“We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries, but this isn’t a guns situation. This is a mental health problem at the highest level.”
I’ve been holding off on addressing the topic of gun violence here in the United States, not only due to its sensitivity but mainly because of the contradicting/nonsensical arguments that follow. As many of you may know, there was a recent mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL that killed 17 people; 14 students and 3 facility members. This shooting sparked another (yes, these incidents are cyclical at this point) nationwide debate over gun control. And after hearing about this story, I was left with a few questions that needed to be answered.
- What does the Second Amendment entail?
- The Second Amendment to The United States Constitution, ratified on December 15, 1791, protects the right to keep and bear arms. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
- How many mass shootings have occurred in America?
- There have been a total of 150 shootings (not including gang and domestic violence), with many of the deadliest occurring within the last few years.
- 1,077 people have been killed in mass shootings since August 1, 1966; the first one taking place at the University of Texas.
- There have been more than 153 shooters and most of them were between the ages of 20 and 49; all but 3 were male.
- 41 states and the District have experienced mass shootings, with most occurring in offices and retail establishments such as restaurants and stores.
- 292 guns were used, with semiautomatic rifles (particularly the AR-15) causing the deadliest throughout the country.
- At this point, has this become a societal norm?
After reading the Secondment Amendment, I interpreted it as a right to carry for the purpose of self-defense and not assassination. However, with every mass shooting, which seems to happen annually, there tends to be an onslaught of people who’ll voice their outrage but still defend the assassin by stating, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Which supports President Trump’s statement about gun violence being a mental health and not a gun problem.
Contradiction? Yes. But I then decided to approach this issue from a different angle. What if this is a mental health problem? What if the masses are being socially engineered to commit acts of violence on one another? And if so, what is the main influencer?
My guess would be the obvious…media.
According to the American Psychological Association, The Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior, formed in 1969, assessed the impact of violence on the attitudes, values, and behavior of viewers. Their report, along with the follow-up 1982 report by the National Institute of Mental Health advised that there are major effects of seeing violence on television, especially for the youth.
- Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others.
- Children may be more fearful of the world around them.
- Children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways towards others.
Psychologists Leonard Elon and L. Rowell Huesman also found that children who watched a lot of violence on TV when they were 8 years old were more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts as adults. Violent video games and social media vids are also contributing factors, with Psychologist Craig A. Anderson stating, “the evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior.” And with social media, the internet can provide unfiltered images of real-life violence—murders and gang violence, uploaded live on Facebook, YouTube, etc—that can potentially lead to increased “copycat” violence from the youth who watch.
As a society, we can continue to debate and unpack the causes to these acts of violence but, in my opinion, it’s too late. It’s already ingrained in us to be this way. Aside from media influences, America was built and has been sustained off of violence; lest we forget the genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement and continued genocide of African Americans, and 12 major wars. The only feasible solution going forward would be stricter gun laws, but even with that, I’m not sure if much would change.
Until Next Time…
Berkowitz, B., Lu, D., & Alcantara, C. (2018, March 14). The terrible numbers that grow with each mass shooting. Retrieved April 11, 2018, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/mass-shootings-in-america/?utm_term=.485a0640e029
Gansner, M. E. (2017, September 5). “The Internet Made Me Do It”—Social Media and Potential for Violence in Adolescents. Retrieved April 11, 2018, from http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/couch-crisis/-internet-made-me-do-itsocial-media-and-potential-violence-adolescents
Grinberg, E. (2017, November 6). Gun violence: More complicated than a ‘mental health problem’. Retrieved April 11, 2018, from https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/06/health/guns-mental-health-texas-trump/index.html
Levenson, E. (2018, February 21). These are the victims of the Florida school shooting. Retrieved April 11, 2018, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/15/us/florida-shooting-victims-school/index.html
Violence in the Media — Psychologists Study Potential Harmful Effects. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2018, from http://www.apa.org/action/resources/research-in-action/protect.aspx
CRS Annotated Constitution. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2018, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/anncon/html/amdt2_user.html#amdt2_hd2