Is it the guns or the violence?

Let me start this article by saying I am not a gun owner. I have no interest in owning a gun, not because of any strong feelings towards them, but because I just simply have no interest in them. I have about as much interest in guns as I do in motorcycles. I don’t own a motorcycle, or have any desire to own one, but I have no problem with other people owning motorcycles.

I know a lot of people who own guns, and with enough guns circulating in America to arm every man, woman, and child, numbers suggest you know plenty of people who own them as well. The vast, overwhelming majority of these people are kind, normal (whatever that means), average Americans.

What I do have a strong interest in, are my rights (not the rights I think I should have, like the right of way in almost any traffic situation). Specifically, the rights given to you and me as outlined in the Constitution. One of which is the right to keep and bear arms. I am suspicious and leery of anyone trying to reign in or limit the rights I have guaranteed to me as a citizen.

Watching the news, or reading newspapers one would easily get the impression that gun violence is out of control. That shootings and mass shootings are a common occurrence and guns need to be regulated as they pose an immediate public health and safety concern. Well let’s look at the numbers…

In 2014, guns killed a total of 33,599 Americans. Seems like an immediate public health and safety concern to me. However, suicide killed 42,773 Americans. Drug overdoses killed 51,966 Americans, and alcohol related deaths killed 88,000 working age (20-64) Americans. That is 1 out of 10 Americans ages 20-64 died due to alcohol. With a total of 182,739 deaths from suicide, drug overdoses, and alcohol combined, compared to 33,599 from guns, I would argue that these issues deserve to be at the front and center of media coverage and political campaigns. So why aren’t they?

Well, that’s easy. Mental health awareness, substance abuse treatment, and the like don’t make good headlines. They don’t increase viewership or sell newspapers. Mostly importantly of all, they don’t make you afraid of anything. I’ve said before that fear is the best motivator. Fear gets people out to vote and spend money. There are a lot of people making a lot of money off of fear mongering these days.

The media is constantly feeding us things to be afraid of, and operates by creating a climate of fear. Fear of mass shootings, fear of terrorists, fear of terrorists committing mass shootings. The truth is we live in one of the safest times in human history. There is no world war, or crusades, or empires conquering and pillaging each other. Violent crime in America is the lowest it’s been since the early 1960’s, and you are more likely to be killed by your television falling on you, than by a terrorist (yes, seriously.) Creating an aura of fear to push through legislation isn’t a viable solution to our problems. All it does is skew people’s perception on the world around them and limits their ability to think about issues logically and rationally.

With all this being said I concede gun violence is a problem, especially in inner cities. But I am personally worn out by the endless legislation on gun control that does nothing to stop the problem. Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and they are blatantly ineffective. Gun violence is still out of control in Chicago.

Our problem isn’t so much the guns as it is the violence, coupled with what I can only describe as a culture of isolation.

We live in a violent society. Much of the music, films, and video games depict acts of indiscriminate, random, and unexplained violence. We taboo sex in our society more than most Western countries and replace it with violence. We’ve also become more isolated in the digital age. Opting for Facebook friends over real ones, virtual reality over actual reality, and texting over conversation.

I’m not saying peace and brotherly love is a tangible solution to a complicated problem like a deeply rooted culture of violence, or gun violence in the inner cities or anywhere else for that matter. That would be almost (but not quite) as absurd as thinking more gun legislature is a quality solution to the “gun problem.”

All I’m saying is a small willingness to connect, interact, and try to understand one another is a step in the right direction towards a real solution. Peace and love sounds like a pipe dream, a big fat pie in the sky. But I’m more willing to set my sights there to enact change than to give up my constitutional rights based on a manufactured climate of fear.

-Mike

(All statistics taken from the CDC)

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