Are we safe anywhere? The latest school shooting in Parkland, Fla., north of Miami, made me realize once again now vulnerable we all are to the possibility of people who live in other realities ending ours. Where the unreal, the manias, the delusional, and the illogical penetrate the all-too-real barriers we erect around ourselves, we can die. The absurd violence that keeps occurring in this country because of its lack of gun control marks the triumph of the virtual over the real, aided by technology that has escaped the bounds of the human and a breakdown of our education and information culture.

At the core of gun violence is the intersection of paranoid alternative realities that let us live in a world of our choosing, and technology that expands human capabilities so much that we can no longer control either its production or its effects. Shooters construct a cocoon in which they are the aggrieved heroes and then use automatic rifles to destroy the reality in which the rest of us live. They exclude themselves, often physically, but certainly mentally and socially, while they plot their revenge against a world they think excludes them.

At the core of gun violence is the intersection of paranoid alternative realities that let us live in a world of our choosing, and technology that expands human capabilities so much that we can no longer control either its production or its effects.

This is, in other words, the dark underbelly of our ever-increasing ability to project completely free, infinitely flexible realities of our own choosing and present them using ever slicker tools. It also is the dark result of the spread of social media and the ability to have everything anywhere without engaging in human interaction. I would argue that violence perpetrated by automatic rifles is the dark other to our ability to create social networks of our choosing, shop online, and put on VR goggles and escape into a world that architects or game designers have created with little or no relation to gravity, statics, or any other aspect of our daily lives. That capacity is itself an extension of the older technologies of photography, film, and dissemination techniques with their elaborate fake news constructs.

What is lacking in our present and real reality that produces gun violence are not only systems of control—especially laws outlawing these weapons’ mass destruction—but also the ability to construct a consensual, believable, and agreeable reality. When we build a world in which it is not worth living, the best thing to do is to escape into another one. Some do that through drugs or alcohol, others through fantasy play or hobbies, and yet others by building up a world that has no basis in physical reality or logic—one in which there is a global conspiracy against you, in which one race is better than the others, or in which you have superpowers. The difference between this just leading to complete isolation, like in the case of the “shut-ins” in Japan, and the death of many is technology and politics.

I have no illusions that I am safe from the possibility that somebody with a gun could penetrate the multiple cocoons that I have erected around myself. None of us should, no matter how many security systems we install. Nothing can truly protect us in the United States. About the only option we have is to move to a country—any country in Europe or most of Asia, for instance—that has decent gun laws.

I have no illusions that I am safe from the possibility that somebody with a gun could penetrate the multiple cocoons that I have erected around myself. None of us should, no matter how many security systems we install.

Assuming we are going to stay in this great and beautiful country, the first thing we thus have to do is to work for gun control. The second thing we have to do, however, is to contribute however we can to the construction of a sane reality. This means working for the reconstruction of our frayed social net, fighting for income and opportunity equality, checking our own attitudes and privileges, and helping to rebuild a knowledge base that is logical at some basic level.

The particular tools those of us trained in architecture can bring to these efforts should include the construction of good models for an open and comfortable human-made reality. We are constrained by the social, economic, and regulatory systems in which we work, but that should not prevent us from either fighting the good fight within those constraints, or from creating models for how we could do things better. It should also prohibit us from designing schools like bunkers, prisons that dehumanize, and walls that separate us. Anybody who does so should lose his or her license in the same way that a doctor who harms a patient loses hers or his.

With each killing, whether in our suburban schools or on the streets or our cities, the stakes get higher.

There is a message here as well for how we design and teach architecture. We should not make the lightest, slickest, most impossible-to-build-or-occupy spaces we can imagine or plot, but rather propose versions of our world that are inclusive, rooted in human and environmental reality, and affirming of our bodies. We should not rely on the creation of renderings that show a perfect world, nor should we design spaces that exclude reality. Style and approach should be part of the solution as much as they are part of the problem.

With each killing, whether in our suburban schools or on the streets or our cities, the stakes get higher. Once architects are done acting as citizens, they must use the money and time that has been invested in them gaining their knowledge to turn that privileged position towards the proposition of a better reality.

This is not a call for paper architecture, academic flailing, or utopian thinking. This is a reminder of the necessary task of making a life-affirming architecture.