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.
What I do have a strong interest in, are my rights; 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 any of 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. Shootings and mass shootings are a common occurrence and guns need to be regulated as they pose an immediate public health and safety concern. But numbers suggest otherwise.
In 2014, guns killed a total of 33,599 Americans. At face value this appears to be an immediate public health concern. 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 magazines and they don’t make you afraid of anything.
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. The truth is we live in one of the safest times in human history. There are no world wars, 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.
Our problem isn’t so much the guns as it is a culture of violence, and lack of adequate mental health treatment.
We live in a violent society. Much of our 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.
The issue of mental health is especially important for males. Men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. Seven out of ten substance abuse treatment admissions are male. It’s also of note to point out that males carry out violent crimes by an overwhelming majority.
I don’t believe men are more violent by nature than women. But I can say we are conditioned differently by society in a way that makes us prone to carry out violent acts. We are taught we have to be tough and to never show weakness. Somewhere along the way asking for help and discussing our issues with someone became labeled as weakness. It is not a stretch to correlate the emotional isolation of men to behaviors like substance abuse or violence, one being a coping mechanism, the other a lashing out response.
For us as a society, the issues of gun violence and violent crime are better viewed through the lens of mental health treatment and a conversation on the values we instill in our young boys. But looking towards Washington D.C. or [insert State capital] for change can be disappointing. It’s been my observation that when people change the way they think and act, governments follow suit.
On a personal level, a small willingness to connect, interact, and try to understand one another is a step in the right direction toward a real solution. Peace and brotherly 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.
(All statistics taken from the CDC)
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