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Why Do We Kill? No, Why Don’t We Kill?

By | February 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

We spend countless hours ruminating on why some people commit serious crimes, including homicide. But we spend little time considering why most people don’t.

I spent my first eight years in North Dakota, where my father was a country doctor. Pheasant hunting is big in the Dakotas, so my father bought a shotgun, a Winchester Model 12. Today it would be worth close to $1000. I believe he took it shooting once or twice ‒ my father was too busy for hobbies.

Then we moved to San Francisco, where I grew up. In the back of my mind, I knew the gun resided in my father’s closet. But the thought of entering his closet without his permission never entered my mind. He died just after I turned 19. I was in pre-med at Berkeley, but even then, I hesitated before I followed my mother into the closet to clear out his things. My respect for my father extended to his closet months after his death.

I was bullied in junior high, and I had trouble fitting in socially in high school. I recall being quite angry at some students and teachers. But the thought of getting my father’s shotgun and killing them never occurred to me. No, that expression is too weak ‒ it never remotely occurred to me.

I went through public primary school, junior high, and high school. In all that time, there was not one shooting, stabbing, or even a serious fight. But most boys carried knives ‒ Boy Scout knives. And in the high-school basement, the ROTC had a rifle range. I was taught to shoot a .22 rifle, not an air gun as it used today.

But, you see, I was handed my first gun by a master sergeant with combat decorations. I recall the Combat Infantry Badge, indicating he had served in combat for at least 30 days; the Purple Heart, indicating he had been wounded in action; and the French Fourragère, indicating that his entire unit had been awarded the Croix de Guerre.

Do you suppose, just possibly, that being handed my first gun by a man like that gave me a different idea of a gun than if I had been handed my first gun by the local gang leader or drug dealer?

Do you think, just possibly, that I arrived at a different concept of the purpose of a gun than if ‒ like the Parkland High School murderer ‒ I had bought it after playing countless hours of violent video games, many of which involve shooting anything that moves? In regard to computers, experts say GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. In regard to the human mind and video games, perhaps it is VIVO – violence in, violence out.

Most kids love peanut butter, but a sensitive minority may develop serious allergic reactions. Most kids love violent video games, but a sensitive minority may develop serious violent behavior. At least this possibility deserves careful consideration. This does not absolve the criminal of responsibility for his evil choices. But it does make us think about why he made those choices in the first place.

Do you recognize that I was infinitely safer in George Washington High School in San Francisco, with rifles and live ammunition in the basement, than the students and teachers were in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida ‒ which, like most American schools, is a “gun-free zone”? Do you suspect, after all the recent examples, that “gun-free zones” easily become free-fire zones? Do you comprehend, after all the school and movie-theater shootings, that armed bad guys can be opposed effectively only by armed good guys?

Unarmed men, and unarmed nations, can only flee from evil. And evil is not overcome by fleeing from it.
− John D. “Jeff” Cooper, Lt. Col., USMC (Ret.); firearms authority

But if you think I am going too far, read the words of a Florida teacher of the year, who goes even farther. And if you think America has a higher rate of mass shootings than other nations, read this.

Advocates of gun laws point to any fall in homicide or suicide as evidence that the laws are working, and to any rise as evidence that more laws are needed. Whether homicide or suicide rates rise or fall, and whatever age, gender, ethnic, or regional group is affected, the advocates insist that more gun laws are needed. An idea that cannot be disproved by any obtainable evidence is an irrational belief, not a logical conclusion. For some persons, the idea that gun laws reduce violence may fall into this category.

Proponents of gun-control laws claim that gun “availability” causes violence, but what does the term mean? Clearly, if guns were totally unavailable, none would be used. This situation existed in the Middle Ages, prior to the invention of guns, but the period was very violent. There were sword deaths, dagger deaths, arrow deaths, and axe deaths. But there were no “gun deaths,” so presumably gun-control advocates would have been happy living at the time of the film “Braveheart.”

However, if “availability” means lack of legal restrictions, then 1900 should have been the heyday of homicide. Guns of all types could be bought by mail or at the local hardware store or pawnshop, anonymously and without records. Yet most boys and men of that era expressed anger with their voices or fists. Guns were “available” in the sense of being readily accessible with few legal restrictions, but not in the sense of being an acceptable response to annoyance.

We cannot say exactly what it is that inhibits human beings from killing one another, but we can say some things about it.

First, whatever it is, there is less of it now than there was in 1900 or even 1960.

Second, the evidence suggests that it has little to do with guns, poverty, racism, war, “macho” leaders, social programs, education, immigration, or most things within the grasp of government.

But if we have the courage to admit that we may have been looking in the wrong places, we will be freed to look elsewhere. Specifically, we could look more closely at:

● Intact family structure including a father or father surrogate.

● Reverence for human life based on its Divine source.

● Awareness that rights come with responsibilities.

● Hope based on the anticipation that hard work will be rewarded.

● The expectation that crimes will be promptly punished.

At the very least, if we recognize that these factors could be important, we may stop eroding them still further.

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

www.stolinsky.com

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