The only way to kick the gun death problem is by dismissing the culture of fear that fuels it
As the media reported on the “latest mass shooting” by Elliot Rodger, the only real talk of gun control came from a grieving victim’s father. Richard Martinez vented his frustration at “craven, irresponsible” politicians and the National Rifle Association.
After Congress failed to pass basic background checks, Mr. Martinez’s anger was directed at the right place. Background checks on the mentally ill might have indeed saved his son. We’ll never really know for sure.
While background checks might reduce the number of mass shootings in America, it will do little to reduce the number of overall gun deaths the country sees every year. Aside from a spike in the early nineteen-nineties, the amount of gun deaths in America has remained pretty steady at slightly above thirty thousand a year for the last forty years. Including roughly ten thousand gun homicides.
One, if not the greatest contributor to these numbers is America’s culture of fear. I’m not talking about the fear of the NRA, which only seems to affect our politicians. I’m talking about America’s fear of everything.
This fear comes from all facets of American society and it drives people to buy arms for protection whether they need it or not. This culture of fear is uniquely American which is why the number of gun death each year is also distinctively American.
Some of this fear comes from the government, who have used fear over the years to control the population, pit its citizens against one and other and influenced them to buy a mass amount of weapons. Nowhere is this more evident than the fear they introduced with the threat of communism, terrorism, drugs, you name it.
Go back even further and you’ll find the American Government instilling the fear of the British, black people, Native Americans and so on. Throughout American History, the government has made its people afraid of something.
Note that these things we’ve been told to fear are also the same things we’ve declared war on over the years. It is proof that fear leads to a lack of rational thought and understanding while at the same time can lead to irrational actions.
The fear that comes from the government, ironically breeds fear of the government. When you’re told to be afraid of everything, it’s only natural to become afraid of the hand that feeds the fear. Only in this case, they get a little help.
American politicians consistently use fear as a weapon for their own political gain. The weapon of choice here is freedom or the lack there of, but it doesn’t stop there. Any legislation we try and pass is always countered with the fear of something. Death panels anyone?
Lately, the fear projected on to the American people has come primarily from the Republican Party who tried desperately to scare the voting public away from re-electing a black president. While the fear-mongering has subsided a little, the damage is done and can be seen in the militia movement once again plaguing the country.
The government and its employees are not the only ones complicit in this culture of fear. Another group responsible can be seen as their mouthpieces. Of course I’m talking about the media. Nothing boosts ratings like a little fear.
It’s hard to watch American news, regardless of the channel, and not become afraid of something. Home invaders, terrorists, black criminals, drug gangs, child molesters, rapists, traffic accidents, airplane crashes. I often wonder why more Americans don’t suffer from agoraphobia.
While the public sometimes needs to be aware of some of these, over reporting them can do more harm than good. If you show the same horrible situation often enough, that awareness quickly turns to fear, and for no good reason.
The chances of being a victim of a home invasion or a terrorist attack are slim to none, but that doesn’t stop the media from showing it repeatedly. Nor does it stop the NRA from capitalizing on the fear they bestow upon us by ratcheting up the fear another notch themselves.
The media has done a great job of making us afraid of the things we shouldn’t fear while at the same time ignoring the things we should be scared of. Fear is an effective tool at getting things done in this country, it’s just been misused too often, especially lately.
When the AIDS epidemic broke out, the incredible amount of fear that came from it actually helped to reduce its spread and sped up viable treatments for it. The same could be said about our disappearing ozone layer back in the day. We got afraid, we acted.
Of course our media was different back then, but it does go to show that fear-mongering can work for good. Makes you wish global warming got the proper media attention it deserves. Unfortunately, its effectiveness is also why our government, politicians and their lobby friends rely on it so much for their own means.
As my readers know, I am a Canadian. Every time I write an article about the gun problem in the US, people tell me I know nothing about guns or gun control because we don’t have a problem with it. Fair enough, but that’s precisely the reason we know a thing or two.
Our two cultures are almost identical in every way. We watch the same movies, the same TV shows, we play the same video games, etc. etc. The main exception I see is the culture of fear south of the border.
I’m not afraid to leave my front door unlocked, I don’t get alarmed when I see a black man walking toward me and I’m certainly not afraid of a terrorist attack even with three foiled attempts. Compare this with the image of the American man who goes to sleep with a gun under his pillow and three locks on his door. If you want an actual example of how the culture of fear can affect fairly normal Americans, look what happened to Walt Wawra.
The point is, fear does not always allow us to think rationally. Fear often comes from a lack of understanding and it leads all too often to needless confrontation and death. The only way Americans will kick the gun death problem is by dismissing the culture of fear that fuels it.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt