Let me begin by letting the reader know, other than a 20-year old K-Mart pellet gun, I am not a gun owner. I abhor guns and see little use for them. To me, an AK-47 is to guns what and an Indy car is to automobiles. I do not see Indy cars on our streets and see no reason for automatic weapons in the hands of the public. Still, I believe it is the right for Americans to own guns and for the most part, most gun owners go to great lengths to be responsible gun owners.
I see no reason for new gun laws to be passed making it more difficult to purchase fire arms. As it is, the laws we have are sufficient. What is lacking is the ability both in money and manpower to enforce them. Congress does not need to waste taxpayer money passing another law that cannot be enforced. If we cannot keep track of 11 million illegal residents, what makes people think we can keep track of the more than 300 million guns in the hands of legal citizens?
There is a popular sentiment in the country for newer and tougher gun laws every time there is a mass shooting. However, new gun laws will not prevent future Sandy Hook shootings any better than the existing ones have done. No matter what laws are passed, guns will end up in the hands of the wrong people.
There is no doubt gun violence is a major problem in this country. With almost one gun for every citizen, there is no law that will be passed that takes them off the street. We clearly have a sizable population that feels the need to own them and until that changes, guns will be readily available.
In the United States, gun violence surpasses all other forms of violence. Whites who own guns are five times more likely to use a gun to take their own life than someone else while blacks are five times more likely to use one to kill another person than to kill themselves. Police officers are more likely to use their gun to take their own life than to shoot a criminal. Finally, gun owners are far more likely to use their gun to shoot a loved one than to stop an intruder. Despite these facts, gun sales always spike after a mass shooting or prior to a legal decision like with the grand jury in Ferguson.
New gun laws will not get guns off our streets, out of our homes, or out of the hands of the mentally ill. Only a major change in our culture can accomplish this.
Lets face it, the American culture is screwed up. How else do you explain our fixation with violence? In the 1970’s, we became concerned with violence on television. Networks started the “family hour” from 8-9 p.m. and only showed family friendly programing. However, from 9-11 p.m., they were free to show more violent programing than we could possibly watch. Often times, this programing was tamer than what the networks showed on their evening news broadcasts.
In the 1980’s, movies implemented a new PG-13 rating after complaints of the level of violence in films. If you were under the age of 13, you had to be accompanied by a parent to see a film rated PG-13. The only problem was there was no real enforcement of this and people soon saw ten-year old kids walking into watch films unaccompanied by a parent. Apparently, ticket sales were more important.
Along about this same time, our culture began shifting from viewer violence to participatory violence with the advent of new and violent video games. This move has also coincided with our love of more violent sports. The NFL has supplanted the much tamer game of baseball as our favorite sport and MMA fighting grows at a record pace and has made boxing look more like Dancing With the Stars. We have also seen a huge increase in mass shootings during this time.
Our culture’s love of violence should not surprise us. Violent video games are far different in their impact than violent movies. Movies only require us to watch what is on the screen which makes them passive in nature. Meanwhile, violent video games require our participation where the need to make quick and violent decisions is a must in order to remain alive in the game. Over the last 40 years, our culture has seen young boys go from playing electric football to Call of Duty for entertainment.
Studies show people who play violent video games become numb when exposed to violence in the real world. They react less to violent scenes in films, violent photos of crimes, and even violent acts in real life. They also become more aggressive in personality, especially when confronted with a stressful or challenging situation. Often times, the only real problem solving skills they have to draw on are from the video games they play which are not just violent, but highly addictive as well.
When you take a formative mind, reward it with points or advancement to a new level for violent decisions, you begin to create the makings of a potential monster. Since these games are pushed on males, when puberty hits and testosterone kicks in, violent outbursts become more likely. Boys are apt to remove themselves from their friends and spend more time alone due to the addictive qualities of these games. Now, when one of these boys has a problem, and they have been programed to kill problems in order to make them go away, you have a potential killer, especially if he suffers from a mental illness.
You begin to understand why a young male, often a loner, goes on a shooting rampage. You see why young males, full of testosterone and anger, respond to a problem with another person by shooting him. You understand why when there are guns in a home and a family argument breaks out, almost always a male ends up as the one who shoots someone they love.
New and stricter gun laws will not change any of this. Only a change in our mind set will. Yes, that means getting rid of the violent video games we let our children play in the isolation of their bedroom and start spending more face time connecting with them rather than avoiding them. It also means we need to become a nation that has something more to offer other nations than just our military might and protection. It requires our leaders to rely on diplomacy and not on the threat of military force.
I can hear it now, “But we need this threat because the world is full of bad people.” Perhaps, that is one way to look at it. However, another is to consider the possibility that other nations see us as bad people with a fixation on violent solutions to problems.
We do not need new gun laws. If, and only if, we want less gun violence in our country, all we need to do is change the culture that pushes it on its citizens at an early age. Once this is done, new gun laws become pointless.
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.