“Guns don’t kill people, Americans kill people.”
I don’t buy into many of Michael Moore’s theories, and I certainly think his methodology is occasionally questionable–but discussing gun violence in America? He’s right on point.
It seems like every day there is another report of a shooting–this week we notably saw the first TSA agent downed in the line of duty and, just a few minutes before I sat down to write this, it was reported that nine were shot, two killed in a shooting in a Detroit barber shop.
What’s the problem? Why is this happening?
Well, the answer may lie in the data. Moore has long made the point since his hit documentary “Bowling for Columbine” that other countries have access to guns, and their gun murder rate isn’t nearly as high as that in the U.S. He may have a point here, certainly Americans own more guns than anyone else in the world per capita–but is does not appear as though gun ownership and murder-by-gun are very highly correlated.
The Swiss have a large number of guns as well–about half of that in the U.S. but compared to the U.S. the number of homicides by gun is almost negligible.
Additionally, Moore implied in this video after the shooting at LAX that arguing over the type of gun used is also a lost cause, pointing out that the shooter used a hunting rifle, not an assault weapon.
In the video he also addressed mental health, pointing out that other countries deal with problems of mental health but their violent incidents are still extremely sporadic compared to the seemingly consistent disasters endured by Americans.
So, if the problem isn’t high gun ownership, and it isn’t a hunting vs. assault weapon debate, and it isn’t mental health…what is it? Why do we keep killing one another?
I don’t know, nor does anyone else.
It is apparent, however, that we continue to ask the wrong questions and have the wrong arguments. These debates over regulating gun ownership and improving mental healthcare do likely have some merit and may be worthy of discussion, but they aren’t going to solve the murder problem.
By pretending that these efforts may have some impact, we are completely buying into the placebo effect. These things sound nice, and they sound like they might fix the problem, but the evidence seems to indicate that they won’t. Probably the reason they are so tempting, and why politicians continue to chase them, is that these things are actionable, relatively easy-to-implement solutions.
Want to regulate gun ownership? Pass a bill. Want to tackle mental health? Build more clinics and work up some funding.
By all means, go ahead and do these things, but be wary that at the end of the day Americans will still be shooting each other–albeit with licensed guns in front of shiny new hospitals.
So instead of settling for shortcuts and soundbytes, let’s start a deeper discussion of what is actually going on here. We know what it likely isn’t, so what could it be?
My guess? I think America has just become a nation of terminally frightened people. We live in a culture dominated by fear and reaction. When scared and backed into a corner, animals tend to bite back. Our predecessors built a City on a Hill, and we’ve turned it into the Hunger Games.
I don’t know. These questions are making me uncomfortable.
I’m going to go make sure my door is locked.