We can debate the legal obstacles and possibilities as well as the practical advantages and disadvantage of gun control. None of these are under the control of high schools. Nor do they fall within the expertise of teenagers or indeed most of us.

High school students are certainly free to call for stricter gun laws even as they are free to defend the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Neither of these, however, are really within the sphere of influence of teenagers.

What teens and younger student can do is treat each other with courtesy and respect. Most school shooters are fatherless boys who have been ostracized by their peers. While students can’t prevent divorce, they can reach out to their peers. This can be as simple as sitting with someone at lunch or including them in one’s own group. Basically, children befriending other children.

Unfortunately, being a decent human being doesn’t garner media attention. Ironically, what does get this attention is the same kind of narcissism and inflated sense of self-importance that leads to children being ostracized and humiliated by their peers.

And helping and encouraging you people learn to include others to “disagree agreeably” is Related imagecertainly something that parents, teachers, religious and community leaders can do. We have in the last several years seen a dramatic decrease in racial and sexual taunting and slurs. Yes, we have further to go but in a fallen world we always will.

I wonder though if we have the moral fortitude to not simply ban hurtful words but foster in young people the willingness to assume good faith on the part of those with whom they disagree.

It doesn’t bother me, for example, when I am called “homophobic” for not supporting the expansion of marriage laws to include same-sex couples. But like the Obama administration’s claim that those who disagreed with them on legally mandated employer-funded contraception are engaged in a “war on women,” words like homophobic or Islamaphobic or for that matter Christianphobic or libtard or any of a number of slurs from both those on the right or left, all assume malicious intent. These all threaten to bring the possibility of a reasonable discussion to an end.

Whether we are children in school or adults in the public square, we can’t befriend each other unless we first grant each other at least the possibility of goodwill.

So what can kids do? Stop imitating those adults who assume the worst in those who disagree with them.

How can kids lead? By giving each other the benefit of the doubt.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory