Anna Gregoline | November 9, 2002
I carefully considered each of the possible responses on this poll. Here is why I rejected all of them and went with “None of the above. Some other reason.”We have greater gun ownership per population. This is true. And while this raises our instances of gun violence, I do not think it would change the overall violence we would still perpetuate if there were no guns.Our greater racial diversity causes tension. I don’t think this is true at all. Many countries have even greater racial tensions, but have less diversity – think of such conflicts as between Israelis and Palestinians. This might have been more plausible in America for another decade, but not for this one.Our greater economic diversity causes tension. Well, it certainly does cause tension, but I don’t see this as a direct cause of violence. If this was true, we’d be seeing violence from the poor perpetuated solely on the rich, and that is not the case.We have violent movies, video games, rap music, etc. We do, but I see this as reflecting our violent attitudes, and not causing them. People have been trying to blame this stuff for a long time, and it hasn’t ever held water for me. Art comes from things that are already inside us.The news media pays too much attention to violent acts. The news media pays too much attention to whatever the news media is excited about at the moment. This IS another example of where we are exposed to violence, but it isn’t a cause.Fear of violence leads to more violence. It compounds. I can see from the perspective of gun buying and carrying where this is going, but I don’t agree with it either. Fear of violence means that we feel there is something to fear, and I don’t think that fear of violence is an innate sense we all have unless we’ve learned about violence in some form. Also, this isn’t true across the board, many people are afraid of being mugged, for example, but they wouldn’t arm themselves or take other violent steps to avoid it. Our government settles conflicts by war, so we follow suit. The parent setting a bad example for the child, eh? I think most Americans pay little attention to their government. The government has long settled conflicts this way, but it’s more rooted in our own attitudes of “an eye for an eye.” Once we start getting politics involved, it gets very complicated. Basically, though, I think this is too simple a correlation to make. We do not adequately punish our criminals. We have a very strange system of punishment, that’s for sure. It’s not equal in the types of offenses, in my eyes. I do not believe that violence is committed because people do not think they will not get caught. I have had many opportunities to do things where I would not get caught, but that doesn’t mean that I did them solely for that reason. Not everyone has the same moral code, but most crimes of violence are crimes of passion, and these by their very definition mean that the person committing the crime was not thinking about the consequences.We pressure our kids to succeed. They lash out if they fail. This is absolutely ridiculous. Many poverty-stricken individuals aren’t pressured to do anything. Except perhaps join gangs and do drugs. Why don’t they lash out and fail at those things?We were born in violence. We have a bloody history. Most countries of the world have bloody histories. It is a cheap way out to say we’ve always been this way, so how can we change? This is a vague statement anyway – are we talking about the history of America specifically, or the very nature of humans themselves? If it’s the latter, we might have a deeper discussion, but in keeping with the name of the poll, I would say it’s about the history of our country. We raise our boys to play with guns and swords. How sexist. As if women have never been guilty of violence. Both sexes are capable of committing violent acts. Guns are too inexpensive and easy to obtain. I agree with this statement, but that doesn’t mean it’s the sole cause of violence. This is like the first statement to me: It does seem to indicate why we have more instances of gun violence than other cultures, but if we didn’t have guns, I think violent acts would still occur. The incidence of stabbings, for example, would rise. Several of the above. Since I discounted the above, I don’t think several of them will work together to make a better reason. None of the above. Some other reason. I ultimately said this. I am not entirely sure what I would say was the reason. I’ll have to think about it some more. America is not more violent. It's a misperception. I was almost inclined to say this, but we do have the highest incidence of murder, don’t we?

Scott Hardie | November 9, 2002
First of all, thanks for taking this on, Anna.

I'm interested in the responses that people chose in the poll. If I wanted to do detective work, I could probably figure out who chose what, but it's more fun just guessing. :-)

I myself chose the "fear of violence leads to more violence" option. Why do so many people have guns? Because they have to protect themselves from getting shot. Some of the other options on the poll can be phrased in this context, too. But, to be honest, the more I think about it, the more I prefer the "several of the above" option. Some of these poll options are factually wrong, and others are just wrong in common sense, but too many of them have at least some validity to be discounted offhand, or so I think.

Other comments?

Lori Lancaster | November 9, 2002
[hidden by request]

Anna Gregoline | November 9, 2002
"Why do so many people have guns? Because they have to protect themselves from getting shot" is a paradox though. Which came first, the guns or the fear?

Scott Hardie | November 9, 2002
Lori: Sexist, yes, but generally true. People do still generally give guns to boys and dolls to girls. I don't think this is a cause for violence (putting guns into kids' hands as tools of fantasy empowerment), but some people do, so I put it on the list.

Anna: It doesn't matter which came first. Each is increasing the other.

Anna Gregoline | November 9, 2002
Well, I kind of think it does matter, since we're talking about root causes here. If you go back to the begining, people's original need for guns was to feed themselves. I would think that was before protection. Not all violence is of the "I'm going to shoot you before you shoot me" variety, so this doesn't work for me either.

Scott Hardie | November 9, 2002
First of all, I don't think we are talking about root causes here. If we were, we would boil violence down to three root causes: Insanity, emotional compulsion, and pursuit of a goal. By that last one, I mean that people sometimes commit acts of violence to acquire something, even something intangible like conquest or revenge, or as I am arguing, protection.

But we're not talking about it on that basic universal human level. We're talking about American violence in the present day. And regardless of why guns were first invented or how they've been used across cultures in the centuries since, I still maintain that a desire for protection (fueled by paranoia) is the main reason why Americans buy them, and use them on each other, today. It's not like only one batch of guns were ever made and they have only ever had one purpose. Times change.

On criminal uses of guns: Every culture has muggers and bank robbers and carjackers, and these people use guns. What I think separates America from other countries is that here, us normal people buy guns in order to protect ourselves from the above listed. Of my friends who own guns, only one is a hunter; the others bought theirs to protect against home invasion and carjacking. Guns don't cause gun violence in and of themselves, but, the prevalence of guns, and the belief that shooting someone who threatens you is a valid act, are both uniquely American, and they are major reasons why Americans shoot each other more often than people in other cultures do.

Anna Gregoline | November 9, 2002
I guess I'm not talking about root causes per se, but about cultural and societal attitudes."We were born in violence, we have a bloody history," certainly implies historical significance to the issue, which made me consider how all of the current violence and gun problems began. I think if this statement wasn't included, I would have been more inclined to think about all the statements in the present day.

Scott Hardie | November 9, 2002
Oh. Well, I was just trying to list what some people think are some of the causes. One part of "Bowling for Columbine" is when Moore interviews New Yorkers on the street and asks them this same poll question, and then contrasts their answers one at a time with other cultures and finds out that every other country has the same factors. The "bloody history" came from that section of the film; it was considered as a possible cause.

And I do want to say, I admire "Bowling for Columbine" a lot as a film, but that doesn't mean that I agree with all of its reasoning. Moore loves to tear into other peoples' fallacious arguments, but he makes a few of his own, you know? :-)

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