Looking for solutions in wrong places

If you ask the wrong question, you will not get a right answer. The question should not be how to increase gun control in America but what causes gun violence? Deaths by firearms reflect causes not directly related to guns.

In 2011 there were 851 accidental deaths by firearms nationally. That is a small number and a solvable problem. Gun safety courses, gunlocks, required safes for firearms, and common sense will reduce that figure. An example of a lack of common sense was the father in Connecticut who took his young son to a gun show and let him fire a semi- automatic rifle. The boy lost control of the gun and killed himself.

Suicide by firearms (19,766 in 2011) is the largest category of gun-related deaths. Although this is a serious problem, it is not as significant as homicides. Suicide is by definition a deliberate but voluntary act. It creates terrible problems for surviving family members, but does not threaten the fabric of society.

Expanding awareness of the signs for a potential suicide and increased access to affordable mental health care will reduce suicide numbers. America has an obligation to do everything possible to assist returning veterans and reduce effects of war-related post-traumatic stress.

Society’s real concern is to reduce the level of firearms related murders (15,593) in 2011. Gun control is not the answer. Legal responsible gun owners are not the problem. Making it difficult for them to exercise Second Amendment rights will not reduce criminal use of guns. When the sale of semi-automatic rifles was illegal, it had no effect on gun violence levels.

We are looking for the answers in the wrong places. Excessive watching of violent video games makes a person dull and often obese, but no creditable evidence exists that it causes homicides. Neuro-psychologists argue that brain imaging with MRIs can provide clues to behavior. They have discovered that during sex, when a person is feeling happy, when they receive money, certain parts of the brain light up and manifest warmer colors during imaging. Periods of stress darken other parts of the brain. I should have been a neuro-psychologist.

Other scientists are looking for a specific gene that determines criminality. If such a gene exists, society will have a constitutional crisis. Do you lock up a person who has that gene but has not committed a crime? The Supreme Court will decide that 5-4.

F.B.I. profilers have established a profile for mass murderers. It is an alienated young male who has problems with relationships. That is a false profile because it confuses effects with causation. Based on a handful of young men, it leaves out the 100 million adult males who have not committed mass murder, most of whom felt lonely and alienated at some time in their lives and did not have perfect relationships. The profilers also confuse contributing factors and symptoms with causes.

Banning certain types of rifles will do nothing. A few years ago about a dozen Israeli soldiers, at a checkpoint, and armed with automatic rifles, were killed by one terrorist with a bolt-action rifle. Regular rifles have longer ranges than assault rifles and higher caliber bullets. Their potential for mass murder at a distance is great. Besides, just changing the name of a weapon would get it off a list of banned named weapons.

It would be difficult to show that America’s “gun culture” is that significant a factor in homicides. Guns were very important in the 19th century West, but the level of violence on the frontier was significantly less than in eastern cities, remember The Gangs of York, (1968 Presidential Commission on Violence in America). That same source found that violence declined during the Great Depression, despite widespread poverty.

The tragedy in Newton revealed a latent racism in American society. When 26 white middle class adults and children were murdered, (the killer’s mother did not count as a victim because many blamed her for her “ bad seed”), the mawkish and maudlin reaction was greater than that for the deaths of thousands of minority youths. All violent deaths are equally tragic regardless of age. No amount of teddy bears can ignore the indifference of people to the slaughterhouse of the inner city.

The fallacy that we will all get through this grief together ignores the fact that a murder affects family members for a lifetime. I base this on conversations with many Holocaust survivors who lost family members, including one man who had 87 members of his family murdered.

We are looking for the solution to gun violence in the wrong places.

Rick Sirvint lives in Rindge.

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