The Culture of Gun Violence
Due to the last mass shooting event, I’ve been asked by a number of people for my thoughts on the Gun debate in America. This is a very important topic, and one that can’t adequately be discussed in a single post (which I try to limit to a single typed page), so I will have to do it in multiple parts.
Right now there are about 112 guns in the USA for every 100 people. There are in fact, more guns than people. It has probably always been this way. People in America have always been armed to the teeth. It started due to “issues” with the Native Americans. It continued with the Revolution, and then into the expansion into the “Wild West”. Guns also played a role in keeping slaves and trying to prevent their freedom (as in the Civil War). So culturally, Americans have a long history of having guns, and, frankly, using them. So guns are an integral part of America’s cultural history.
And when it comes to gun culture, history is just a small part. Almost all of American culture is awash in guns and gun violence. It is in our movies, constantly, for more than a hundred years. Westerns, murder mysteries, crime dramas, action flicks, sci-fi, not to mention war movies, all depict plenty of people shooting plenty of other people. Video games, whose popularity is now greater than that of Television, are primarily of the “First Person Shooter” variety. Even our music has a lot to do with shooting people.
The reason I point this out is that I also lived in another country that had a huge number of semi automatic assault rifles in private residences. This was Switzerland, where every male in the country had to take military training, and at the end he got sent home with an Assault Rifle and a couple of hundred rounds of ammunition. But there is a big difference. Mainly that in Switzerland, mass shootings are unheard of, while murders are extremely rare. They have the same relative access to serious firepower, maybe even better access than the average American. The only significant difference between the Swiss situation and the American one is CULTURE. The main component of Swiss culture is “Follow the Rules”. And not shooting people with your assault rifle is one of their rules. So they don’t do it. But this is NOT American culture.
There is another contributor to gun violence in America. That is the notoriety it brings. American culture also has a huge “popularity” factor to it. It is not enough in American culture to be rich. You need to be rich AND FAMOUS. Being Famous is a BIG DEAL in American culture. The Kardashians, the Real Housewives, and hosts of others are successful solely out of being Famous. And a way to get known by everyone is to become INFAMOUS. Unfortunately today, that means killing a bunch of innocent people.
So while the debate goes on about gun laws and other legal restrictions, I have to point out that there is a much more deep seated and fundamental problem when it comes to guns. It’s our very culture. And as I have pointed out in other posts and articles, the hardest thing to do is to change a culture.
What to Do
We have to realize that we have, unfortunately, glamorized the use of guns in our culture. This is in fact the root cause of the problem of mass shootings. We do need to tone this way down. Culture doesn’t change because of passing a bunch of laws. We have to start thinking about guns and gun use differently, and to have a reasonable dialog about it.
The cultural problem is only multiplied by making the shooters famous by plastering their name and picture all over the place. We need to tone this down too. We need to tone down the sensationalism surrounding these events, and treat anyone who would even contemplate doing such things with aversion and scorn. We need to stop making the perpetrators famous.
If there was proper cultural pressure, America could handle the problem, unfortunately, it usually takes multiple significant catastrophes before a culture even begins to question itself.