By David Joel Miller.
America does not seem to learn.
The common prescription for anything wrong in our society is to do more of whatever has not been working. Gun violence is the most recent social problem to receive this prescription.
We have of course tried this prescription before, almost universally to ill effect. No one likes to admit they are wrong and we as a society can’t seem to face the idea that our present approaches to societal problems is not working and is not likely to work. We have been down this path before to bad effect, but there are those in our society who think the prescription for gun violence is more guns.
For the record gun violence is not the only violence that has become epidemic in our society. School shootings make the news – for a while, this week we all thinking about them. Next week we will be on to concern about some other threat for which we will want out leaders to pour on more of what has not worked.
Here are some examples of problems that we have tried to solve by pouring on more of what did not work and then back to the issue of gun violence.
War on drugs.
We have been fighting the war on drugs for longer than the war in the Middle East. We still don’t have an exit strategy for the war on drugs. In this war, we have suffered a lot of casualties and taken a lot of prisoners. Our prisons are over-full and we are now letting people out just to reduce the overcrowding.
With all that expenditure on the war on drugs, we should have drug free cities by now. Is your town drug-free? Mine sure isn’t. Have you noticed that the drug “game” includes lots of violence? Usually gun violence? Most news reports of drug busts include a recitation of the number of guns seized. Has our current policy toward drugs increased or decreased the violence on our streets?
Recently we have attempted to reduce illegal immigration by building a fence along our southern border. This reminds me of the magician who points in one direction while picking your pocket with the other hand. Never mind that there are significant numbers of illegal immigrants arriving every day by plane and ship on both our coasts. Some have pointed to the increased southern border activity as the reason for a reduction in illegal immigration. Never mind we needed to have a serious recession to eliminate the jobs that were drawing people to this country.
Next, I expect to hear we need more recessions to reduce illegal immigration. Sound far-fetched? Well doesn’t this sound just like the plan to reduce school shootings by putting armed guards on school campuses?
Schools are not the most dangerous place for children.
Their own home is more dangerous! Let’s look at the numbers. So just how many children have been dying in school shootings?
I found a list of school and mass shootings on the internet and did a quick addition of the deaths on the list. Even if my math is off a little, here is what I found. (Please see “Information Please Database” from Pierson Education.) From 1996 to 2012 about 200 people have died in school or mass shootings in the United States. The rest of the world, on this list, had just over 180 deaths. This is over an approximate 17 year period. Possible some were missed on this list, but the point is that the U. S. has more mass shooting deaths than those in all the other countries of the world combined!
So how dangerous is sending your child to school? Not that even one shooting death of a child is acceptable but where else might children be shot? On our streets? In their own home?
Every year in America about 750 children are killed by their biological parent who then kills themselves. This is not a step parent, but the biological parent who usually kills their intimate partner kills their children and then kills themselves.
Following the NRA’s logic, we should need to place an armed guard in every home in America with two biological parents. The danger from parents with guns is roughly 70 times greater than from strangers shooting a child in a school. So it is not strangers or schools that are hazardous to our children. It is us, all of us, and our attitude that more of what does not work will fix that problem.
One thing that struck me while reading this list is that in the early years there were lots of one person shootings. Recently all over the world, but especially in the United States, the number killed in each shooting has risen. But then so have the number of children killed by their parents in the home. We are becoming desensitized to violence.
Consider how many of these shootings in the home and in the school had two common elements. Guns that hold a lot of bullets allow for mass killings. The person who did the killing died during the event usually by killing themselves.
People who are suicidal, who have lost hope may think that resorting to violence is the solution and if they are going to kill themselves they just may decide to take their partner, their children, their schoolmates or their fellow workers with them.
The best solution for mass killings seems to me to be reducing the lethality of weapons, fewer bullets per gun. Our strategy also needs to include identifying those who have lost hope.
More counseling for the lonely, depressed and isolated might reduce the need to counsel victims of killings. Still, I doubt we will do much of this.
Doing more of what doesn’t work is just the American way.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books