In just one week, America experienced two mass shootings. The first took place at a mall in Portland, Oregon and the other in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. 27 died in the latter, 18 of which were children.
Mass shootings are inarguably on the rise. Some chalk it up to our lackadaisical gun laws, our violent video games, and/or the upbringing of the gunmen. However, none of these reasons can be said to have causal relations to mass shootings. Here’s why:
1.) Gun Laws: This reason is one of the more controversial, with strong advocates on both sides. According to gunpolicy.org, there are about 89 firearms per 100 Americans. As a result, we are ranked first in the rate of private gun ownership, out of 179 other countries.
However, according to the NRA, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” This argument is most supported by the countless people who own guns and never use them maliciously. It is again supported by the many people who solve issues without resorting to usage of firearms. In fact, in 2009, only 9,146 of the 15,241 homicides were gun-related.
According to Dr. Barry in his Urban Deviance course, available at RIT, guns are a lot less personal. You can shoot someone from a further distance, and never feel the reality of what you’ve done. This is especially the case in a mass shooting, where often you don’t even know the people you are killing, unless it is a revenge mass killing, like Columbine is purported to be.
Geoffrey Wilson, a student at RIT, pointed out that having concealed weapons allow citizens to intervene when there is danger. However, there are some studies that suggest that some are unable to react in time to help, rendering the weapon useless.
While there is no arguing that guns are anything more than a tool, it’s a tool that is too strong for most of the people being allowed to wield it. It will be interesting to see how President Obama goes forward from here and whether he considers changing our gun laws.
2.) Violent Video Games: Just like our gun laws, violent video games are getting a lot of heat. Emily Rinehart, a graphic design major at RIT, argued that some players just can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality.
This same argument was put forth a few decades ago in 1980 with the introduction and subsequent spread of porn.
“Pornography is the theory; rape is the practice,” said feminist author Robin Morgan. Yet, as discussed in Urban Deviance, we’ve actually seen an overall decline in rape since the 80’s. Since 1995, American gun-related homicides have also dropped, from about 21,000 to 14,000 in 2008, according to the Census.
In fact, gamers may be more equipped to handle anger and stress, according to a 2010 study by Texas A&M International University.
“Young adults- male and female- who play violent video games long-term handle stress better than non-playing adults and become less depressed and less hostile following a stressful task,” said Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson who headed the study.
3.) Upbringing: Often, after the shooting, people will turn to the family and childhood of the shooter and look for clues for his behavior. If you ground a murder, and move the random element from it, and people are less likely to live in fear.
However, according to Barry, upbringing is not as much of a causal factor as many of us would like to believe. There are millions of people with hard childhoods who never grow up to murder. A trigger for one is not at all the trigger for another, he said.
Child abuse is a common attribute of serial killers, whether claimed or proven. Robert Ressler in his book with Thomas Schactman Whoever Fights Monsters, claimed that “100% (of serial killers) had been abused as children” whether physically, due to neglect, or humiliation, or perception thereof.
Yet, not 100% of victims of child abuse become murderers.
Upbringing is imperative for future public policy and laws to make sure all of our children are taken care of, but it does not explain murder as much we would like it to.
The next few weeks will be interesting to watch. Already, we are falling into the first myth that increased gun control would have prevented this tragedy. I have also noticed people looking into Lanza’s (of CT) background. And in case you haven’t seen it, Fox has already started blaming violent video games. Yet, if any of this will actually decrease shootings in the future remains to be seen…and most importantly proven.