February 19 2018: High school students from across the D.C. area protest gun control laws and gun reform in front of the White House following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.Photo: Joseph Gruber / Shutterstock
Politicians, pundits, and lobbyists on the right fling lots of blame on the rise of mass shootings across the United States to everything other than the easy accessibility and massive firing power of guns.
They blame our “soft target schools,” “mental illness,” the “legacy media” who “love mass shootings” because they are ratings bonanzas, socialist Democrats who “hate the Second Amendment,” and those who hate America because, as they claim, supporting the unrestricted right to bear arms is as American as blood soaked apple pie.
In addition, another cause has gained currency on the political right: fatherless homes. Susan L. M. Goldberg of PJMedia, for example, argues, “Issue number one that no one in the mainstream media or government wants to acknowledge: fatherlessness. Specifically, the impact of fatherlessness on the boys who grew up to become school shooters.”
Goldberg refers to Warren Farrell and John Grey’s newly-released book The Boy Crisis.
“Minimal or no father involvement, whether due to divorce, death, or imprisonment, is common to Adam Lanza, Elliott Rodgers, Dylan Roof and Stephen Paddock,” Goldberg writes. “In the case of 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, he was adopted at birth. His adoptive dad died when Nikolas was much younger, and doubtless the challenges of this fatherlessness was compounded by the death of his adoptive mom three and a half months ago.”
By implication, the right is asserting that women-headed households are inferior, and therefore, ironically, that a family headed by two fathers in partnership should be the best.
Men and boys commit the vast majority of gun murders and injuries in the United States. In the over 50,000 shooting incidents in the United States in 2015, including approximately 372 categorized as “mass shootings” of four or more victims, men, mostly white men, committed the overwhelming majority.
Murder is primarily a male act in 90% of the cases when the gender of the perpetrator is known. In mass shootings, 98%+ are enacted by males.
Also, while it is certainly the case in some specific instances of mental illness, the clear majority of people with this diagnosis do not manifest violence, and specifically, are not the primary perpetrators of firearms-related injury and death to others. In fact, they are more times the victims of harassment and violence.
Society must continually investigate how we impose gender-based roles on males and on females, and ways to resolve the long-standing and massive crisis of masculinity. We must ask how our society actually encourages violence committed by men and boys.
The causes for the plague of gun-related murders holding grip on our nation is multifaceted and complicated, but not for the reasons articulated on the right. When they mention causes and solutions, they virtually never bring up the words “guns” or “firearms regulations” other than to discount and reject the cause and effect relationship.
The primary distinction separating us from other highly industrialized countries is our nation’s disastrous positions on guns and the laws meant to regulate them.
Does the United States have so many more cases of mental illness, diagnosed and not? Are schools in the United States significantly “softer targets” than schools in Australia, Japan, or Sweden? Do boys and young men come from “fatherless” homes at radically higher rates than in these other countries?
Why are we not seeing similar violence-prone behaviors in girls and young women from motherless (or fatherless) homes? And why don’t people on the right talk more often about what affects the fathers who remain in the home, but who inflict abuse on family members, have on the behaviors of these members?
As with all large-scale social problems, we miss the key causes and solutions when we focus solely on individualized cases instead of viewing the essential systemic issues.
The major underlying cause by far is the unprecedented number of these weapons, their relatively easy accessibility, and the lack of political courage by our elected offices to take decided action by placing common-sense safety regulations on guns.
Contrary to the National Rifle Association’s, Wayne LaPierre’s, often-repeated claim, “To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun,” a more appropriate version would be, “To stop a bad legislator with the NRA, it takes a good voter with a ballot!”