I am conversant with many things, including that often we are not doing what we think we’re doing.
So in this current conversation (and I am using the term loosely) around guns and violence, prompted by the recent shooting in Florida, here are a few things I’m noticing:
- There is a significant logic fail in the idea that more of what is causing injury or harm will reduce said problem.
- If someone has heat stroke, you don’t turn up the heat to help them. We gave up rubbing snow on frostbite a long time ago.
- If someone has a serious infection, you don’t give them more of the infecting organism so they can heal.
- Adding more water to a flood does not help.
- Screaming louder in a language someone does not know will not improve their understanding.
There’s something here in the last example. If one’s belief is that more guns will fix what’s wrong with the world, then anything counter to this will seem crazy. The NRA, which is a marketing organization for gun manufacturers, has cannily linked people’s longing for safety, tradition and freedom to their desire to sell more guns. Speaking logic to fear is difficult under the best of circumstances.
When one’s survival instincts are activated, one has a great deal less access to intellectually understood information. Our bodies are geared hierarchically, with survival uppermost. This is not theory, its neuroscience. If an individual is calm, grounded, and somewhat secure in the world, then its much easier for them to look at circumstances, to encompass a variety of perspectives, and make what is likely to be a healthy decision for themselves. From my perspective, that’s a very good thing.
From the perspective of someone who wants something from someone that may or may not be in that individual’s actual self-interest, that’s not good. Its hard to sell someone something they actually don’t want or need if they have their wits about them. On the other hand, if they are out of balance, fearful on some level, or simply having a hard day, they are much more susceptible to questionable influences. Marketers of all sorts know this.
Don’t believe me? Check in with yourself. How do you do with advertisements for junk food, etc? If I’m not at my best, and all it may take is a difficult day at work, or a poor nights sleep, I’m much more likely to respond to the invitation to partake of something I don’t really want or need, be it french fries, ice cream or a new car.
Where am I going with this? More guns is not a healthy choice. Children at school will neither feel nor be safer if their teachers are armed. Back to neuroscience. When your survival brain is activated, your ability to learn new material is markedly reduced. Frightened children will not learn better in school. Poorly educated individuals are more easily manipulated and will make choices that seem poor, but make sense based on their felt sense of their circumstances.
I went to medical school in Chicago. I did some of my clinical rotations at inner-city hospitals, in the midst of gang territory. I’ve seen gun violence first hand, and the horrific losses that result. Spending all night in the ER or the OR in a failed attempt to save the life of a child shot by a rival gang member is heartbreaking. I once stitched up the same young man twice in same night. He went back to the fight after the first incident. He survived that night, but I doubt he made it to his 25th birthday. It became horrifyingly clear to me that violence begets violence and resolves little, if anything.
In this conversation about guns and school shootings, there are those who will say it isn’t guns that are the problem. They are correct in that guns are not the only problem. The bigger problem is the culture of fear and violence. That said, one does not allow toddlers to play with matches, or flamethrowers. When one’s survival brain is triggered and running the show, one’s intellectual capacity is markedly reduced, leaving us all functioning as stressed out 2 year olds.
Assault rifles are tools designed for efficient killing. The idea that more of these tools will decrease killing is a fallacy. I am aware of the deterrent effect argument, and I don’t find it applicable in this situation. Using a fire analogy, the occasional backfire can minimize the spread of an out of control wildfire, but the vast majority of firefighting efforts are directed in a different way. Flooding the schools with more killing machines will not increase safety, but it is highly likely to keep guns in people’s minds as a problem solving tool.
How much more evidence is needed to accept that assault weapons are not the way to solve any sort of problem? To quote some of the eloquent young people from Florida, I call BS on that argument.