Culture of Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue by Thomas Martin Sobottke


scene of GEorge Washington death

Once again, in it’s now monthly regularity, the United States has had yet another mass shooting incident where the combination of a deranged and criminal individual when infected with firearms has produced terror, death, and heartbreak.

This time it was the Washington Navy Yard in Washington D.C. where U.S. Navy personnel and dedicated civilians, patriots all, were simply going to work defending the United States of America when they themselves were gunned down: 13 dead including the gunman.

We’ve spent the last decade and more playing around with this as a piece of political leverage and still another opportunity for our Congress, especially those in the House of Representatives, to perversely refuse to set to work helping the rest of us maintain our safety and the ability to enjoy the liberties gun owners and the National Rifle Association (NRA) defend so vigorously.

Putting still more guns in the hands of every citizen will not solve the epidemic of gun violence in our streets, in our schools, in public places and workplaces we see acted out on the news channels so commonly now.

You know there was a time when doctors believed that to make you well you had to bleed the patient to remove ill humors from the body. Our very founding patriarch of the Republic, George Washington, had a case of the flu from which bed rest, hot soup and fresh clean water would have been enough. But the doctors tending the literal heart of the Revolution and what we are and have been applied leeches all over the body. The man who was and is still first in peace, first in war, and first in the hearts of his countrymen was actually severely weakened by this medical treatment and died from it.

In an equally comical if it were not so tragic a case, history will show that we stupidly stood by and watched as thirty thousands of gun deaths rippled through our society and we did nothing about it. And what we did do was precisely the wrong mode of treating the epidemic ravaging our society and the peace of mind that renders living life that is good and full possible.

There are multiple and inter-dimensional vectors of transmission of this disease of gun violence. Getting to the millions of Americans suffering from all forms of mental illness and keeping guns out of their hands is one.

Rebuilding the opportunities for upward social mobility that was the great American Middle Class of the era following the Second World War is another means of combatting the disease. Strengthening the American family in whatever form it is presently constituted but especially the nuclear family with two strong parents of either gender is yet another.

Changing our popular culture that brings so many images and forms of suggestive gun violence is another. No action film or action drama TV series or popular video game can avoid presenting us with men and women pointing guns in the faces of others and blasting them to hell; or at least threatening to do so.

And the number and availability of guns in the United States so ubiquitous that they are the cancer cells that erode our public life and threaten our liberties even more than any real or imagined threat to Second Amendment rights.

If in the nation’s or at least our people’s collective futures, the present generation will be derided and made despicable by our utter inaction and seeming insensibility to the high level of domestic violence in all forms present in the United States.

Our descendants, those that survive to become them, will point their fingers and say laughing how silly we were, how evil and misguided we were just standing there doing nothing or actually lending our hands to furthering the epidemic with such tragic results for our country and everyone trying to live in it.

We know that having so many cancer cells and having the push by gun manufacturers, the NRA, and right-wing politicians looking to score a political point or to even destroy our national government to make that point provides such a multitude of guns that the cancer cells spread to every part of the body politic with such tragic results.

Know this iron law: you cannot have more guns then people in the United States without producing an epidemic of gun violence.

Public health officials across the country already see the disease progressing. Those in positions of advisor to our wisest leaders, academics examining the progress of the disease, and those trying to save its victims in trauma centers everywhere are trying to tell us that guns are the most dangerous part of this multiple system of vectors that kill.

What is this nation going to be when we reach 400 or 500 million guns for the some 350 million of us and where millions of us due to our being under five years old or too old to use the weapons, or too sensible of peace and love and decency cannot or refuse to use them?

The terrible truth is that millions of gun owners are not themselves the source of the problem. Yet, the stupidly permissive, even feverish push to have more and more and more guns of increasing capability of transmitting and vectoring the disease will defy explanation to future generations of citizens huddling in their fortresses against attack.

The culture of gun violence so prevalent in our society, with such universal gun cancer cells everywhere relative to our population is one of the gravest threats to public health in the United States. Will we apply more leeches and bleed the patient until they die or will we act using appropriate methods to interrupt the disease on multiple and inter-dimensional vectors of transmission?

That is the choice facing the nation and it is not an ideological, partisan, or anti-civil liberties agenda. The most fanatical gun owner with hundreds of firearms will be just as dead if they are shot with bullets that penetrate their body armor or caught when not so protected. The rest of us do not want to joust in this hideously medieval world of death.

Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke
For Struggles for Justice

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5 thoughts on “Culture of Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue by Thomas Martin Sobottke

  1. The “culture of gun violence” is the inner city gangs and drug dealers. Read Thomas Sowell’s book on “Black Rednecks.”

    According to 2011 FBI stats for homicide where the race of the offender was known it was black 52.4% of the time, although blacks are less than 14% of the population (and the victim was most often black).

    Yes we have a culture of violence in this country, and a lot of it is black.

    lwk

    • Editor: First, thanks for the comment. Your noting city gangs that deal in drugs being a big part of the problem is correct. And the recommendation of Thomas Sowell’s book is a good one. But Struggles for Justice must factually differ with you that it is in essence a “black” problem. It is also in places a Latino problem. And the actual number of white criminals who use guns remains quite substantial. As far as the mass shootings in workplaces, schools, movie theaters and places of worship you’ll note that the racial make up of the offender varies with age and by race quite widely. Aaron Alexis’ problem was not a black one but a dissociative mental illness of some kind. He’s been able to hold a job, he has not done anything criminal for profit. But he would have needed further treatment had he survived. The black component of the problem is likely to be much as Thomas Sowell notes. But we recommend you also read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and connect the lack of opportunity for jobs and real hope in our worst neighborhoods and support for black families in crisis as being part of this as well. The editorial piece here suggests economic opportunity or the lack thereof is a secondary cause. Yet, we have so much gun violence that is white. It simply is not a matter of blacks who are all drug addicts and dope dealers and in gangs. Thousands of deaths from guns each year come from suicides by older men in particular, mostly white, that account for just over half of gun deaths. Accidents do account for more. Concealed carry however beneficial in many circumstances actually does produce more gun violence. Statistically, the more guns an area geographically has the more gun deaths. There is an absolute and real correlation to the gun violence culture and problem and the unusually large number of guns in relation to population in the United States. It is quite striking in relation to other nations. Minus Syria at the moment, the United States is the most dangerous place in the entire world for gun violence at this time. Something to think on. Again, thank you for you comment and come again to engage in reacting to what we write.

      • “…must factually differ with you that it is in essence a “black” problem.”

        My point was that issues with black society is a significant factor and a largely ignored factor, usually with some phrase that claims pointing at these problems is a case of “blaming the victim.”

        All our problems certainly can’t be blamed on blacks. Some can be blamed on the “soft racism of low expectations” and (as I mention below) a large part of the problem is economic deterioration cause by Liberal policies that have worked to destroy prosperity.

        “…the actual number of white criminals who use guns remains quite substantial.”

        Nevertheless 52.4% of homicide offenders in 2011 per the FBI were black were the race was known. Some criminals use guns to rob people, etc, but don’t necessarily kill them. Blacks kill a lot apparently.

        “As far as the mass shootings …”

        Mass shootings are a tiny portion of total homicides, alhtough they are highly visible and often heart wrenching, especially when you know that many could have been prevented, or at least “downsized” by the presence of armed civilians.

        “Aaron Alexis’ problem was not a black one but a dissociative mental illness of some kind.”

        He had several problems including severe mental illness. He also felt that he was a victim of racism. How much that played into the problem is not known presently. I suspect that his real problem though was mental illness. C

        “…connect the lack of opportunity for jobs and real hope …”

        I agree that this is a very real problem. More and more it is becoming a problem for a lot of people, including people who are not black.

        The real solution to that problem is jobs and economic growth. That could come from free market Capitalism, but the current politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, are not in favor of that. People stuck in poverty are largely the victim of that.

        “Thousands of deaths from guns each year come from suicides by older men in particular, mostly white, that account for just over half of gun deaths.”

        And those deaths are largely unavoidable. If you take away guns they will find other means. I don’t see that as a “gun issue” at all. You would think Liberal environmentalists would celebrate this fact and even consider subsidizing handguns to older white males (a little sarcasm there).

        “Concealed carry however beneficial in many circumstances actually does produce more gun violence.”

        So if a person legally carrying a concealed handgun thwarts a violent aggressor by shooting him then in your lexicon that is “gun violence” I guess. I personally see that as a positive benefit to society (shooting bad people).

        “Statistically, the more guns an area geographically has the more gun deaths.”

        Gun banners are touting a new study that claims to reach that result. I guess we will have to wait for in depth analysis to see how valid it is. But on the face of it the results largely sound contrived.

        It probably depends on which “geography” you focus on. If the geography is the inner city and the guns are almost all in the hands of gang bangers and drug dealers then the negative conclusion is foregone.

        However if you go to where I live in a small town in Texas with probably huge amounts of guns in private ownership and most years a homicide rate of 0 per 100K, then the opposite conclusion is also obvious.

        “Guns in a geographic area” is is like trying to draw voting district boundaries. The partisanship if obvious. Draw them one way and a Republican gets elected and draw them the other way and get an entirely different result.

        But like I said, we need to see what analysis of the study turns up when we get past the press releases.

        “There is an absolute and real correlation to the gun violence culture and problem and the unusually large number of guns in relation to population in the United States.”

        Note according to this study:

        WOULD BANNING FIREARMS REDUCE MURDER AND SUICIDE?
        A REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL AND SOME DOMESTIC EVIDENCE
        DON B. KATES* AND GARY MAUSER**
        Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy

        http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

        “Minus Syria at the moment, the United States is the most dangerous place in the entire world for gun violence at this time.”

        It hugely depends where you are in the United States. If you live in one of our inner cities where a War on Drugs is being fought then perhaps. But in most of the United States we are as safe as most people in Europe. In my town probably a lot safer than the U.K. which was named by the UN as the most violent nation in Europe I belive.

        Also, I don’t count suicides as “gun violence” and in the U.S. we approaching historic lows in homicides not seen since the 1960s, and about half of its peak in the 1990s.

        regards,

        lwk

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