Mass Shootings: Everyone Else’s Problem

Sigh. How can you not be depressed when you read the stories about yet another mass shooting in America? And feel even more depressed when it fails to make as big of an impact on you for the simple reason that it happens so often?

I’ve been at a bit of a loss for how to write about today’s shootings, mainly because I really would like an answer. A solution to this problem. But part of the problem is that there are no simple solutions. That there’s so much blame to go around that everyone who has a share of that blame can simply stand back and point the finger at someone else.

The NRA can point to mental health issues, mental health issues can point to violent movies, violent movies can point to violent video games, violent video games can point to news media glorifying shooters, the news media can point to the NRA, and on and on it goes, and nothing gets changed except the running total of casualties to gun violence in America. I’ve written about this before. My thoughts today haven’t changed too much from those earlier comments, but they have evolved a bit.

The biggest problem I see? People like to view this as someone else’s problem. If you personally love guns, then it’s too easy to defend your passion and blame the other factors. The same holds true for video games, mental health issues, news media, Hollywood depictions–you name it.

Typically in these blog posts, I like to talk about my thoughts around an issue and reach some sort of conclusion. Some answer that brings everything into focus. But when there are so many different lenses involved in an issue, how can you hope to find any clarity?

I believe that for mass shootings in America to finally begin to dwindle, we all need to step up and admit we’re part of the problem, and then do as much as we can to stop it. I was once a pretty big fan of first person shooters. I don’t play them anymore, and I certainly don’t let my kids play them if they contain realistic portrayals of violence. Why not? Because I believe if you watch too much of that stuff (particularly at a young age), you become normalized to it. It bothers me that so many children end up playing games rated M. Games which supposedly are intended only for those who are 17 years or older, just as it disturbs me when I see children in a screening of Mad Max.

But I can’t just blame other people for this, and I can’t single out any one “reason” that’s The Cause of It All.

Americans live in a cultural that idolizes violence. That presents it as good and proper and noble. Whether it’s Captain America beating up the bad guys or the audiences who flock to the latest torture porn movie. It starts young and continues throughout our lives. I don’t know what can be done to stop it.

I’m not trying to say we need to stop going to superhero movies or that all guns should be banned. It’s a complex problem, clearly. But it’s going to take everyone looking at their lives and deciding what they can do to help curb the problem.

Because as long as we just keep pointing fingers at everyone else, we’re only contributing to the problem.

What can I do personally? I can vote for politicians who will make solutions a priority. I can withhold my money from movies that present a skewed vision of reality. I can take a look at the role violence plays in the novels I write, and make sure I’m handling the material responsibly. I can speak out online when people try to dodge the blame or pin it on others.

It’s not just someone else’s problem. It’s our problem. And anyone who doesn’t admit that is only proving my point.

Sigh. Some days . . .

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