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Saturday, June 1, 2024

School shootings: The American heartbreak

Gun violence and school shootings speak of multiple other problems within society which need to be dealt with. A stronger gun policy will be greatly opposed but may help change how people view guns in the long term. But in the end, how many kids are you willing to let die?

There was a school shooting this Monday at a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee. It resulted in the grievous deaths of three 9-year-old children and three staff members. It has been 90 days since the year 2023 started. And so far this year, this shooting is the thirteenth school shooting in the United States that resulted in firearm-related injuries. This is also the 129th incident of mass shooting in the United States. If the statistics are accurate that would suggest there has been more than one shooting per day. 5 days previously there were two school shootings in Dallas and Denver.

The United States may not be the only country to have school shootings but it definitely has them the most frequently and has become the poster child.

Why is it that there are so many school shootings in the United States? What is with this sick fascination of punishing the children of the country? Where does it stem from? Is it the access to guns? Or is it because the capitalistic market of The United States encourages a culture of individualism and competition amongst each other? It might be the way violence is covered and glorified in the media or the lack of mental health resources. But in the end, it’s everything.

Lax gun control or a competitive culture?

Let’s start with the guns. If you’ve not been sleeping under a rock, you’re probably aware of how controversial gun control is in the US. It’s one of the extreme examples of how politicians disagree with each other and tends to be one of those issues that also sways votes. But, in case you have been sleeping under a rock, the gist of the background is that the Democratic Party supports stronger gun control, while the Republican Party maintains that it would be sacrilege of their amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms.

Those who argue against stronger gun control often use the argument that it’s not the guns killing people it’s people. Advertisements by the gun industry also often mention this fact. After all, they’re not wrong. The gun is not pulling its own trigger. It’s just a tool.

Read more: Texas school shooting survivors step up calls for gun reform

So what about the American people makes them so violence-prone that over 100 Americans die each day due to gun violence specifically. After all, this is the most developed country in the world, and they lead the way in all matters of research and development – why not also lead the way in having the highest minimum standards of living, and the lowest wealth gap – instead of dropping ranks yearly since 2016 among the worlds most peaceful countries according to the Global peace index. Of course just because the gun isn’t causing the problem doesn’t mean you hand them out. You don’t give a suicidal person a rope to hang themselves with, do you?

So we know it’s not lax gun regulations directly, maybe it has more to do with the culture. The culture tends to be very individualistic and competitive and has developed this way because of immigrants that entered the country, fending for themselves, and how the constitution emphasizes personal liberty and freedom. This has been encouraged and intertwined with the American identity because of the economic success it brought about.

And while a highly competitive market has many advantages, which helps explain how the United States was leading in research but it doesn’t do much for cultivating an empathetic society. And when people cannot empathize and care about one another, they are less likely to care about the violence committed against them and are more likely to commit said violence.

Media desensitizing American minds

And now to the final possible factor that comes to my mind, desensitization. American media has always glorified violence, and while studies have shown no great direct link between the amount of violent media consumed and the rates of violence, we can use it to discuss the fascination held within society about violence and how it glorifies the American military. And tends to associate owning and knowing how to use a gun with masculinity. It’s a never-ending cycle.

The fascination started with the movies, the movies encouraged the fascination and gave people fantasies to act out, and then more movies were made about it. Guns and aggression, portrayed specifically with men further encourage the stereotype and help out the idea into the minds of people and growing children.

Read more: Nashville school shooter hid seven firearms in house

And then later when Hollywood decided it wanted to add feminism into its movies, it fell into the usual easy trap of assuming that feminism means that women want to be more like men trait-wise, because male aggression equals strength apparently. Since they had already associated violence with male strength they then started creating female characters who could fight like men and carry tens of guns in their bodies.

This then further added another layer of glamorisation to guns and violence. Because now not only is it associated with how men show strength it has become how to show strength overall and is shown as how women should become equal to men. Now that desensitization comes from movies but what about the news?

There is constantly violence happening within the country and that is reflected in the news, but the more people get used to something, the less they view it as important or immediately at the front of their minds. You can take the example of how people treated the idea of getting Covid 19 at the beginning of the pandemic but by the end, they had become so desensitized that most people didn’t care.

Over 300,000 children have been impacted by school shootings since Columbine. Most if not all school students have accepted that a shooter could come in at any point and they might not see another day. They’ve become used to it and stopped viewing it as horrific but as part of life. And things like this make it easier for people to jump to committing violence, especially when examples have been set before.

Read more: Eight students wounded in US school shooting near Columbine

The structural functionalism theory views society as a complex system with interconnected subsystems. Each subsystem has its part to play. We the humans are all just playing parts within these subsystems. To explain this there is an organic analogy. Essentially think of society as a human body. When something is wrong in one area of the body, the symptoms manifest elsewhere. Such as when you haven’t eaten, the hunger pangs come from your stomach but it causes a headache elsewhere. In the same way, when something goes wrong in society, it can usually be linked to something else in another area. For example, rising crime rates can be linked to an increase in school dropouts. In this same vein of thought, gun violence, and school shootings speak of multiple other problems within the society manifesting themselves, which are going to have to be dealt with. Changes such as stronger gun policy will likely help change how people view guns in the long term, most likely with great opposition. But in the end how many kids are you willing to let die?

Maya Nitasha Pirzada is deeply interested in the history, law, sociology, and politics of South Asia and has travelled extensively across Pakistan. She is currently pursuing her studies in Biology and Chemistry in Maryland, United States. The views expressed in the articles are the author’s own and do not reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.