Gun violence and gun legality have been vigorously debated in America by everyone from politicians to students. Shootings are horrific, inhumane acts, but many people focus more on the "gun" and less on the "violence" taking place inside the perpetrator of the horrific act. While tighter firearm regulation may reduce gun violence in the United States, I submit that this solution is a band-aid fix for a much graver problem plaguing American society.
Gun violence in America is a recent phenomenon. All of the 5 deadliest mass shootings in America have occurred since 2007, and 28 of the 35 deadliest shootings have occurred since 1990. It is also worth noting that assault rifles with the same capabilities as the ones around today became available with the production of the AK47 assault rifle back in 1947. This data suggests that gun violence as it exists today is not solely a product of gun availability or lax legislation, but rather a societal flaw present in America today that was not present pre-1990.
Any act of violence stems from aggression inside the perpetrator. Aggression itself is a natural emotion and is experienced quite often by humans, especially by men who have naturally higher testosterone levels and possess natural instincts to fight off anyone whom they deem a threat. But why do some manifest this aggression in the form of violence? Psychologists suppose that cultural shaping, peer relationships, and individual characteristics are responsible for a person's choice to act violently. These aspects of human character development have largely been influenced media exposure (and in particular electronic media exposure) over the past 20 years. Since 1998, consumption of television, video games, music, and other forms of e-media has increased exponentially.
Consuming media is not innately bad. For our purposes, it only becomes problematic when the media being consumed is violent. Exposure to violence increases aggression levels in humans, and thus increases the likelihood of those humans to perpetrate acts of violence, whether it be on a large or small scale. The reality is that Americans consume an uncanny amount of violent media on a daily basis. Whether it is earning extra points for a head-shot in Call of Duty, watching that body be dissected during an autopsy in Law and Order, or listening to the violent ideas promoted in contemporary rap music, Americans are barraged with more violent images than their brains can process.
Not only does exposure to violent media increase aggression levels, but it also has a numbing effect on those who consume it. Desensitization exists in various instances of our day-to-day lives. The bliss of finding a new song wears off with each additional listen. Doctors and soldiers become desensitized to the sight of flesh and blood. In a similar way, continual exposure to violent media dulls the natural, negative human reaction to violence. Violence in the minds of Americans has shifted from horrific to commonplace, which is frightening news. When violence is seen as commonplace, people have no reason to distance themselves from it, nor do they have a framework from which to deem it evil.
As melancholy as this article has sounded thus far, there is a solution to this abomination plaguing American culture. To content creators on all media platforms, for humanity's sake, please promote healthy, productive messages over the violent and destructive ones, even though they may not line your pockets as deeply. To all consumers of media, be mindful to consume only that which depicts behavior you wish to emulate. This is the only long-term solution and is the path to health, sanity, and the end to the violence afflicting America today.