Heartbreaking does not even begin to describe the pain associated with the tragedy and unimaginable horror that struck the New England town of Newtown, CT weeks ago. Contrary to much of what has been written, however, it is not the result of guns, poor parenting, vicious lyrics, violent video games, or sadistic movies fueled by an entertainment industry. It is the result of any or all of the aforementioned.
For every psychiatrist or behavioral psychologist who may dispute this claim, there is a psychiatrist or behavioral psychologist who will undoubtedly support it. The finger pointing in the hours and days following this horrific event is inexcusable. Everyone is quick to blame but slow to take responsibility. The bottom line is this: something is wrong in our society.
Promoting a Culture of Violence
No one is forced to watch violent video games or movies or listen to vicious songs. Certainly not every person who regularly listens to hateful songs or pumps brutal images into their minds is a sadistic mass murderer. However, many professionals agree that repeated exposure to verbal and visual violence can desensitize young minds, lead to a lack of empathy and promote aggressive behaviors, even in the most well adjusted people.
It is difficult to acknowledge the value of video games or movies that depict the unbridled massacre of human beings by other human beings. What could possibly be entertaining about such a display? The victims in many of the so-called “slasher” movies are generally innocent teens and young adults and are most often slaughtered with knives or axes.
Typically, the faces of the perpetrators display power, lust, and self-gratification leading to the untended consequence of fame. These emotions or characteristics can be very alluring especially to young people who feel isolated, bullied or are mentally unbalanced.
Since good parenting skills are subjective, the government should not interfere. However, teachers can be taught to identify a departure from the norm, watch for signs of potential violent behavior and take steps to report it and/or correct it with parental consent.
Americans have a Constitutional right to bear arms and defend themselves. Therefore banning all guns is not realistic. The sale of standard (single shot) hand guns and hunting rifles or shotguns should continue but with strict, federally defined background checks. Federal guidelines will prevent people from purchasing guns in other states with more lenient laws. Further, gun owners should be required to purchase metal boxes or cabinets with locks to store their weapons. Upon purchasing additional guns, proof of ownership of approved storage boxes or cabinets should be required.
The sale of specific guns commonly referred to as assault weapons requires rethinking. There is little evidence to support a person needing these types of weapons to defend themselves or their property and it is illegal to hunt with them. Laws must be crafted in a way that prevents wiggle room. For example, the handle of an AR-17 assault rifle resembles a hand gun and is therefore, under some current state laws, not classified as an assault weapon when it perhaps should.
A federal program should be put in place for citizens to surrender rapid-fire, assault-type weapons to the federal government to be purchased back at a fair price. The guns can be repurposed for federal, local and state law enforcement and the military.
A crime can befall anyone – adults and children alike – as we tragically learned in the tranquil setting of Newtown, Connecticut. Even if every gun was taken out of the public’s hands this would not stop someone like this despicable villain from reigning terror on the innocents. These sick individuals can and will find other methods to carry out their evil acts.
In the meantime, what harm could it possibly do to tone down the violence around us and promote a more peaceful environment of good will? Perhaps it’s time for America to reset her moral compass.