11,984. This is the number of gun-related deaths that occurred in the United States in 2018 alone. What used to be a shocking occurrence has now become a disturbing norm in America. Mass shootings are increasing with each passing year and the country is divided on what the best solution should be. One side argues for stricter gun safety laws, while the other doesn’t think it will do much.
Who or what is to blame? Should we blame video games, where the youth are proudly shooting zombies and people on screen, or blame our favorite action stars who are blasting the bad guys with automatic rifles? Or does even having firearms in our homes for protection make us more prone to use it for violent reasons? These disturbing events that have taken place in the past decade have transpired into an ongoing national debate, with each shooting adding another cause for alarm.
A number of mass shootings in this country has been memorable enough to ingrain itself into U.S modern history. One of the deadliest school shootings occurred in 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Two seniors, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 students and one teacher, and injured more than 20 more. The pair eventually turned the guns on themselves and committed suicide. A massive investigation took place to find out what caused this senseless act of violence. In looking into Harris’ and Klebold’s background, it was discovered that both men were labeled as outcasts among their peers, and the shooting was an act of retaliation.
A similar catastrophe took place at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia in 2007. Seung-Hui Cho, an undergraduate student, killed 32 people before taking his own life. Cho was found to have had severe depression and mental illness since childhood. Despite this, he was still able to purchase his own firearms due to the gap in laws for qualifications to be able to purchase guns in the state of Virginia. This prompted a nationwide outcry on the government’s tepid efforts to enforce stricter gun laws and the university’s failure to perform thorough background evaluations on each student administered to the school.
As mass shootings are occurring at a more frequent rate in the country, more research is being invested in order to see what has been causing so much violent tendencies in a perpetrator. Popular theories point the blame on video and games, movies, and even rap music. Their violent content is criticized for encouraging the same behavior in the youth and glamorizing gun violence. In fact, the American Psychological Association observed in an August 2015 policy statement that research demonstrated a link “between violent video game use and both increases in aggressive behavior … and decreases in pro-social behavior, empathy, and moral engagement.” Still, the conclusion is shifty, with many researchers pointing out that kids who play video games already have an aggressive predisposition. Others have argued that video games actually keep kids’ violent activities to a minimum, since it acts as a cathartic experience and prevents them from following through those acts in real life.
As the debate continues, so do the the thousands of deaths from gun violence. While the deaths of the individuals who had passed away are publicly commemorated, the victims are not limited to those who were directly killed, but impacts the community as a whole. Having a loved one pass away or surviving an attack really shapes a person’s mentality, future relationships, and perspective of society. According to the National Center for PTSD, 28 percent of people who have witnessed a mass shooting develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and about a third develop acute stress disorder. This is trauma that not only affects the individual, but is carried on through generations in families.
Acts of violence and mass shootings need to stop and this is something everyone in his country can agree on. But the issue has always been the logistics of getting there, with guns laws being argued for and against. But the longer we argue about it back and forth, each homicide, each mass shooting, each act of violence will continue to be etched into our country. We are all hoping for a solution.
Gun safety laws are important. But we also need to look at the cultural values of our society and see how it can be reshaped so that there can be more love than hate. We need to denounce hostile and rejective attitude and instill love, respect, and peace among us. How? By starting with you and me: being more open to understanding different beliefs and opposing views through more dialogue; instead of shaming or spreading hate, criticism, or ignorance, making a conscious effort to encourage, inspire, help and give practical steps to secure a healthier and hopeful future. Let us all think of creative ways to spread acts of kindness one by one.
It all starts with giving one person hope. Having faith that one act can make a difference can eventually trickle into the larger society, until a whole country is positively changed. Let us all make gun violence and the culture of violence a thing of the past. Let’s hope, dream, and act until it becomes a reality.