I am admittedly an old man who wonders why we have not addressed the real causes of gun violence committed by mostly young men.
Gun violence by young men is not limited to schools or stores, but it is symptomatic of what is happening across the country, whether in the inner cities, suburbs, small towns or churches, where young men decide to attack individuals or groups.
I keep hearing from the political and media classes that we are either needing “gun safety” (control) laws or we must stand steadfast against taking gun rights away from the citizenry.
But I never hear why we are ignoring the root cause of gun violence committed by young men. Why is that?
I firmly believe that gun violence in this country isn’t caused by assault weapons being available. I believe that gun violence, carried out by mostly young men, comes from a different source.
Our youth are constantly barraged by violence as depicted in the movies, TV and video games, causing them to become desensitized to what actual violence is or how it really feels. They have become anesthetized to the consequences of violence.
They look at violence through the prism of games, TV movies and other forms of entertainment that only show the fun depicted in violence.
They have lost all sense of reality and have slipped into the world of make believe where violence is transitory and has no real repercussions.
When I was a young boy, we played cowboys and Indians, war and other games designed of a violent nature, but we never took the games for real.
We understood the difference between a game and reality.
We learned there were good guys and bad guys, and our games reflected that.
We knew that when we played our games, no one was meant to really be killed or hurt. We were exposed to all sorts of violent movies and TV shows, but it was always made clear to us that these were only made-up things that should not be interpreted as reality.
Our games were preparing us for our future, when we would be called up to serve our country, become policemen, firefighters, sailors, airmen and soldiers, where we might be called on to protect out communities or nation. We were not indoctrinated with the idea that violence was OK for the sake of violence.
There was an interesting post-World War II study of a police battalion recruited from Hamburg, Germany, and assigned to the SS, becoming a part of a Einsatzgruppen in Eastern Europe after the German Army conquered Poland, the Baltic States and occupied parts of Russia. These policemen were for the most part older, experienced policemen from a civilized society who became mass murders over a very short period of time.
When Hitler, Goebbels, Goering and Himmler decided that they were going to kill all the Jews of Europe; Himmler and the SS were given the task of carrying out these orders. Himmler soon realized that he would need specialized units to carry out the mass shootings of innocent men, women and children.
The men from the Hamburg police department were drafted into the SS and told they were to be assigned to Poland and act in a similar way as the four Einsatzgruppen units assigned to Russia, for special duty in the East.
They were not immediately told what their assignment entailed and, when they arrived in Eastern Europe, they learned that they were there to cleanse the occupied areas of Jews and Partisans.
Naturally many of the men were horrified and were not willing to commit mass murder. Himmler had a cleaver way of converting ordinary, law-abiding policemen into mass murders by simply telling them when they arrived in Eastern Europe that none of them had to take part in the mass shootings.
On the first day they were called out to kill Jews, some of the men refused to do it; nothing was done to them for refusing, but a small number of them did go out and kill their first group of Jews.
What happened over the next few weeks astonished the former policemen; one by one and group by group, they all became mass murders.
At first, their revulsion to the idea of killing innocent civilians, including men, women and children, morphed into acceptance of the idea that killing innocents was OK.
Not only did it become OK, but also it became a game to them.
At the end of the war, the Allies captured many of these men, tried them and executed some of them or sent them to prison for lengthy terms. Many of these men freely told the Allies how they transitioned from law enforcement officers into killers.
Their common answer was that, at first, it was difficult to kill innocent people, but as they became desensitized to the killing, it became easier and easier to do it.
If you want to learn more about these men read: “Ordinary men: reserve police battalion 101 and the final solution.” What does this example of human nature tell us?
Most importantly, it tells us that when people become desensitized to violence and violence becomes common place, in their mind, empathy towards mankind ceases to exist. Then they can very easily become mass murders who are willing to murder in a public places and kill as many people as possible.
They can no longer distinguish between right and wrong, fantasy and reality, or what happens when you put a bullet into a person’s body. They don’t believe what they are doing is actual killing, it’s only a game that they have repeatedly played on their devises.
They don’t realize until they see the actual blood and smell death that what they are doing is killing. That’s why I believe many of these mass shooters prefer to die at the scene of their crimes by suicide or suicide by cop.
This example from the past has led me to a different conclusion from the commonly held belief that gun violence is caused by weak “gun safety” laws. Granted, some of our gun laws could and should be looked at, because access to guns by unstable people, gangbangers, criminals and other assorted low-lifes should be addressed.
But gun laws will never keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who are willing to commit murder on the whole scale; these people always will circumvent the law or find ways to use the law.
Once this debate is politicized, it becomes impossible to look beneath the act and come to grips with what may be the actual issue: desensitization of violence that we expose our children to everyday.
When young men, whether in the inner cities or suburban middle class neighborhoods, watch extremely violent acts, hour after hour and day after day, how can we expect them not to be desensitized to violent acts?
They see it everywhere and there are no boundaries to the violence they are exposed to. Some start to accept violence as an acceptable way to deal with life.
The big question then becomes: How do we stop the violence they are exposed to?
If censorship should ever have a place in American society, this is the place for it. We have to stop the wholesale exploitation of violence in the media and entertainment spheres, making it difficult, if not impossible, for violence to be the theme of a lot of social media games, movies and TV shows.
Like the Hamburg policemen in WWII, we have to come to grips with how easy it is to transition from law-abiding people into killers.
We must remove the acceptability of killing as entertainment divorced from reality. Fantasy cannot replace reality when we depict killing and violence.
Until we study the effects of our violent portrayal of life, to which our children are exposed, we will have unending mass shootings.
It’s not the gun laws that are weak, but our immoral acceptance of violence as entertainment that should be given equal space when we try to understand what is happening in the country.
These young men killing across the country, whether in the inner cities or at schools, stores and churches, they all have lost sight of the sanctity of life and how we are all obligated to value human life.
They don’t equate killing to a real event, it’s only a game until they realize too late that they are killing people for real.
BERNARD LESLIE is a beekeeping expert who lives beside Kentucky Lake in the northeast corner of Henry County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.