A month into the new year, America has already suffered two school shootings. The usual voices are calling for increased restrictions on guns. But guns are not the problem.

In 1963, at age 15, I packed my bags and went to live with my father in Valdosta, Ga., where I attended Valdosta High School. Hunting being a primary feature of male culture at VHS, I quickly acquired the necessary gear including a Stevens double-barreled shotgun. During deer- and duck-hunting seasons, I rose well before the start of school and joined several buddies out in the field. After a couple of hours of shooting (or just sitting in a blind and freezing), we put our guns in the trunks of our cars, drove to school, stripped off our hunting duds (under which were clean school clothes), and went to class.

Everyone — including the principal, teachers, parents, and kids who didn’t hunt — knew that the parking lot contained a small arsenal. It never occurred to any of us that our gun could be used to even some score or vent some frustration.

No, guns are not the problem. The problem is feelings. I am a member of the last generation of American children whose parents disciplined not only our behavior, but also insisted that we exercise emotional self-control. I am also a member of the first generation of parents who fell for the psychological propaganda that insisting upon emotional self-control was authoritarian and would prime kids for mental health problems.

My graduate school professors stressed the need to help children “get in touch” with their feelings and express them safely in the 1960s and 1970s. By the 1980s, children vented their feelings toward parents and teachers — and their mental health tanked.

Mass school shootings began around the same time and are now taking place, on average, weekly. The problem is what I term emotional entitlement syndrome — the narcissistic belief that certain feelings are all the excuse one requires to justify anti-social behavior.

One can add the effects of encouraging high self-esteem (which is associated, we now know, with low respect for the rights of others) and the demonization of shame, the primary purpose of conscience. The ensuing calamity includes the use of social media for acting out personal soap operas, a dramatic rise in child and teen depression and suicide, bullying, and millions of children on psychiatric medications. When will we learn that therapy is no substitute for firm discipline?

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