In “Bowling for Columbine“, Michael Moore made the case that the number of guns and the availability of guns is not causal in the number of gun deaths, There are plenty of examples where a country has as many if not more guns per capita than the US (e.g., Canada) yet they have nowhere near the rate of gun deaths.
So if the proliferation of guns isn’t the cause; violent movies are not the cause; and bloody video games are not the cause, what then is the cause of the gun violence that puts America literally off the charts?
Michael Moore believed it was fear: rampant fear and fear-mongering on the part of the media and the culture. Gun sales spiked in 2008 following Obama’s election. Why? FEAR. More and more women (including Adam Lanza’s mom) have guns for “personal protection.” Why? FEAR.
“Snake bites mom” was the headline that Moore used as typical of the fear-mongering news stories. But there are millions of examples. The terror “threat level” (remember that?) was a government-sponsored fear machine. Talk about mushroom clouds, WMD and so on ginned up fear of Iraq … the US is constantly awash in various floods of fear. The so-called “stand your ground” laws are a culmination of this fear principle. People are urged to carry guns in order to use “deadly force” if they even feel themselves threatened by a perceived danger from another person.
It is not the guns themselves. It is the idea that guns may be used by “Good Guys” to kill “Bad Guys.” This idea that using a gun to kill Bad Guys permeates US culture. And so it is no wonder that mentally unstable or even just purely evil people, who feel themselves threatened or aggrieved by society or their peers, turn to gun violence to “get even” or wreak vengeance on their perceived enemies, whom they feel are “Bad Guys.” No one who goes on a rampage does so with the idea that THEY are the Bad Guys. People who are stockpiling military-style weapons and ammo do so because they really believe that the US Government is tyrannical, and hell bent on “stealing” their wealth, their property and/or their freedom. WACO, Ruby Ridge, and other tragedies are viewed as reverential proof of a government whose “jack-bboted thugs” are running roughshod over the populace, and so they feel they must protect themselves. FEAR is the motivating factor.
Minorities, immigrants and other groups are portrayed in the media as dangerous and destructive – more reasons to not only keep arms but use them. Remember Willie Horton?
This is the big difference between the US and other industrialized Western countries. The massacre on the island in Norway and other tragedies in Europe are stark in their anomalous nature. In general, people in Scandinavia (where gun ownership is almost as high as in the US) as well as Canada (where even more people have guns) feel safe and secure; they are not living in constant fear and so they are not “trigger happy.”
If more guns make us more safe (as the NRA argues) then America would already be one of the safest places in the world. This is obviously not the case. In order to curb gun violence in the US, the US must first adopt a different cultural view of the individual and their relationship with society. The idea of “rugged individuals” who must take responsibility for their own protection has a dark side that manifests itself when people – to use a hackneyed but relevant expression – “take the law into their own hands”. Once Americans accept the fact that they live in a civilized society, and come to view not only themselves but others as active participants in that society, gun violence will retreat.
In the meantime, the best course of action is to take the very small step of making it harder for people to obtain weapons that have massive killing power, so that these tragedies, which are still “inevitable” (according to the NRA) will be of a smaller scope, with fewer dead bodies piling up in each killing spree.