USA Today reports that in America there has been, on average, a mass murder (defined as 4 or more victims) every 2 weeks since 2006. Troubled minds have always made up a predictable percentage of our population. Historically, access to guns in America has been easy. So, what is different now?
No amount of mental health care and gun control (though we need more of both) can stop violence in a population of children trained by hours of media to internalize violence as a way of life. Television and films show aggressive behavior as the appropriate response whenever alienated, disrespected or angry. First person shooter video games are wiring brains and motor skills for carnage; whether they put that training to use of not.
In minds, desensitized to killing, the linkage between media deaths and the unbearable suffering of real life bloodshed is a blur. In unstable minds, like Elliot Roger and the sad list of murderers before him, that line can disappear entirely. High on our naturally occurring opioid, dopamine (think amphetamines and cocaine), pumped out by, among other things, pathological anger, or entertainment generated violence, mass murders are enacted by minds out of touch with reality and humanity. Flooded with dopamine, brains are cut off from the higher reasoning of the prefrontal cortex, center for impulse control and compassion, and are instead dominated by the mammalian brain’s animal-like behavior.
How will Elliot Roger be psychologically diagnosed, posthumously? Why are gun laws becoming increasingly lax? Does his father’s involvement with the production of the brutally violent Hunger Games, based kids hunting down and killing kids, reveal anything about Elliot’s upbringing? Was this Santa Barbara shooter influenced by anything more than the pervasive U.S. culture of violence?
There are some things of which we can be certain. This is not a question of freedom of speech. Our courts draw the line on freedom of speech when it turns into hate crimes and bullying. Offenders are charged with lawsuits and given prison sentences, even when no physical harm has been done. How can the providers of films, games and music, which inspire violent ideas, teach violent behavior, provide the practice to deeply ingrain the skills of violence, or supply the armament, not be held responsible for their part in the human disasters they encourage?
This is not a question of gun control. It is about maintaining a civil society. We should not have to fear for our lives when we go home, to a film, a class, or a shopping center. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the “right of people to be secure in their persons . . . against seizure”, and “An intentional shooting of a free citizen is a “seizure.” Richmond Journal of Law and the Public Interest Winter/Spring 2005.
Seat belts and air bags have been mandated by law. Tobacco and alcohol are highly regulated. All are committed to making life safer and healthier. How many more times will we hear about mass murders before we demand accountability – from the entertainment industry and those who make and sell guns?
It is a fact that we will always have the mentally unstable among us. Is it reasonable for us, or fair to them, that we provide the guns and violent media environment that put all of us at risk?