Fewer Guns Does Not Equal Less Violence

2 April 2021

Jeff McCarty

Throughout March 2021, we had two high-profile mass shootings. By now, if you're aware of this (which I would find it hard to believe you're not), you are at least aware of the baseline details of each shooting. If you are aware of this, you are probably also aware of the onslaught of policy debates that have arisen (as they always do) regarding gun policy and gun control. These debates are part of a classic cycle that plays out in contemporary American politics every time an unfortunate event like this occurs.

Both sides always execute these policy debates with an intensity fueled by a wave of anger with the other side's inability to understand what is at stake with these policy debates. Now, of course, each side is using a different metric to measure what is at stake. With one side concerned with human safety and the other concerned about humans' freedoms, they both focus only on their area of concern with no regard for the other. Part of the reason for this intensity is that strong forces drive each side. One side is motivated by the pain that comes about from lives lost to gun violence, and the historical right to bear arms drives the other side.

Society must address gun control with both concerns in mind as with many of our problems in society. Neither side can be correct without an acknowledgment and integration of the other side's viewpoint. Ironically both sides are for the same overall result. They want to minimize the amount of potential harm that an American could experience. They both want to achieve this goal through different means, and that shouldn't surprise us. One side views it from a personal agency standpoint where you take it upon yourself to protect yourself and your own. The other side views it as a responsibility of society through the means of laws and regulations.

While each side digs deeper into their ideologies and refuses to embrace or cooperate with the other side, gun violence continues. This is where we need to dig in. Any time a human life is lost to violence, it is an unfortunate event that will tragically affect those close to the person and sometimes even those who weren't close to the one who has died. Minimalizing the lives lost to violence, in general, is a noble purpose. Still, to truly solve or even minimalize the risk of violence in our society, we must do more than scratch the surface to solve this problem.

When I discuss the matters of a violent crime with another, the one thing that almost always gets said is something along the lines of, "I can't believe that person did that." Now the person and the specific violent crime can vary. Nonetheless, people can't imagine doing something of that nature themselves. People analyze themselves compared to others who commit these crimes and naturally contemplate where the difference lies. The conclusion that most draw is that the difference lies between our ears in our head.

Now there are different labels I can apply to the concept I am evoking. Physically speaking, I am, of course, referring to the brain. The idea I am illustrating is what I would instead refer to as a mental state. The more common title that we may hear in the public discourse is the term mental health. Regardless of the semantics, the question remains the same. What is the difference between the mind of a "normal" person and a violent person? If we want to solve gun violence, we must begin to understand why a person is turning to violence in the first place. This is the root of the issue, and addressing the root causes of a person's violent behavior is the only way we will minimalize violence in our society.

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