White crosses are lined up at night.
Crosses bearing the names of the victims killed in last week's school shooting are seen through a balloon Wednesday at a memorial at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Credit: Jae C. Hong / AP

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John Edwards of Glenburn served for 34 years in the Maine Air National Guard. He is a life member of the National Rifle Association.

Is it the gun or is it the shooter? Maybe it’s us.

It’s easy to point at what could be the easy solution, just tap your heels together and say, “No more guns,” and ignore the other part of the problem — what causes someone to want to commit mass murder.

This nation has let the Gun Genie out of the bottle, and we will never get it back in. For any meaningful gun law to occur, one that will single handedly end gun violence, we first have to repeal the Second Amendment. After the repeal, we would have to ban all gun sales. Even with a ban, we will still have more guns in this country than we have citizens. We would then have to try to confiscate all guns. Attempting to confiscate will probably start our second civil war, if it didn’t already start at the repeal of the Second Amendment.

The other side of the problem is the mind of the shooter, the mental health condition that created this phenomenon within the later half of the 20th century. We as a nation have ignored the mental health crisis we’ve been in since President Ronald Reagan essentially repealed the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. We cut mental health funding on the federal level and closed mental health facilities all over the country.

Funding for mental health in this country is dismal. Teenage mental health is in a crisis. Teen suicide is on the rise, and we as a nation largely ignore it. We must address the sense of helplessness these teens are feeling that drives them to kill themselves and in some cases take others with them.

During times like these, after a mass shooting, we are all shocked by the tragedy, we divide up and take sides. One side wants to focus on the gun as the one and only solution. The other wants to say it’s not the gun, it’s the shooter. I say it’s both. We can limit guns from the hands of teenagers, who too frequently commit mass murder, and we can do more to provide mental health resources to help those who feel they are helpless. What we can’t do is point at the other side and say, “I’m right and you’re wrong.”