How can this keep happening?
Like many Americans I am fed up with the amount of active shooter situations that have occurred within our country. We are the United States of America, the greatest, most secure, most technologically advanced, most prosperous and most blessed country that has ever been on this earth. Yet, year after year we watch in horror as incidents like the one in Uvalde happen again and again. How can this happen? How can we have it so good but keep having these things happen. Everyone from every side of the aisle are fed up with it. So what’s the issue?
First off, lets take a look at just how bad gun violence is in America according to the numbers. A recent article from NPR stated the US has 3.96 deaths by gun per 100,000 people. Looking at that statistic you can see that the likelihood from dying as a result from gun violence is still extremely low. Compare that to the country with the highest rate which is El Salvador at 36.78 deaths per 100,000 people. That sounds like the US is doing pretty good right? However, this it the United States. We don’t compare problems like this to that of third world countries. It’s like comparing apples to Ferraris. When you compare our country to other first world countries you will see our death rate is much higher. Canada has a death rate of .47 per 100,000 while the UK is at .04 deaths per 100,000. This more accurate juxtaposition shows we have an issue.
Before I go any further let me say I am a supporter of the second amendment. I enjoy shooting guns and own several firearms. I am a police officer by trade and have vowed to uphold the constitution which protect our right to bear arms. I want to be up front about who I am and where I stand on this issue. What I want, is to be able to have an open discussion about it. I, like most Americans, just want both sides to hear each other out so we can find some real answers. I’m sick of the finger pointing and lack of responsibility. I am willing to hear both sides of the gun debate. I don’t really care about the whole, “they’re gonna take our guns” hysteria every time this argument gets brought up. Frankly, if you could guarantee incidents like Uvalde would never happen again and violence would stop as a result of no one having guns I would turn in all of mine tomorrow. Unfortunately, we live the real world and violence will continue whether there are guns or not. So lets look at what the real problem is and have both sides be willing to come to the table and find real solutions.
The first problem we need to address is the problem of the term “gun violence.” I used the term in an above paragraph as a point. There is no such thing as gun violence and to use the term oversimplifies the underlying problem of what actually caused the violence. If I tell you 50 people die every month in the city of Chicago due to gun violence what does that tell you? Absolutely nothing. What is the reason behind those deaths? Who pulled the trigger? What is the background leading up to it? None of these important answers are given if we just chalk it all up to “gun violence.” Because that term simply defines a surface level problem you only look for answers the give you surface level solutions.
Guns are not capable of violence. They have no emotion, no capability of thinking, they don’t take sides in an argument. They are nothing more than materials thrown together. It’s a tool, just like any other tool designed for a specific purpose. When these tools are used in the manner we are speaking about, that is when we have a problem. They are highly effective tools and in the wrong hands they can be used for great destruction. But in the end, they are not the main problem.
You can argue that without these tools people would be stopped from carrying out these deadly attacks. There is a common saying that goes, “right tool for the right job.” If the job is to kill as many people as possible then a gun is often the right tool. I understand that argument and even sympathize with it. As an officer I encounter people everyday that own firearms. Every officer can tell you there are so many people out there that own guns that shouldn’t. I will agree to that without hesitation. People are irresponsible and I don’t know how many cases I’ve taken of people being careless with their weapons that leave them unsecured in vehicles and they get stolen. In my opinion those people should never get their guns back and possibly not be allowed to ever own one again. We’ve all heard horror stories of parents leaving guns unsecure in the home and children finding them which have lead to tragedies. Those people should also be held responsible and never allowed to own firearms. If you own a tool with that deadly capability, you damn well better take care of it.
However, being able to obtain a gun and being responsible for it are still just surface level issues when it comes to these incidents. When we talk about “gun violence” what we need to talk about is the one word in that phrase that actually has some weight behind it: violence. Why are we so violent? Can we take look at the real reason for why these incidents happen? It has nothing to do with the gun. The gun is merely the tool used to carry out the act. What caused the subject to carry it out? Why did they do it? When we look for these answers we may actually be able to find some real solutions.
We don’t have a gun problem. The United States has more guns per capita than in other country in the world. According to World Population Review the US has the largest number of civilian gun owners in world at 120.5 gun owned per 100 people. We have more guns than people but I will say it again, we do not have a gun problem. We have a violence problem. Violence permeates every aspect of our culture and we consume it daily. We love it. This is the real root of the issue that no one from any side really wants to address.
When tragedies like Uvalde occur there are so many people crying out they want things to change and call for more gun control laws or armed guards at schools. Both sides yell at the other for being the ones responsible for these events and try to make knee jerk reaction fixes but it won’t stop the actual violence. We may be able to cut down of these types of events, which would be great I should add, but we will never truly end the violence without addressing our biggest issue: our violent culture.
Take a look at any top ten grossing movies from the last 30 years. What you will see is a constant stream of violent action films. Big budget blockbusters full of heroes using whatever superpower they have to kill their enemies. My favorite superhero is Superman, someone who is supposed to stand for everything good. How does he defeat his enemies? Smashes them in the face as hard as possible. Jack Bauer, Deadpool, Dirty Harry, Black Widow and countless other characters we celebrate as fictional heroes whose entire existence are based on their violent acts. We justify it because they are taking on the bad guys. I, like so many others, love a good action film and find it so satisfying when the hero is finally able to put an violent end to whatever villain they are facing. One of my personal favorites was in the Disney movie Mulan (animated version) when the heroin causes an avalanche killing thousands of soldiers in the villainous Hun army. Mulan later blows up the big bad, Shan Yu, with a rocket while leaping from atop a palace roof. That children’s movie was rated G in 1998.
Move beyond the movies to video games and what do find? The same thing. Call of Duty has been a best selling game year after year and played by millions. I love playing call of Duty. It is fun and addictive and so completely inappropriate for the millions of pre-adolescent kids and adults who play it. How many people have played Grand Theft Auto in the last 20 years and gone on complete killing sprees? I always felt a little morbid when I could see how many police officers I could kill before they would finally gun me down. For anyone that has ever played that game, or one similar, who hasn’t found a perch and sniped random civilians just for fun? Nowadays, you can put on a VR head set that lets you physically grab your opponent and stab them with a sword in a fully immersive environment. I know this because I have done it playing a Star Wars game on an Oculus. You physically act out running someone through with a lightsaber. This is a game I played with my 8 year old son and millions of other children are doing the same thing.
The ugly truth is when something terrible happens we all cry out that it’s horrible and we want change but we are not willing to do the hard things that it would take to actually change our violent culture. How can we? In reality, we celebrate our violent accomplishments. Go take a look at Netflix and find any of the dozens of documentaries that highlight the life and crimes of serial killers. People that do unspeakable things to children and others are featured and their heinous crimes become cash cows for these media conglomerates. News organizations do segment after segment about killers and the tragedies they cause. Sure, they put on a sad and serious tone for these specials and always point out ways the tragedy could have been avoided. However, they have no problem profiting off the suffering of these victims while immortalizing these monsters and we, the public, have no problem consuming it. We watch these things and are disgusted by these acts but take it in like it’s a Sunday morning buffet. The victims of these crimes should be remembered but the ones who cause this pain and what they did should be wiped from existence. People like Ted Bundy, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Adam Lanza and most recently, Salvador Ramos, should never be remembered and their names should never be mentioned.
Of course, not everyone who watches violent media turns into a mass killer. If that were the case our entire country would be full of murderers. But in a country of over 325 million people do you not think this type of media doesn’t affect a certain portion of the population? You don’t think these movies, games and music play a role on molding certain boys and girls into violent criminals? If a child starts watching violent movies and playing violent video games from a young age, do you really think that won’t affect their minds? It’s common knowledge that if a child grows up in a violent environment then they are much more likely to become violent themselves. If they grow up virtual environment committing acts of violence, do you really think this won’t affect them in the real world?
If your common sense doesn’t allow you to reach the logical conclusion there are studies that point this out as well. An excellent study published in 2007 for the Journal of Adolescent Health spoke to the impact violent media has on children. The study remarked, “…exposure to violence in television, movies, video games, cell phones, and on the internet increases the risk of violent behavior on the viewer’s part, just as growing up in an environment filled with real violence increases the risk of them behaving violently.” The study later suggests the effects of violent media on consumers is so drastic it should be considered a public health threat. The study states violent media exposure “increases the risk of both children and adults behaving aggressively in the short-run and of children behaving aggressively in the long-run. It increases the risk significantly, and it increases it as much as many other factors that are considered public health threats.”
So here we are again. Another mass shooting with cries for change that are nothing more than band aids trying to stop a mortal wound. The issue is so much deeper than just taking away guns or putting armed guards everywhere. We have a sickness within our culture that no one wants to address. No one wants to face the issue we are really facing because the solution is too inconvenient and takes away what we enjoy too much. Also, it’s hard to be honest with yourself and say you are part of the bigger problem. I’ve included myself in lot of the examples above because I am just like so many others out there that consume violence daily. To truly fix the problem we would have to give up more than most are willing to do. It’s no different than an obese person trying to give up sweets. You know in order to get healthier you have to give up something that provides you with a certain type of pleasure and comfort. Can you make the sacrifice? Can I? Until we are willing to make that larger sacrifice as a society these tragedies will, unfortunately, continue.