Illustration by Zack Spanier | Mustang News

The gun control debate: a missing link

By Chase Dean

Chase Dean is a political science senior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.

Here we are again. A debate we’ve unfortunately become all too familiar with here in the United States. What’s to blame? The guns? The people? Even the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, was still not enough to evoke change from lawmakers.

Those on the right continue to see mental health issues as the cause of mass shootings. This argument generalizes mental health issues, assuming anyone with a mental illness is at risk of shooting up a school. This, however, is far from true and perpetuates stigmas surrounding mental illness. According to therapist and clinical social worker Jonathon Foiles, people with mental illnesses are far more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of violence. Additionally, those with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and psychosis are actually 2.5 times more likely to be victims of a violent crime than the general population.

The left, on the other hand, continues to push for common sense gun reform legislation, like stricter background checks and bans on semi-automatic rifles. However, they can’t seem to get a bill through Congress despite enormous support from the American public. Luckily, some Democratic Party leaders such as Nancy Pelosi have made gun control legislation a top priority, even stating, “I would rather pass gun safety legislation than win the election.” There is no doubt gun control will be a hot-button issue in the 2018 midterm elections for both Democrats and Republicans alike.

Despite the current discourse, there is a third crucial cause I believe is being neglected: the men.

I imagine the male readership is cringing right now and feeling victimized to a certain extent. First and foremost, I want to make it clear that I don’t believe men are the single root or cause of mass shootings. Rather, I believe the culture surrounding men in the U.S. is one of many major factors contributing to mass shootings.

The U.S. has a special breed of masculinity called “toxic masculinity.” Toxic masculinity, for the purpose of this article, can be defined as an adherence to male gender norms which work to both suppress emotional expression and restrict what emotions are acceptable for men to feel. This creates young men who lack the ability to deal with emotions like anger or sadness.

This inability to sort through emotions eventually leads to acts of violence resulting in issues like domestic violence. There even seems to be a correlation between perpetrators of mass shootings and those who commit domestic violence. National Public Radio reports, “While perpetrators of domestic violence account for only about 10 percent of all gun violence, they accounted for 54 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016.”

It is my belief that our culture raises young men to believe the only qualifications to be a “real man” are toughness and a lack of emotion. Contrary to our culture’s belief, this is far from true and harms not only those men, but those around them.

When we look at statistics pertaining to mass shootings, the numbers speak for themselves. Of the 153 shooters reported by the Washington Post between 1966 to 2012, all but three were men. That number was striking considering the frequency at which mass shootings occur in this country. I don’t believe men are somehow biologically more inclined to act in such horrific ways, but rather, we don’t provide men with the necessary coping skills. If it was, in fact, some biological disposition, we would probably see this rate of mass shootings in other parts of the world with different norms surrounding masculinity. In other words, it is not specifically men who are the issue, but our cultural expectation of the ideal man.

So where does the solution lie? It seems the solution is multifaceted, but one aspect could be found in intersectional feminism. Intersectional feminism provides men with the tools to deconstruct societal notions of masculinity and move past toxic behaviors and expectations. Using this mode of thought is nowhere near a quick fix. It is something that will probably take decades of shifting our culture and our understanding of masculinity in tandem with sensible gun control laws. Now is the time to face some hard truths, like toxic masculinity, and reframe the debate surrounding gun control around those truths.

The sensationalism over gun control 

By Elias Atienza

Elias Atienza is a history junior and Mustang News opinion editor. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.

Gun control has been in the headlines for the past month ever since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people were brutally murdered by a white supremacist who etched swastikas into his ammunition magazines, and spouted racist epithets against Jewish people and black people. Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott signed a sweeping gun control bill that raised the age for purchasing long guns from 18 to 21, imposed a waiting period of three days and banned bump stocks.

Gun control has become one of the most partisan topics today, even in this age of polarization. Say you don’t want to ban AR-15s and members of the left will call you a National Rifle Association (NRA) terrorist who stands on the graves of dead children. Say background checks should be more stringent and universal and members of the right will call you a gun-grabber who wants to register all gun owners.

People on the right will point to the fact that places such as Washington, D.C. and Chicago have high rates of gun homicides despite having strict gun control laws while also ignoring that most of those guns come from out-of-state firearm dealers. People on the left will point out that semi-automatic rifles are the preferred weapon of choice for mass shootings while ignoring that these rifles account for less than 5 percent of total gun homicides and that the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 had essentially no effect on crime.

It’s willful ignorance on both sides. Gun control advocates will point to mass shootings while ignoring the Black lives lost daily in inner cities. Gun rights advocates will gleefully highlight these deaths while continuing to advocate for the same policies —the war on drugs and the police state—and strawmanning Black culture.

You won’t hear politicians talking about this because it means the gun violence problem extends beyond simply just guns and access to guns. It’s an issue that many Americans are simply ignorant about. Despite gun homicides dropping to around half since their peak in the early ‘90s and crime dropping overall, many Americans believe that crime is actually increasing. Fifty-seven percent of registered voters believed crime in the U.S. has gotten worse since 2008, even though it’s not true.

The crux of this problem goes far beyond just guns. It has to do with issues such as mental health, socioeconomics and other factors. As Congressional candidate Steve Cox said, countries with lower rates of gun violence do better in terms of socioeconomics and vice versa. It’s why countries such as Brazil, which has one-eleventh of the guns that the U.S. does, has a gun murder rate that is about six times higher than the U.S. has due to poor living conditions.

Gun Violence Has Declined Since ’90s

In addition, gun rights advocates should push for more universal background checks, fixes to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and keeping the guns of felons and the mentally ill. While this does not mean “taking the guns first, due process second” as President Donald Trump has suggested, it does mean there should be more robust enforcement of gun control laws we already have on the books.

In addition, there should be widespread support for non-gun control measures, such as Ceasefire. Lois Beckett in ProPublica has an excellent breakdown of how this program worked and why it needs support. She writes, “More than 20 years of research funded by the Justice Department has found that programs to target high-risk people or places, rather than targeting certain kinds of guns, can reduce gun violence.”

Of course, this won’t stop all shootings or even most. But there are fixes that do not infringe on the common law-abiding American’s right to own a firearm for self-defense as highlighted in the cases District of Columbia vs. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. Nor does it really affect an American’s ability to resist a tyrannical government.

The U.S. will always continue to be a nation of guns. Guns are a symbol of personal freedom, a way of defense against a tyrannical police state and an effective way to defend oneself from those who seek to harm them. Blanket bans on ‘assault weapons’ won’t help solve the issue of gun violence, but tackling the root causes might.

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