To fix the gun problem, it takes a village


In the wake of yet another mass shooting, we continue to hear the same talking points from politicians, pundits and op-ed pages in the newspapers. Liberals hold tightly to the notion that if only we would have tighter background checks, gun violence would decrease. Yet, we know that a significant proportion of these shooters pass and could pass a background check. Conservatives defend the Second Amendment as if it were handed down from God and then turn to their new favorite reason for gun violence- mental health. We also know this is incorrect, as studies are virtually unanimous in their findings that most “mentally ill” people are the victims, not the perpetrators, of gun violence. In addition,  gun crimes involving those who have a mental illness parallels gun violence committed by those without a diagnosed mental condition. So there seems to be other reasons that might explain why we are the only country with lots of mass shootings, mostly at schools and universities.

One of the reactions we like to have in the wake of a senseless crime is to either blame or defend the NRA. After all, it is their lobbying, financial influence and public advertising that affect so much of the gun policy in this country. But if we take a step back, it is unfair to blame a lobbying group who is lobbying on behalf of a constituency that wants more guns! Which leads me to wander if the American public really wants to change the gun debate. Rather than point fingers at lobbyists, blame politicians and retreat to our usual corners, why don’t people stop supporting politicians who refuse to implement strict gun laws? Why not demand tougher laws for people found with an illegal gun? Why not change the background check system and make waiting periods longer? Until the American public is willing to collectively realize that guns…yes, guns are the problem, nothing will change.

What is rarely talked about is what a gun represents. Yes, other countries and cultures have guns. Other countries have hunters and arms collectors. But what other countries do not have is the mind set that the gun can solve all problems. The biggest problem that neither political party speaks about is the American gun culture. The American gun culture promotes gun use through music, television and movies. While research tends to argue that video games have no negative effect on gun violence, there does seem to be a strong correlation between being vengeful and retaliatory with a gun. Today, gun violence seems to mirror the notion that anybody can be a hero, a vigilante,a hero. But this is a delusion.  Too many people are armed and when you are armed with a gun, you want to use it. It is empowering for many.

To change this mindset about these horrific and routine killings, the country can no longer continue to make empty gestures that go nowhere. We must collectively agree that this is now an epidemic, and  our reasons for explaining mass shootings and gun violence fall short of a thorough examination of our culture, our enthrallment with seeings things only as right and wrong, good guy vs. bad guy. As long as people continue to have a carte blanch approach to guns,regardless of their rational, we will continue to witness atrocities. As long as we continue to be apathetic, nothing will change. Let’s begin with having a real conversation and examining what we value.