Surviving Human Nature

Some Topics

Guns at Home

The US has more than 300 million weapons in private hands and in Texas the average citizen owns 4 guns. In the US overall, 6.1 children per 100,000 are shot and killed with firearms every year. Guns are more lethal compared with other weapons. When you have a gun in hand, it is easy to kill from a distance. You can walk or drive away from a conflict or crime with no real involvement with your victims. Killing becomes abstract and facile. Someone else cleans up the mess. Someone else grieves the loss.

The US is a heavily armed country. It is a country with a deep and troubling history of killing from its inception to the present. Americans have killed each other with reckless abandon. They claim the right to own weapons of self-defense. American children have remarkable access to guns. They watch humans killing other humans every day on TV and practice killing with video games. The US is a militarized country, a country with conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction that could destroy most of the rest of the world.

Wallman reviewed the evidence that the U.S. homicide rate among young men, from ages 15 to 24 years of age increased in the US since 1985. The homicide rate among black adolescents and young men had tripled. Wallman stated "While non-gun suicide was level or declining for most groups, a significant increase in suicide by gun appeared from 1984 for black youth and young adults and for white youth aged 15 to 19. An increase in juvenile access to guns leads to a rise in violent death. “

Kotlowitz described a unique of intervention in gang violence designed to interrupt the endless cycles of revenge killings. He reviewed stats as of 2008: “From 2004 murder was the leading cause of death among African-American men between the ages of 15 and 34. Homicides increased 19 percent in Philadelphia 29 percent in Houston and 54 percent in Oakland. Killings were often expressions of gang conflicts, confined to poor neighborhoods. In Chicago, five people were shot each day.”

Kotlowitz described Gary Slutkin, the founder of CeaseFire and a physician who once battled infectious diseases in Africa. Slutkin compares street killings to infections like tuberculosis and AIDS. Slutkin’s strategy is to go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source. He intends to interrupt the next event, the next transmission, the next violent activity.

Slutkin wanted to change how we think about violence, moving from a moral issue (good and bad people) to a public health one (healthy and unhealthy behavior). Kotlowitz stated: “The traditional response to killings has been more focused policing and longer prison sentences, but law enforcement does little to disrupt a street code that allows, if not encourages, the settling of squabbles with deadly force. Zale Hoddenbach works for CeaseFire and applies the principles of public health to the brutality on the street. Hoddenbach’s job is to intervene before matters get out of hand. His job title is violence interrupter. Hoddenbach and most of his colleagues are former gang leaders. CeaseFire is focused on one goal -- preventing shootings. “

Schmidt summarized the mass shooting phenomenon in the USA:

"A report released by the F.B.I.. September 2014 confirmed what many Americans had feared but law enforcement officials had never documented: Mass shootings have risen drastically in the past half-dozen years. The report was prompted by the spate of mass shootings in recent years, like those at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. There were, on average, 16.4 such shootings a year from 2007 to 2013, compared with an average of 6.4 shootings annually from 2000 to 2006. In the past 13 years, 486 people have been killed in such shootings, with 366 of the deaths in the past seven years. In 44 of the 64 cases in which the F.B.I. was able to determine the length of the shooting, the gunfire lasted less than five minutes.

Twenty-three shootings ended in less than two minutes. In 64 of the 160 total cases, the gunmen committed suicide. Just two of the 160 shootings involved more than one gunman, and six of the killers were women. Two of the twelve shootings that occurred at colleges or universities were by women. The most deadly shooting occurred at Virginia Tech in 2007. In that shooting, 32 people were killed and 17 were wounded. The most injuries — 58 of them — resulted from the shooting at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater, where 12 people were killed. F.B.I. analysts said that many of the gunmen had studied high-profile shootings, like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, before going on their own killing sprees.


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