By Mike Ferner, World BEYOND War, August 8, 2019
On the day after America’s weekend shooting rampage that killed 31 people and wounded dozens more in El Paso and Dayton, president Trump told the nation in a 10-minute address, what he sees as the causes of and cures for gun violence in the U.S.
As causes, he mentioned:
- “Racism, bigotry and white supremacy” adding, “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.”
- The internet and social media, saying, “We must shine light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murders before they start,” and he added “The perils of the internet and social media cannot be ignored and they will not be ignored.”
- Mental illness, saying we must “reform mental health,” including “involuntary confinement” of those posing a serious risk to society. He added that, “Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger, not the gun.” One might infer he meant to say that mental illness and hatred cause mass shootings, not guns.
- “…the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youths to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this and it has to begin immediately.”
For remedies to the nation’s epidemic of gun violence? He avoided what’s become the much-maligned “thoughts and prayers” and suggested:
- “Red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders”
- Having “The Department of Justice…propose legislation insuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively and without years of needless delay.”
Give him credit for finally recognizing white supremacy and web sites that promote it as problems. But the other causes he mentioned – video games and mental illness – come straight out of Trumpian illogic.
On the subject of video games, which Trump said make it “too easy today for troubled youths to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence,” Western Michigan University sociologist, Whitney DeCamp, along with others who have researched the subject, say it’s not likely. Violent video games, offensive as they are, are much less probable to cause violent behavior than a person’s “social environment – seeing or hearing violence in their own home between members of one’s family.”
As for treating mental illness, which along with “thoughts and prayers” completes the NRA’s solutions list, research shows it to be something different than popularly thought. The mental state of mass shooters, a subject highlighted by NetCE, shows that mental illnesses, typically treated with medication or cognitive therapy are not what ails the large majority of mass shooters, but personality disorders are. These are extremely difficult to treat and seldom even seen as a problem by the person affected.
It’s much more accurate to say that everybody in America is surrounded by a culture of violence, even if they’ve never played a video game.
Beyond the prime time TV shows with the common theme, “Be afraid…be very afraid” of every stripe of criminal roaming the land, there is the even greater influence of state-sponsored violence promotion.
- Try to watch a football game without a warplane flyover, a tribute to a local military “hero” or multiple military recruiting commercials pitching a fun, exciting career.
- Drive through any city and count the military recruiting billboards.
- Count the number of holidays either directly for the military or usurped by militarism.
- Ask how many visits military recruiters have made to your local high schools and if students are compelled to take the military aptitude tests on bogus claims they’re required.
- Most importantly, think about how the U.S. routinely uses violence in every corner of the world to maintain its empire. Look at the U.S. budget’s discretionary spending on the military: 65% and another 7% for veterans benefits, more than the combined military budgets of Germany, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, UK, France and India; more than the next 144 nations after those.
Surrounded by a culture that celebrates violence? There’s no escaping it. Our own government creates it and we pay for it.
As a final challenge to reality, Trump, who the Wall Street Journal said “has described an invasion at the border in more than half a dozen tweets this year, and in a May statement issued by the White House said ‘hundreds of thousands of people coming through Mexico’ had invaded the U.S.,” made nice and sent “…the condolences of our nation to President Obredor of Mexico and all the citizens of Mexico for the loss of their citizens in the El Paso shooting.”
To close his address, Trump declared, “I am open and ready to listen and discuss all ideas that will actually work and make a very big difference.”
I’ll dash off a letter urging he reorder U.S. budget priorities…as soon as I finish throwing up.
Mike Ferner is a former member of Toledo City Council, past national president of Veterans For Peace and author of “Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports from Iraq.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org