“We act violent because we think violent. We think violent because we believe in violence. We believe in violence because we were taught violence. . . .” – Malcolm X
“People killin’, people dyin’ / Children hurt and you hear them crayon’ . . . Father, Father, Father help us / send some guidance from above / ‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’ / Where is the love?” – The Black Eyed Peas
As yet another unfathomable act of senseless violence hits the U.S., the nation looks for answers. To me, this is the worst ever due to the age of the majority of the victims – just 6 and 7 year olds.
I was returning from a morning break when this news broke. After gathering myself and managing my own emotions, I decided to mention the news to the class. When my students, who are all young adults, returned to class, some of them had also heard the news, which resulted in a much-needed briefing and an interesting discussion on the culture of violence and gun laws.
Mass shooting incidents are happening more frequently and with more casualties as of late. Since the 1999 Columbine massacre that claimed the lives of 13 people, there have been 31 mass shootings that have taken the lives of 271 people. Fourteen of these incidents have occurred within the past three years. There have been eight in 2012 alone, which is three times more than in any other calendar year.
More disturbing to me is that nearly half of these mass killings were perpetrated by youth ranging in age from 17 to 24. In fact, the deadliest of them all were carried out by young males, from Columbine where 13 were killed by a 17- and 18-year-old, Virginia Tech, where 32 were killed by a 23-year-old, and most recently, 26 (20 children) were killed by a 20-year-old.
What has turned so many of our young people into cold-hearted killers? Yes, we can argue that most of these perpetrators of mass shootings also suffered from some sort of mental illness or depression and were at least prescribed medication for their condition, but are there other factors that should be considered?
We are trained in conflict resolution studies to identify the various elements of any incident, particularly a violent one. The perpetrator, the facilitator and the instigator all need to be identified and held accountable when there is a victim of violence. We often only focus on the perpetrator and the victim(s). What is not so transparent is the facilitator and instigator of such violence.
The facilitator of violence is defined as the entity that helps or makes it easy or less difficult for violence to occur or to assist in the progress. By that we can go ahead and conclude that gun manufacturers, the National Rifle Association and even our convenient and relaxed gun laws are clearly contributing to facilitating violence in America. It is easier to obtain a gun than it is to obtain a driver’s license in this country.
Many politicians in Congress are afraid to challenge the powerful NRA out of fear of losing constituents. In light of what has just happened, they too need to be held accountable.
The instigator of violence is defined as the entity that grooms or cause incitement; to urge or provoke violence. With that we can conclude that the media and entertainment industry could be doing just that, from the ultra-violent, super-realistic video games to the motion pictures that thrive on violence on film as well as on television. It’s out of control. Even the music industry has taken a dark turn, glamorizing violence in celebratory fashion.
We have become a society that cultivates and breeds violence and call it sport. From shooting animals to bone-breaking gladiator-type fighting events, we have developed an appetite for violence.
We are all accountable if this is allowed to continue.
Deon Price is a freelance writer and youth life skills coach who lives in Fairfield. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/youthgeneration.