The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome. Americans are frightened and wondering why mass shootings seems to be becoming a regular event. It is argued on one side that there should be more gun control. The other side is simply opposed to that type of change; paranoid that it leaves the citizens of the United States vulnerable and at the mercy of the powers that be.
According to the Washington Post, there have been 150 mass shootings since 1966. Approximately 55 mass shootings have occurred within the past 10 years and the most deadly of them have occurred within that time period as well. The debate after a mass shooting always questions our laws on gun control. The one-dimensional argument takes two sides: should citizens be allowed to own semi-automatic firearms with larger magazine capacity? Or should there be more restrictions on what firearms civilians can own? Both sides fail to recognize the underlying issues that cause mass shootings, to begin with: the people pulling the trigger of the firearm.
There have been proposals for adding steps to the process of purchasing a firearm, such as gun ownership licensing and psychological tests, as a means for sellers to make better judgment of who they sell firearms to. However, changing the process of firearm purchasing does not make homicidal people less dangerous. It is not strictly a gun problem, so much as it is a violence problem within people.
A mass shooting starts with the mindset of a hateful individual. During an interview with clinical psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson, he stated, “You have to be very embittered by life in order to do that sort of thing and it is not just hatred for people, it is hatred for being [existence] itself and the desire to take revenge on being for the outrage of the tragedy and suffering that is associated with being. And perhaps the tragedy and suffering that has been emparceled on your own life as well.”
Some say that sick and mentally ill people are the cause of tragic events. Bioethicist Carmella Epright debunked the idea in a TED talk, stating “[The mentally ill] make up a tiny minority, that is people who are actively psychotic, who are subject to delusions and hallucinations. Our minds turn to people that we are already afraid of. Blaming mentally ill people for mass shootings is very comforting. It allows us to believe that they are ‘not like us.’ That they are not ‘normal.’ Even though we know that ‘normal’ people are the ones who commit 95 percent of all violent acts.”
These tragic events do not stem from mental illness. They come from the minds that never cease to harbor anger and resentment. When violent acts are committed, people too often try to separate and blame events on certain groups of people. There is no “us” and “them.” All gun owners are just as rational as people who do not own firearms. What needs to be addressed is the responsibility that comes with owning a weapon and the way guns and violence are collectively viewed.
In today’s world, violence is often glorified in culture. And not just in video games, movies, and TV shows. Every time a mass shooting is committed, the mass shooter gains a significantly large amount of notoriety and free publicity. Real change comes from how people collectively think. In this case, we should reevaluate our perception of guns and violence, our response to violence, and the lessons we learn to prevent further violence.
Peterson said, “Mostly what happens after these mass shootings is that the event gets absolutely politicized, people take their standard positions and there is no moving from either side, and that’s too bad. I think that it is unfortunate to use a mass shooting event to make political capital, which is usually what happens.”
“I think that the right to bear arms is an important right. The individual should be allowed, or even encouraged, to be dangerous but controlled. Along with that right is a responsibility. I guess from the NRA, there should be more discussion about responsibility. That seems to me to be reasonable.”
Mass shooters are depicted as monsters for the horrible things they do, but the truth is that they are human beings as well. They are not mentally ill, and they consciously make the decisions to do what they do with no buffer to their judgment. Most mass shooters are no different than ourselves. We need to understand that each of us possesses the same spirit and dark capacity within ourselves as the people who commit atrocities like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and the recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Violence is in human nature.
These atrocities take part in the parcel makeup of our current being, we can only take responsibility for it. In the aftermath of these events, we are left with the necessity to take responsibility for the most terrible aspects of ourselves. In that way, we can stop those terrible things from happening again.