Amer­ica’s cul­ture of violence is the prob­lem, not guns

Modern Healthcare - - COMMENT -

The Dec. 7 ed­i­to­rial (“Tackle gun violence like other pub­lic health prob­lems,” p. 24) misses the point.

Violence is the pub­lic health prob­lem, not guns. Guns are only a symp­tom. As has been of­ten re­peated, guns don’t kill peo­ple, peo­ple kill peo­ple. Guns don’t com­mit sui­cide, peo­ple com­mit sui­cide. Tak­ing away guns will not pre­vent mur­der, sui­cide or other violence. Strict gun con­trol in Chicago and Bal­ti­more has failed to di­min­ish the homi­cide rate sig­nif­i­cantly. What has worked are pro­grams like Cease­Fire in Chicago, Op­er­a­tion Cease­fire in Bos­ton and Project Ex­ile in Rich­mond, Va. Th­ese pro­grams ad­dress youth violence by stop­ping il­licit gun traf­fick­ing and gang violence.

For decades, we have been im­mers­ing our chil­dren in violence. Movies and tele­vi­sion glo­rify violence, in­clud­ing violence with guns. We have cre­ated a cul­ture that promotes and es­teems violence. Violence is “cool.”

Mass shoot­ings by re­li­gious fa­nat­ics and psy­chopaths are hor­rific, but lim­it­ing gun own­er­ship by law-abid­ing cit­i­zens will not stop th­ese at­tacks. Our bor­ders are por­ous. Even if guns were nonex­is­tent in Amer­ica, those who pass through our bor­ders with­out dif­fi­culty would also find firearms with­out dif­fi­culty.

There are es­ti­mated to be over 310 mil­lion guns in pri­vate hands in the U.S. Ap­proach­ing the prob­lem at that level is not fea­si­ble. Pro­hibit­ing Amer­i­can gun own­er­ship is also un­con­sti­tu­tional. Gun own­ers are no more likely to give up their con­sti­tu­tional right to own and bear arms than the me­dia is likely to ac­cept a ban on their con­sti­tu­tional right to pro­duce vi­o­lently graphic TV se­ries or movies.

We should ap­proach violence as a pub­lic health is­sue the same way we ap­proached tobacco, but not ex­pect rapid im­prove­ment. The link be­tween cig­a­rettes and lung can­cer was made in the 1950s, yet we still sell cig­a­rettes, which have no re­deem­ing value. We could cer­tainly make tobacco il­le­gal in Amer­ica, but we haven’t be­cause it would vi­o­late con­sti­tu­tional rights (and would not work). What we have done right with tobacco (and should do to ad­dress violence) is change the cul­ture. It is not “cool” to smoke any­more. We have stopped glo­ri­fy­ing it in the me­dia. It should not be cool to be vi­o­lent. We should stop glo­ri­fy­ing violence.

The one com­ment made that I do agree with is that Amer­ica may have lost its moral com­pass. Pro­hibit­ing le­gal gun own­er­ship will not change that.

Dr. Jef­frey Northup Mount Ver­non, Ohio

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