Are mass killings becoming as American as apple pie?

The recent spate of mass killings in the United States has renewed a call for stricter gun control.  That’s probably a good thing, however, easy access to firearms isn’t necessarily the entire solution.

I spent time in Switzerland where the citizens have ridiculously easy access to firearms including automatic weapons.  I remember walking past a gun shop in Lucerne on Sunday afternoon when the stores were closed and its front window was full of pistols.  There were no bars or grills to protect the merchandise.  Anyone with a brick and the desire could have had all the weapons they wanted.

And along the back roads on Saturday morning you will see lots of people walking along with an automatic weapon on their shoulder — because Saturday is the traditional day for target practice in Switzerland.  Nearly every home in the country has at least one firearm.

The last time I looked gun murders and mass killings are almost non-existent in Switzerland.

H. Rap Brown the activist, was quoted as saying, “violence is American as apple pie”.

I think that there might be a ring of truth in this.  Certainly guns play a part as they enable a sick mind to kill more people efficiently, but I have to think it is something deeper inside the psyche of some Americans.  There is a crippling need to strike back against those they believe have caused them pain.  Whether it is in the media or real life for many Americans violence isn’t the last resort it is the first reaction.

After 9/11 the entire country (and the rest of the world) came together in a mass outpouring of grief.  However, after the numbness began to fade, the prevailing mood changed to vengeance.  Four weeks later it was off to Afghanistan to get revenge on the ‘evil doers’.  A couple of years after that it was off to Iraq for a purpose that we are still trying to define.  (I like to think it is some kind of Shakespearean need on the part of a son to make up for the perceived shortcomings of his father.)

I can’t offer anything profound here, quite frankly I don’t understand the madness that compels someone to pick up a weapon and commit mass murder.

Recently, I read Stephen Pinker’s “The Better Angels of our Nature” in which he makes a strong case that violence and conflict is actually decreasing around the world.  He cites many probable causes including the rise of globalism, government, mass communications and a decline in rampant nationalism.

I take heart in this.  There will always be sick minds like the shooters at the movie theatre in Colorado, the political rally in New Mexico, the campus of Virginia Tech and, most recently, the house of worship in Wisconsin.  These are aberrations, tiny spikes on the continuing downward slope of the graph of violence.

I like to believe that we are changing in our attitude and application of violence.  Is “violence as American as apple pie”?

I don’t know, but I’d like to think it isn’t.

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