Photo courtesy of Angelus News
The gun control debate is far from new. Tragedies involving senseless violence have occurred periodically in the last few decades, with the events in Florida being the most recent example. With each one, there is some sort of call to restrict access to firearms. However, the debate that has sparked in the past month has seemed more intense than usual. The reasons for this are numerous, and will be touched on later, but in any case my conclusion is the same: Guns aren’t the problem.
It seems like an easy fix to make guns heavily restricted or altogether illegal: No guns, no mass shootings, right? Well, heroin isn’t legal, yet the nation is dealing with a heroin crisis on an unprecedented scale. We can see this phenomenon in action in the world of firearms as well: The city of Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, but it also has some of the highest rates of gun violence. Demand doesn’t disappear in the face of regulation, it just shifts to less safe methods and, often, less safe people.
But let’s assume for a moment that banning guns would actually stop mass shootings from happening. In that case, we would no longer be mourning the deaths caused by gun violence. Instead, we would talk about all of the people maimed in an acid attack, killed by a car driven into a crowd or stabbed before anyone knew what was happening. This has been the case in the U.K. and Europe as of late.
Guns aren’t the problem when it comes to senseless violence. Those with ill intent will find a way to carry it out, either by procuring a weapon illegally or turning something mundane into something deadly. It follows that, instead of focusing so much energy on restricting firearms, we should be addressing some of the actual problems that are at play.
The dismal truth is that the mass shooting phenomenon is the product of a complex array of problems and cannot be solved by something as simple as banning guns. However, pointing out problems without offering alternatives is the antithesis of constructive behavior, so some sort of remedial suggestion should be offered. It’s likely that the recent uproar has been so disproportionate partly because a school shooting was involved. Therefore, because of the constraints of printing space, this kind of violence will be focused on specifically.
The operative problem in school shootings is not guns, but pent-up aggression. It’s no coincidence that school shootings have been on the rise at roughly the same time that extremely strict anti-bullying policies have been on the rise. While the intentions of these policies are good, they end up punishing both sides of a schoolyard fight with equal severity, regardless of the circumstances.
The idea is that victims of bullying should instead seek out adult intervention rather than fight. But sadly, if my experience in school is representative, most teachers and staff are either unable or unwilling to help. Whenever I approached teachers on the playground with a bullying problem, I was usually just turned away and told to “use my words” before I even got a chance to explain the situation.
Since bullied children can neither defend themselves nor get outside help, they are left with no choice but to bottle up that pain and anger. This leads to an unhappy childhood for the victims, but while most grow up and leave the past behind, some become deeply troubled young adults who see no course of action but revenge. This can’t explain all school shootings, but it has certainly been a factor in some.
Children are children, they squabble in immature ways as a means to grow and mature. They sometimes need to let out their irrational aggression, and this happens best when it’s in small, relatively harmless doses. Fighting on the playground might not be an ideal situation, and certainly, teachers need to be more helpful than they were to me, but ultimately, our anti-bullying approach needs a serious overhaul. Punishing the victims of bullying for standing up for themselves makes no sense. We should not be trying to prevent small violence at the expense of creating bigger violence.
I encourage others to discuss the true problems at the heart of various forms of violence. This can take the form of editorials, casual conversations or pretty much anything. The bottom line is, the discussion needs to be turned around. Guns have been a scapegoat for too long, and whether it’s by losing our right to bear arms or by missing the opportunity to actually prevent another shooting, we’re all suffering for it.
David Drier is a junior economics major and guest writer for the Newswire from Cincinnati.