think we need a nationwide campaign of education about the psychology of these people. We also need to broadcast messages of help and support to let these people know we can help them and that hate is not the way to go. We need to create programs and services to help. Palmeter should have been given a job aptitude test to find out what he was good at. Everybody can do something. We need to find out what their strengths are and build upon them. We need something like self-determination for these kinds of people so we can create a person-centered plan for them. They also need to have mandatory therapy sessions led by people who understand their problems and show them that they can have more power and live a better life than taking up a gun and killing people out of sheer hatred. What kind of a future is that? We all want to live good lives. We want to be productive members of society, we want to marry, have a family, hold a good job, and do something to make the world a better place. However, you need to have skills for that. We need to have an all-out campaign to spread the message that hate is not the way to go, that a gun is not the power you want, and that you can do much better things than killing people with a gun. We can help you live a good life, become a productive member of society, and get a good job. We can offer you something much better than hate. The road of hate leads only to the cemetery. That’s the message we need to transmit night and day.

President Biden says hate cannot be tolerated, which is all well and good, but how are we going to make that stick? How are we going to stop hatred? It’s one thing to say hate is not tolerated, but what concrete steps are being taken? We need first class leaders to help make this a reality. It doesn’t do any good to denounce these shooters as cold-blooded heartless killers. It may be true, but it doesn’t help the situation. We need community leaders to step up to the plate and tell these people that there are better roads to go down than the road of hate and racism. Everybody deserves a chance at a decent life. We should help them get that decent life because I think it’s the only thing that can stop this hatred. Yes, I think gun laws can help, but that won’t solve the whole issue. If Palmeter had been formally diagnosed with a certifiable mental illness and placed in therapy or had been made to stay in that mental hospital for a little longer, maybe he wouldn’t have been able to obtain those guns. We need to educate the mental health system about the problems of these people. Most mental health professionals don’t understand what it’s like to be in that position, where guns are truly the only power you have and you feel there are no other alternatives. We need to strike at the root of this. It does no good to condemn hate; we all know hate is bad and evil. How can we take concrete steps to help people who are angry and bitter? How do we help them before they start killing and acting on their hate? That is the real problem we face. Sure, assault rifles should be banned, but it’s going to take more than that to solve this problem. We can’t just be reactive; we have to be proactive. We have to get out there with media campaigns and spread knowledge about the psychology of these people and outline what can be done to help them, give them hope, and offer them a better future. Most people will take alternatives if they are offered. The road of hate leads only to the cemetery.

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