Whenever there is a shooting of major size and sufficient media coverage, the eruption of gun debates spews forth. I suppose I’m not going to miss out on piling onto a topic that might seem already exhausted. However, I’m only using my column this week to discuss this topic, because I’m not certain the real issue at hand is being properly addressed.
Let’s say that we have a young boy named Bobby that has an issue every day at school lunch that requires some attention. Every day, when sitting next to Ben, Bobby unleashes a barrage of food into Ben’s face. There are multiple solutions to this issue, but the best solution would probably not be to simply ban school lunch. It probably would not be to ban food that was easier to throw or food that made for a bigger mess. After all, it’s just Bobby we are talking about. Not the entire student body.
My guess is that the best solution would entail addressing Bobby’s problem directly. Maybe It could all be resolved if Bobby no longer sat next to Ben, or maybe Bobby has an underlying cause of the behavior that would make him desire to throw food at anyone that sat next to him. The main point here is that the best solution to this problem lies in focusing on Bobby as an individual and not on things that address everyone as a group.
Gun violence, of course, is a much more serious concern than food fights, and the point of this is not to minimize gun violence, but rather to illustrate how best to address gun violence. The world could ban every conceivable weapon for all citizens, and we would still not be addressing the underlying causes for violent acts and murders. Unless underlying causes are addressed, the problems themselves will never be fixed.
History proves that we will never end violence, but we can reduce it if we actually address the things that drive it. Banning weapons does nothing to address why people want to act out violently. Ban guns, and bad actors will simply find another way to get them, and if they can’t do that, they will simply find other weapons. People determined to act will act. However, address the underlying problems within that person, and there is a chance for prevention.
The real issue at hand is that people do not act out violently for any one single reason. Rather individuals act out violently each for their own individual reasons. It is impossible to determine individual motivations and causes across an entire group. Individual problems require individual solutions.
In a world where people are dehumanized into groups, it’s obvious that group solutions very rarely work. I find it ironic that most of the people calling for gun bans are the same ones that are calling for people not to be viewed based upon the color of their skin or on their gender, but on the content of their character. I agree with this sentiment, but these same people have no issue with arguing that making assumptions about people based upon an arbitrary grouping of physical attributes is wrong but have no problem with making assumptions about all people in general. This just doesn’t mesh.
Maybe taking one person’s guns away would prevent that person from taking the life of another. But, maybe another person would lose the idea of violence simply by having one positive and decent influencer in his life. How would you know which is the right solution if you simply viewed them as a non-human group and part of the overall population in taking away all guns? The second person’s issue would never had been addressed. How would you stop little Bobby from weaponizing his food? Most people would sit down with him and talk to him first to determine the best course of action.
Dehumanizing people has never been a good solution, and in fact often leads to dire consequences. To form solutions across all people is to dehumanize them into a larger group. When we stop thinking of people as groups and instead think of them as individuals, that’s when we can make real differences. I’m not adequately trained in psychology, but my guess is that when you dehumanize people into thinking of them as only a part of a group, it is likely to exacerbate feelings of isolation and not being understood. It’s likely to make people who have existing problems with feeling violent to potentially feel more violent.
So, the optimal way to address gun violence is the same as the optimal way to address problems within the world in general. That is to say that most problems are individual in nature and individual problems require individual solutions. Treating people as groups rather than individuals, such as banning all guns, or even types of guns, fails to address people with individual problems, and it doesn’t stop violence. It perpetuates it.
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