Is it the Guns or are We Naturally Violent?


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Long debated in political and ethical spheres is whether guns kill people or do violent people with guns kill people. When you read the question, the answer is probably immediately clear to you because of your set of personal beliefs, but someone else could easily believe the complete opposite. Because of the diversity of opinion on the subject, this potentially unanswerable question has spurred hot debates for decades.

gun pic.jpeg

(Image Credit of the Washington Post)

Following the Aurora movie theater shooting, various blogs and articles were published condemning the ownership of guns. The common reasoning behind this being that owning guns causes people to kill. In a blog, the blogger claimed that more Americans commit murders because more guns are available for sale. His allegation and others are based on data that shows that the most civilian firearms of any nation and has a high rate of homicide by firearm. A blogger for the Huffington Post adds that an American is 40% more likely to be killed by a firearm than a Canadian or an Englishman.  Another blogger, Michael Roberts, went as far to say that owning a gun was the direct cause of the Aurora shooting. Roberts claimed that owning a gun gave the shooter a sense of power and entitlement that led him to act. After the shooting and beforehand, many have come to view guns as the cause of violence in the United States.

Contrasting these views, others claim that it is not the guns killing people, it violent people misusing them. Having a more controversial opinion, after the shooting, director Michael Moore alleged that it is not guns that kill people, Americans do. His claim was is based on the fact that other nations own guns but homicide rates are not nearly as high. After the tragedy organizations such as the National Rifle Association, probably trying to protect their own interests, claimed that it was not owning guns that was causing homicides. They rather claimed that violence being portrayed in the media led people to commit acts of violence of their own.  Though these views are pretty diverse, in general they agree that owning a gun is not causing the violence.

I think the problem with this debate and the reason it has continued for so long is that it is significantly lacking any science method. The closest anyone has come to conducting actual science is making loose correlations based off a string of data. The problem is in the experimentation. How can an experiment be conducted to prove either view valid? It is not ethical to just give people guns and see if they become violent. Because of this we may never know. Are guns forcing our hands or are some of us naturally violent?

 Sources:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list

http://hinessight.blogs.com/hinessight/2012/07/guns-kill-people-people-dont-kill-people.html

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Actually-Guns-Do-Kill-Peo-by-Michael-Roberts-120720-411.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/geoffrey-r-stone/guns-dont-kill_b_1691256.html

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/borowitzreport/2012/07/nra-proposes-sweeping-ban-on-movies.html

http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/its-guns-we-all-know-its-not-really-guns

4 Comments

I found this article very interesting, and it got me thinking as to whether it is true that humans are naturally violent or not. It has been discovered that humans are very closely related to chimpanzees, and according to an article in psychology today, chimpanzees, especially male, are naturally violent. This discovery leads to the assumption that humans are innately violent as well. However, what one person sees as being a violent person, can not be as such a big deal to another. However, it is safe to say that using a gun to kill someone makes a person violent.

I liked how you took into perspective both sides of this issue. It's easy to get caught up in our own political beliefs. Aside from studies conducted on guns and violence, behavior itself is hard to study. My psychology class has just covered sections on personality, emotion, and intelligence. Three factors which cause significant behavior differences in people. Many times in my notes it is made clear the difficulties of measuring and pinpointing behaviors to emotions and causes of behavior. Also, if scientists would in fact prove that guns make us more violent, or vice versa, I don't know if anything would really change. Because this has always been a hot political debate, scientific proof for either side might not be much of a match for the powerful anecdotes supporting the opposition. Do you think anything would change?

When comparing us to different cultures, ownership of guns and violence is a matter of sharpshooting in my opinion. (no pun intended) Our cultures vary so greatly that it could be millions of other factors other than the possession of guns. In testing this scientifically I would be curious to know how many of the guns used in homicide situations are actually legally owned. In other words, if all the people who legally purchased their guns had them taken away, how many illegally purchased guns would still be out there? Another interesting perspective would be to look at the shootings that occur in self defense to see the benefits of a personal firearm.

On a more political note, I see the fight over the right to bear arms as a scapegoat that government officials use to deter pressure from their own failure to promote public safety. There is indeed a major difference between farmer joe who has a shotgun behind his shed and (Insert gang members name) who illegally possesses and "packs a gat" on the daily. Who is more likely to be involved in a violent crime?

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