The carnage at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, reignited the debate around gun laws and the Second Amendment, especially since it came only ten days after another mass shooting at a Tops Friendly supermarket in Buffalo, New York. There is no question that not every person should be permitted to own a gun and background checks are necessary. However, there is also no question that stricter laws alone will not improve the situation. It is time to look beyond gun laws, to accept that there is an educational problem here, and without education for acceptance and solidarity, nothing will change for the better.
The issue of gun violence is a testimony to the alienation and division in American society. Certain communities have always bore the brunt of higher death rates in the United States. Michelle R. Smith wrote on Associated Press that according to Sociology Professor Elizabeth Wrigley-Field at the University of Minnesota, who studies mortality, there are profound racial and class inequalities in the United States, and our tolerance of death is partly based on who is at risk. “Some people’s deaths matter a lot more than others,” she lamented. Because gun violence stresses not only the alienation, but also the division in American society, it is crucial to nurture empathy and solidarity.
As tragic as they are, mass shootings are not America’s worst problem when it comes to gun violence. The number of gun related fatalities reveals the depth of the crisis. A Pew Research Center article published February 3, this year, reveals that “On a per capita basis, there were 13.6 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2020 – the highest rate since the mid-1990s.” This is more than twice as many as the closest western country on the list of gun deaths per 100,000 people.
To understand how to improve the situation, we need to understand what is wrong with the current educational paradigm. Currently, Americans are taught to follow a simple law: Let yours be yours and let mine be mine. In other words, they are taught not only not to care about each other, but even not to see each other. This attitude is called “sodomite rule” since this was the governing law in the Biblical city of Sodom, and that was exactly the reason for its ill-fated end.
To create a viable society that can keep its members happy and safe, the social element of society must be vital and dominant. If each person is left to fend for himself or herself, it will disintegrate the society. This is what the current dominant paradigm is telling us: “You are on your own!”
Everyone has fits of anger; it is only natural. What normal person did not want to kill his or her partner, or neighbor, or boss, or the president, at some point in our lives? It is a natural emotion that comes with intense frustration that we all feel sometimes.
But who carries it out? Only those who feel no empathy for others. A society that nurtures the thought that we are on our own creates no inhibitions in people’s minds. Since we are on our own and must fend for ourselves, why should we not eliminate anyone whom we regard as a threat?
The only way to prevent the senseless deaths from continuing, therefore, is to nurture empathy and solidarity. Nothing is more needed for American society today.
Speaking of nurturing empathy, one of the key reasons that Americans have so little of it is the media. Look at what they show. From infancy to adulthood, they expose people to immense amounts of violence. By doing so, they educate them to become violent. If America wants to change itself, it must change its education in all its aspects, not only in schools, but mainly in the media, including social media and all forms of mass communication. As long as people are ill-educated, no penalties will help.
Currently, no one is thinking, much less acting in this direction. The president and other politicians say a few words expressing shock and dismay, probably according to what they are dictated by advisors, and then what? Do they do anything? Does anyone do anything? No one does anything. Until action is taken to change American culture from alienation to empathy and from division to solidarity, it will keep mourning the loss of loved ones due to gun violence.
U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden pay their respects at a memorial at Robb Elementary School, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in the deadliest U.S. school shooting in nearly a decade, in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. May 29, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst