April 7, 2018

The Bigger Issue Behind Gun Violence

In the wake of the recent shooting tragedy in Florida, I read many social media posts from both sides of the issue, many focusing on gun control.

It is my belief that we are overlooking the bigger issue.

How does a society get to the point that these types of things seem not to be isolated events anymore. I don’t believe this has to do with guns, or how many bullets the guns can hold. I believe this has more to do with the desensitization of murder, shooting, torture, and violence in our society. Perhaps our brains are even being trained in violence. How did we, as a society, get to this point?

Modern, civilized societies often look back in history to the games and events that took place in the colosseum of Rome as a barbaric, bloodthirsty form of entertainment. I’m not sure our society is much different with the barbaric and bloodthirsty movies that are shown on TV and in theatres as entertainment.

In addition, the video games that children play are laden with violence, and killing. Children often spend hours playing video games where they participate in the act of shooting and killing the opponents on the screen.

Many people think the human brain can separate reality from fiction. Research has proven otherwise. Norwegian researcher Christian Keysers wrote a book about his research entitled, The Empathic Brain. In this book he unpacks the research which has been done on the mirror neurons of the brain. The research is too in-depth to cover in this small space. But, when referring to what a person is watching, Keysers says that the mirror neurons of the brain interpret “your actions become my actions.”

The neurons of the brain can’t tell the difference from what we see others do versus what we are actually doing ourselves. In other words, our brains interpret what is seen on television and video games as if we ourselves are performing the acts. By beholding, we truly become changed.

So what is the answer? I’ve read the analogy about taking the stick away from two children on the playground who are using the stick to fight each other. The implication is that we should take the stick away from all children on all playgrounds because of these two. This doesn’t solve the problem.

I would suggest that instead of playing violent video games and watching violent movies we turn our thoughts to things that are good, and kind, and noble and true. Instead, let our children experience the blessing that comes from service to others. What does that look like in everyday life? It could be taking your children to help clean the house of an elderly shut-in, volunteering at a homeless shelter, helping flood victims and victims of other disasters to help alleviate their suffering.

Now is the time for humanity to join hands with each other to propagate good in the lives of others and by doing so we will create a better world for ourselves and our children.