A Wisconsin sheriff penned a column addressing what he believes is the “root cause” of mass killings like the one carried out last month in Parkland, Florida, calling on parents to step up their act in instilling “basic skills” like discipline and respect for authority in their children.
“Following every mass killing, I ask myself, what has happened to our society?” Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt wrote in a column posted Thursday on Facebook.
The sheriff blamed a culture shift for the prevalence of mass shootings in schools today, pointing out that students “used go to school and have hunting rifles in their vehicles” without issue. He said there is no “quick and easy solution” to stopping school shootings, despite the renewed gun-control debate in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, where 17 students and faculty members were killed.
“I think perhaps we are not evaluating the true root cause which is obviously very complex,” Sheriff Schmidt wrote. “We must make efforts to change our society as a whole. It’s my belief that the root cause starts with our youth lacking basic skills including respect for authority figures like parents and teachers, the ability to cope with conflict and the ability to handle rejection. Further issues like mental health and alcohol/drug use also play a role, but column length restrictions limit my ability to cover all aspects of the root cause today.
“I believe it is imperative that we raise our children in a manner that instills respect for authority,” he continued. “While we all love our children, we need to get back to a society of parents who expect a level of respect toward both them and others in authority, including teachers. Discipline needs to be reintegrated into our society. Parents, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t reasonably discipline your child in a non-abusive manner. Teachers need to have the support of parents when they make disciplinary decisions and parents need to resist the urge of running to the defense of their children when a teacher feels the need to discipline. It undermines their authority and will likely be treated as an example for actions toward others in authority in the future.”
The sheriff also blamed parents for not teaching their children vital coping skills and how to properly handle rejection.
“For years we have watched as competition has been replaced by participation awards that are given to make children feel good,” he wrote. “While no one wants their child to ever be disappointed or upset, when they are young, they need to face conflict and disappointment and learn to resolve it appropriately under the guidance of adults. It is part of developing their personality and dealing with conflict in the future. When youth are not taught how to handle difficult situations, they must find their own way to cope, which without guidance may be result in unhealthy or even dangerous future behavior. I am no expert and am merely giving an opinion of what I have seen in my own experience, but I feel that my opinions have merit as I have witnessed people dealing with difficult situations at the worst times of their lives.”
Sheriff Schmidt reiterated that gun control represented only a small symptom of a much more pervasive sickness in American society.
“My point in writing this is not to place blame but rather to start conversations on what truly is the root cause of violence in society,” he wrote. “Many have strong opinions about gun control but realistically gun control will do nothing more than place a very small band aid on a much bigger problem. It is imperative that we have serious discussions on what we can do to change the norms of our society and positively impact the decisions our youth make. It’s time to refocus our energy to affect long lasting change so that we can keep Dodge County a safe and enjoyable place to live, work and visit.”
Sheriff Schmidt’s column appeared to be well received among Dodge County residents, and he continued the conversation in the comments section of his Facebook post. Responding to one commenter who advocated for an “assault” weapons ban, the sheriff argued that “there is no difference between the capabilities of an AR-15” and many hunting rifles.
He also agreed with a commenter who wrote that people need more “God and religion” in their lives.
“You’ve got that right!” Sheriff Schmidt responded.
“We all need to keep this conversation going,” he wrote in another comment. “Don’t be afraid to have this conversation with you students parents. Do your best to Instill these principles into your students, and pray for help.”