The Denver Theater, Trayvon Martin, Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, Virginia Tech, Columbine . . . why do we continue to gun down people in movie theaters, urban projects, suburbs, grocery stores, schools and universities? Is killing innocent men, women and children part of the “American Way”? The answer, unfortunately, seems to be "yes." It’s true that "guns don't kill people, people kill people," but it's also true that it's significantly easier for people to kill people if they use guns.
The depth of the commitment to the right to own fire arms means that we're not going to see the end of guns on sale at Wal-Mart, and local sporting stores, any time soon. In fact the opposite is true. Just last year the retail giant decided to resume the sale of guns to attract more male buyers and revive its appeal as a “one-stop shopping” destination. I bet that if you listen closely, you can hear, “Honey, can you pick up some diapers and milk at the store? And while you’re there, can you pick up a Remington 12-gauge shot gun?
Yes, our culture has taught us that there’s not much of a difference between diapers and guns. Violence is as American as Mom’s apple pie. The recent tragedy at the suburban Denver multiplex theater brings this into sharp focus. As the new and highly anticipated Batman release from Warner’s, "The Dark Knight Rises” played on the screen, a gunman dressed in black and wearing a helmet, body armor and a gas mask entered the theater from a side door and stood there – his shape outlined by the streetlights outside the door. According to witnesses, so blurred was the division between fantasy and reality, that some of the audience thought that the killer was part of a promotional stunt for the movie.
Like nearly all superhero films made today, the movie has several violent scenes of public mayhem. In which criminals and murderers target innocent citizens and the police. In one scene, the villain Bane leads an attack on the stock exchange and, in another, leads a shooting and bombing rampage on a packed football stadium, much like the multiplex theater. One law-enforcement official on the scene said that the 24-year-old grad student, suspected of murdering 12 and leaving 59 others injured during a midnight screening, "had his hair painted red...he was the Joker." Can the violence in “Dark Knight Rises” or Batman video games be blamed for this?
Yes, I think they’re a big part of the problem. To be clear, the guns used by students, or gangs, or unhinged, delusional individuals have certainly killed people. However, that’s only half of the story. The real truth is closer than you think. They are our kids who have been fed an endless stream of violent video games, music, movies and prescription psychotropic drugs. It is well known that many of the student mass murderers were being prescribed mind-altering psychiatric drugs. T.J. Solomon, the 15-year-old from Conyers, Georgia who shot six classmates in May 1999, was on Ritalin; Eric Harris, 18 years old, the Columbine killer, was being prescribed the anti-depressant Luvox; and Kip Kinkel, the 15-year-old from Springfield, Oregon who killed both parents, two schoolmates, and wounded 20 other students on May 21, 1998, was being prescribed Prozac, one of the most widely prescribed among the anti-depressants.
It’s also about Baby-Boomers, members of my generation who have abandoned their families and divorcing in record numbers. One of the unfortunate legacies of the “Me Generation” are these overly prescribed, often spoiled, unsupervised and undisciplined children who have learned the being disrespectful is cool. Raised with a sense of entitlement, many are also angry because they can’t find jobs in a down economy, and need a focus and outlet for their rage. The most troubled end up as “Stone- Cold Nintendo Killers,” but in many ways, they are victims too. It’s worth noting that the gunman in Denver was only 24 years of age and the 4 weapons, 6,000 rounds of ammo and SWAT protective gear he used were all legally purchased.
These are some of the real issues informing our “gun-toting” culture of violence. It’s true that "guns don't kill people, people kill people," but it's also true that it's significantly easier for the angry and alienated among us to kill people if they use guns.