What Causes Gun Violence? by Janie Hill Scott

The problem of gun violence and school shootings in America is multifaceted. In recent weeks people have suggested to me that being nicer to kids will stop shootings, suggesting that it all arises from bullying. Bullying is never okay and is a major problem in our society that must be addressed as part of the larger issue of violence. But to narrow the cause to something as simple as being nicer bothers me greatly. Gun violence is and has been an issue all over America for decades; but the way mainstream media covers the shootings and the messages the media uses unveil the deeper, root causes of gun violence: a culture of militarism, state violence, and white supremacy. We have got to do better. Saying someone who killed multiple people is a disturbed kid if they’re white but a thug if they’re a person of color is a symptom of what is wrong in America. Hatred, not mental illness, is the genesis of a lot of shootings. But when the shooter is white, the media talks about their individual mental stability when they should be focusing on the health crisis of our country: white supremacy.

I’m proud that students have started to advocate and lobby for their own safety. At the same time, we must realize a person’s right to own an assault rifle may decrease that safety. Ignoring the inherent problems of violence and clinging to the right to bear arms does not outweigh students’ rights to live and learn or my right to go out in public and not be picked off by a hate-filled person. Looking at gun violence and its true causes, facing hard truths about racism, personal rights, poverty, entitlement, and the psychological damage of living under white supremacy must happen. These school shootings and acts of state violence, and even war, are not mutually exclusive. We’re coming up on the three-year anniversary of the massacre in a church in Charleston, SC. Knowing that the young, white male shooter was armed and knowing what he had just done, Police still took him to Burger King. But last week in Sacramento, TX,  police shot a Black man 20 times while he was standing in his grandmother’s backyard doing nothing. They mistook his cell phone for a gun. Race matters. And while I believe that all lives really do matter, as a Black woman from the south, I can tell you that our lives are not always valued in the same way we value others.’
A child in Chicago that is frightened to walk to school because they may get shot warrants the same concern as a child in an affluent area. Once everyone realizes that violence against one community affects us all, like how so many people have come out in support of the Parkland students, we will be able to make changes that will help everyone, especially the most vulnerable. In these times where we’re all staring down the barrel of a new Cold War, incidents like Parkland and Sacramento will only be on the rise. We must combat domestic terrorism by homegrown extremists (and yes, these shooters are terrorists). At the same time, we must invest in adequate education, jobs, housing, food, healthcare – including mental healthcare, clean living environments, and peace. These efforts must be combined with common sense gun laws outlawing assault rifles, and that’s just the beginning. Let’s do the work!

Comments? Email janie@georgiawand.org.