Acts of Gun Violence Are Symptomatic of Deeper Problems
By Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D.
There is much angst, hand wringing and jousting about gun violence from the Halls of Congress to hallways, living rooms, coffee shops, kitchens and cafes. But acts of gun violence are symptomatic of much deeper problems.
Incidents of gun violence are symptomatic of very deep and complex societal problems here in America, and the passage of more restrictive gun legislation will merely serve as a band-aid if the root causes of those problems are not addressed.
There are many different kinds of gun violence in this country with many different types of perpetrators and victims. Easy access to guns by the sane and insane, young and old, by criminals and upstanding citizens alike is probably the most simplistic aspect of the problem.
It is relatively easy to acknowledge and understand, albeit tragic, an incident of gun violence when a crazed gunman with a history of mental illness goes on a shooting rampage, killing whatever innocent victims may be in their paths. These multiple, senseless, and unexpected deaths, in the most unsuspecting places, send shock waves through us all. They also capture the attention of the media and elected officials for days on end.
But what about the daily gun violence perpetrated in urban areas, where children are randomly or deliberately killing other children and adults alike, where the chronically unemployed have resigned themselves to a life of crime and gun violence because they are unable to see any other?
How do we begin to tackle these decades-old acts of gun violence? Passing stricter gun legislation is tantamount to prescribing maximum strength aspirin to cure a form of cancer.
To stem the most prevalent and most frequent incidents of gun violence, which occur on the streets in urban America on a daily basis, there must be sustained and comprehensive solutions. There must be real efforts to address the cycle of poverty, chronic and high unemployment, poor housing and blighted neighborhoods, and sub-standard schools that continue to pass generation after generation with skills that do not begin to prepare them to get a job that would earn a decent wage. Doing something about these conditions with the same resolve must become the priority. While proponents and those in opposition of more gun control continue to battle it out, much of their fervor and fierce defense are grossly misplaced. If they want to really reduce gun violence they need to focus on it root causes, beginning with ensuring access to needed mental health care for the crazed and mentally unstable. But that will only help address the high profile incidents of mass violence. What about those that occur on a daily basis by the sane and sober?It will take much more than passing stricter legislation to address the problems of most of the gun violence in this country that occur on a daily basis, where most lives are lost. It will require reducing the root causes of poverty, joblessness, poor housing, poor educational training, and rampant hopelessness where resorting to a life of crime and violence seems to be the only option.
Acts of gun violence are episodes, screaming symptoms of chronic illnesses. Treating these symptoms will not result in lasting cures. We have to recognize once, we real solutions for the deeper problems that trigger and breed the continuing acts of gun violence.
If we do not, we will find ourselves filled with angst, wringing our hands, and jousting needlessly, again, and again, and again. When will we say, enough?