Paul Joannides Psy.D.

As You Like It

The Gun Control Window Is Closed Until the Next Mass Killing

NRA sponsored amnesia has set in yet again

Posted Oct 30, 2015

There’s only a small window of time surrounding each mass shooting when we can have meaningful conversations about gun control. That’s because gun control advocates have no comeback for NRA claims such as “There is no proposed gun control law that would have prevented even one of the last fourteen mass murders” and “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” 

No matter how many innocent people are killed, the NRA will keep winning the battle as long as we accept their claims as being relevant to the issue of gun control.

Putting aside the NRA’s distortion field, there are two separate conditions that lead to the shooting sprees that seem to happen every year or two, and to the hundreds of not so mass murders that happen every day. It takes both of these conditions to result in murders. If we can effectively remove one of these two conditions, the murder rate will go down. Unfortunately, liberals keep focusing on the wrong one, with the full blessing of the NRA.

The first issue is the easy availability of guns. But as everyone knows, there was an abundance of guns in people’s closets, basements, and dresser drawers for decades before the killing of school children and unarmed adults became popular. The abundance of guns by itself does not create murder, it’s simply been the kindling. As long as there was no spark, the kindling remained inert. 

But then came the spark, which has reached critical mass during the last twenty years. The spark is what I see when I speak on college campuses and ask “Where did the male students go?” (It’s not unusual for colleges populations today to consist of 60% to 65% women.) The spark is what I see when the students at our daughter’s high school board the bus to go on a field trip, and there are only 30% males. That’s because if you aren’t doing well in school, you don’t get to go on field trips.

The spark has to do with the permanent loss of manufacturing jobs that used to provide a good living for males without college degrees, as well as the loss of good jobs for college graduates in general. It’s also fueled by the violence in entertainment and media, and by the anger and disenfranchisement of young men who feel more masculine and effective when they have a gun in their hands. 

What Americans don't understand or are afraid to admit is that there is no way to extinguish the spark. We have already exported the manufacturing jobs—so we will never again provide the kind of jobs that will help keep young men without college degrees or computer skills from feeling disenfranchised. We will never provide the kind of mental health services that are needed to prevent a single shooting (it takes way more than prescription drugs and once-weekly therapy to fix these kinds of issues, and that’s all mental health has to offer these days). There will never be a decrease in violent movies, TV programs and video games. And social media will never see a shortage of angry young men encouraging other angry young men to do horrible things. 

So when you can’t eliminate the spark, the only solution is to remove the kindling which is the easy availabilty of guns. And while the NRA is right—the first gun control laws won’t stop a single mass killing, they will be the first time our culture has provided the leadership that young men so badly need: “Shotguns for hunting are okay—but that’s it. Handguns and semi-automatics do not heal a broken self."

Until this happens, young men will continue to assume that our culture condones the use of guns to repair feelings of impotence and disenfranchisement.

While the first round of gun control laws will not prevent a single mass murder, they will kick into motion an important process. It’s a process that will take at least two generations to unfold, but the killing will never stop until we take these first steps.

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