Rhetoric vs. Individualism

The Tuscon, Arizona shooting that took place in January shook the country. The questions of what caused this and how we could prevent it from happening were asked repeatedly. People wanted to blame individuals. People wanted to blame networks and television programs. But this is where the problem lies: blaming individuals instead of blaming the message people in general are sending. Names and leaders change over time, but a message can last forever. I blame the message that our country sends about guns and violence in general. I place the blame on the concept that gives an individual the idea that they have to use violence as the portal to deliver their opinions.

Over the years, we’ve increased the level and amount of violence that we allow ourselves to be exposed to at an impossible rate. From television to video games, violent images and messages are far more easily accepted today than they were just 40 years ago. The famous movie Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock was originally seen as an R-rated movie but now has a PG-13 rating. When did murder and violence become such a light issue for us? When did it become tolerable? Did Americans grow more accepting of the use of guns when we started a war in the Middle East?

The second amendment was written so that the people of America could defend themselves and their country. I doubt the founding fathers thought there would be so many innocent lives being taken daily in this country through the results of individuals exercising their constitutional rights.

Americans should be allowed their guns, I agree. But not everyone should have access to one. Gun laws in America are different from state to state. And there’s no law that keeps a person from traveling to a state where guns are more easily accessible and purchasing one through means they wouldn’t be able to in their home state. With gun shows, it’s even worse. Some states do not require background checks, which could include the buyer’s mental state and criminal record.

With a simple background check, the Virginia Tech shooter from 2007 would not have been able to purchase a gun, the Columbine shooters in 1999 would not have been able to purchase a gun, and the shooting in Arizona never would have happened. However, the message that we send these individuals is that violence, under certain circumstances, is acceptable.

It’s time we start promoting peaceful ways to spread our messages and beliefs. It’s time that we look at ourselves as a country and change our violent rhetoric.

(Originally published February 13 2011)