The question on everyone’s mind after the ‘Batman Movie’ shooting in Denver last week is: “How can we stop this from happening again?” The short answer is we can’t completely stop it from happening again – not in a nation that celebrates its love of guns more than it does baseball, hot dogs and apple pie… but we can take the right measures to ensure it happens much less often.

The discussion we need to be having is not “the role of guns” in American society. The discussion needs to be “the role of morals” in American society. (Or rather, the growing lack thereof)  If we are going to be a nation that has such a torrid love affair with firearms, COMMON SENSE dictates we place much more of an emphasis in our society on moral responsibility and civic values…that ethics, courtesy and mutual respect for one another be a major centerpiece of our educational system from kindergarten through high school and beyond.

But although moral behavior toward your fellow man is arguably the most important part of anyone’s overall education, it is oddly conspicuous in its absence in our schools’ curriculums. Don’t make the mistake of thinking morals are synonymous with religion. On the contrary, the two are absolutely separate. Most atheists are some of the most moral people you will meet, yet they have no need of religion to be moral toward their fellow man.

Our nation’s forefathers understood this concept of separation of morality from religion, even as they were designing a Constitution that preserved our right to bear arms as Americans. But, even BEFORE they wrote that ‘right to bear arms’ portion in the Second Amendment, they wrote about the imperative separation of church (religion) from state. While there were some hypocrisies yet to be overcome, all throughout the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they maintained a central theme that America is built on uncompromising moral and ethical values, equality and justice. And young people were diligently educated in those morals.

But along the way something changed, and we clearly lost our way. Until we face that, we will continue to see more lone shooter sprees. The more we pursue the new version: the “warring tribe” way we treat one another in our own communities, we will see growing random violence as the result. Some may say “Wait, this incident in Colorado was by a mentally ill person, not an angry, disgruntled man with an axe to grind.”

The point I’m making that they don’t yet grasp is this: We’ve always had a significant number of individuals in our society ‘on the edge’ mentally. But years ago the ‘norm’ was more ‘common courtesy’…more of a sense of community and respect for each other as neighbors, even though strangers. James Holmes was collecting firearms, large amounts of ammo and explosives. Although possibly schizophrenic, our ‘new culture’ was a significant part of pushing him over the edge.

The two mentally unstable teens who carried out the Columbine disaster were also pushed over the edge by meanspirited treatment toward them by their peers. In such an ugly environment like the recent horrible treatment by young punks on the school bus toward their bus monitor that went viral on the web, expect growing numbers of unstable people tempted to act on this thought: “OK, you want to laugh at me, abuse me and disrespect me? Then you are going to finally FEEL ME”.

It is becoming ‘normal’ for people to behave disrespectful to one another in our society. We’ve lost touch with our forefathers’ intent that we be a nation dedicated to moral character and the Golden Rule…Ironically, those qualities ARE generally found in those who get a license to carry concealed.

Again, if we are going to be a nation obsessed with guns, common sense screams loudly that we also be a nation equally obsessed with morals. It is just as important a part of an education as the “Three R’s”… Maybe it should be the “Four R’s”: Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmatic and RESPECT. The answer isn’t less gun laws OR more gun control… If we are going to be a ‘gun loving nation’, we need LESS bad character, and MORE mutual respect for each other. Otherwise, senseless violent rampages are going to be a growing trend of the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Violent”.