We Live in a Culture of Violence

September 22nd, 2020 - by Ana Nogales, Ph.D / Psychology Today

Violence Is a Social and Political Problem, as Well as a Personal One

Ana Nogales, Ph.D / Psychology Today

 (January 31, 2018) — It’s hard to believe that every time we hear about another mass shooting, nothing was able to prevent it. Tragically, we know those mass shootings will continue to occur, be it a result of international terrorism or through the hands of a neighbor. Although the aggressor or group of aggressors may feel anger towards a specific group of persons, their acts of violence most often result in victims of different ages, ethnicities, and religions.

An Everytown for Gun Safety analysis of data between 2009 to 2016 from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Vital Statistics System, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR) reveals many disturbing facts.

It was found that in mass shootings, in which “mass shooting” is defined as a situation in which at least four people are killed with guns, 54 percent were committed by intimate partners or family. In other words, domestic violence plays a pivotal role in over half of those cases.

Moreover, the United States is the country with the most arms per capita. Four out of seven persons possess a gun in their home or live in a home in which someone possesses a gun. Approximately 97,820 people are wounded yearly as a result of a firearm —268 a day. It was also found that, between 2012 and 2016, there were around 35,000 gun-related deaths: 21,600 were suicides and 12,800 were victims of homicide.

This information, however, does not elucidate the causes of violence. It does not answer questions regarding the mental health of those who attack or access to firearms in a society that has enculturated violence.

Many people feel that guns are necessary for security. However, some countries, such as Japan, have adopted many very strict gun-control laws. Citizens are only allowed to purchase shotguns and air-rifles after attending an all-day class, taking a written examination, and passing a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95 percent.

A background check that includes one’s mental health, drug use, and relative and other colleague’s perception of the applicant are also completed. Guns are inspected once a year. After three years, those seeking to renew their gun licenses undergo the same rigorous process. In Japan, fatalities are approximately 10 for a population of 128 million. Australia was also able to reduce its problem by 40 percent when it implemented a program against the use of firearms in 1996.

Why is it that the United States cannot do something similar, especially given that it’s confirmed that in countries in which there are more gun-control laws, there are fewer gun-related fatalities? It’s a complex problem.

For starters, the gun industry generates billions of overseas revenue for the country. In addition, the United States has a history of violence and military activity throughout the world. Many researchers and scholars argue that we live in a culture of violence, where weapons are a symbol of power for some.

Guns without users are harmless. It is easy to say that it is not the gun that commits the crime, but the person who pulls the trigger. Many believe that this is a question of mental health.

This is also a question of gender. Why do men more often resort to guns, many times in order to be heard? Could this also be a topic of education? Could we have educational plans that teach our kids how to resolve conflicts from the time our child starts school?

If we add the fact that we live in a society that tends to value and glamorize violence to all of this, where children and youth are exposed to violence on a daily basis in television, social media, and video games, many would argue that we can’t expect much to change.

By the time a child becomes an adult, most of them will have already witnessed hundreds or even thousands of acts of violence on television. It’s possible that early exposure to media violence numbs children to it or legitimizes it as a means to solve problems. Children may imitate what they see on television or identify with characters who commit (or are victims of) violence.

Consequently, as with all other problems of a complex society, the answer is not an easy one. This country offers many beneficial treatment programs, but navigating through them is sometimes difficult. A person who suffers from a mental illness does not always have the necessary resources to maintain a healthier lifestyle. In many cases, outside actors cannot intervene in their care unless they give consent.

The most common profile of those who commit mass violence is a reclusive white male, who often struggles with relationship problems or lacks familial support. When someone like this feels alienated and has access to a firearm, the risk of finding “power” with violence is present. This is not only a mental health issue but a social and political problem, too.

Ana Nogales, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and well-known media personality, columnist, speaker, and advocate for victims of domestic violence.

 Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.