As I write this, I’m watching CNN’s live feed of the mass shooting at a Madden tournament in Jacksonville, Fla. The second I saw a tweet about it, I groaned and said out loud, “Not again.”
The debate over whether mass shootings are caused by widespread availability of guns, mental health, racism, etc., has been raging since Columbine. Each argument has its merits and flaws, but it seems that no one has come to the conclusion that an amalgamation of all of those issues are ultimately what is fueling mass shootings. However, there is one aspect of these shootings that people graze, but never stop to examine.
If you look at the gun violence statistics worldwide, it is painfully obvious that the United States is miles above every other nation in rampant gun violence. Granted, other nations have varying degrees of national gun restrictions while the U.S. leaves the issue to the states. However, there is a unique trait that Americans possess that other nations don’t, or have lower, more reasonable, levels of.
Ever since the Declaration of Independence was signed, Americans have had pounded into our heads over the course of several generations that we are exceptional. We are inherently better than everyone else on the planet. We pulled off a seemingly impossible revolution, won our freedom, and we owe it all to American individualism, effort, and lots of guns. Because of this, everyone else on the planet has us in their sights, wanting what we have and stopping at nothing to take it from us. Anyone who challenges us will get their ass beat at best, and killed at worst. This is where the egotistical need for violence rests. This very mentality, that anyone who challenges us for any reason deserves violence, is what gives gun violence in this nation the power to continue. This mentality drives us to store armories in our houses in fear of anyone who as much as steps on a blade of grass on our property. We’re driven by the idea that everything we have is worth killing someone over and the fear that there just might be someone who will try.
This fear has grown from worrying about exclusively foreigners wanting “our freedom” to worrying about other Americans who may or may not have what we have. This close-minded, xenophobic fear also drives us to not provide basic needs for the poor, fearing that the poor will one day surpass us without putting in the effort to succeed. The only way to prevent this is to make sure they die poor. We do this by denying them healthcare, food, shelter, and education. We also do this by allowing almost anyone to buy guns.
I know that there are responsible gun owners who make sure their guns are locked up, they buy them legally, and they learn how to use them and be safe with them. When you ask a gun owner why they own so many guns, they will most likely give you one of three answers. They buy them to collect them, they buy them for protection, or they buy them because they give them a physical and emotional thrill. All of these reasons are valid, but they all stem from the same egotistical motivator: more power. Collectors may or may not ever fire a single round from their guns, but gun owners of the other two ilks are definitely feeding into that need for more power, the need to feel like they are superior to those around them because they own the most weapons. More weapons means more power, which means more control over those around them. It is this feeling that those who end up perpetrating mass shootings feed upon as well. The only difference is that they go to greater lengths to get the feeling.
It seems that other nations lack this motivation for more power over those around them. Instead, they focus on ways to better themselves without using guns as an equalizer. You can see this in the defense budgets of other nations. The U.S. spends more money on defense than any other nation on the planet, and we spend more than the other nine countries in the top ten combined. This is the biggest, most telling piece of evidence that Americans need to have the most and the biggest guns to feel superior to everyone else. And since the federal government is a reflection of the citizens who voted it into existence, it is no surprise that this need fills most Americans.
Mass shooters are the most extreme manifestation of this deep-seeded need for superiority, power, and control. They take advantage of the system and collect the tools needed to impose their will on those they hate or who have wronged them. Pride and ego override reason and rational thought, shoving empathy and compassion to the side in favor of the rush of making sure those around them know that they are more powerful. Everyone else are simply ants under their boot, deserving death because they are weak, of the wrong color, religion, or sexuality, or that they slighted the shooter by merely telling them no. “No” means that the other person has more control than the shooter does and this must be corrected. And there’s no better, easier, and faster way to do this than by shoving a gun in the offender’s face.
Proponents of gun ownership will argue that “it’s not the guns that kill people, it’s people that kill people.” To an extent that is true. However, the spectrum of reasons for these people to commit these crimes is too vast. We don’t have a way of pre-screening people for mass shooter potential. I don’t think it would ever be possible to do that. The only rational, reasonable, practical solution is to prevent the tools of murder from being available to the public. While those who are responsible, law abiding gun owners would suffer by not being able to have what they want, the amount of suffering is a drop in the bucket compared to that of a grieving parent whose child was shot at school. And gun owners who rally against such regulations and restrictions are simply showing us that they’re ego needs to be fed and preventing them from doing so would be catastrophic. There is nothing more catastrophic than watching thousands of Americans die because gun owners’ egos and fears need to be sated.
Mass shootings will continue to occur in the U.S. until we collectively decide to stop feeding our egos. We need to change our perspective and realize that we are not better than anyone else on the planet. We need to put our egos aside and accept that the chances of anyone else threatening our safety is slim and that it is easier to fight wrongdoing with compassion, education, and positive action than violence, fear, and bullets. We have to erase 270 years of All-American conditioning and replace it with the idea that we succeed more often when we are together and not separate, and that our individual egos are not a remotely valid excuse to keep guns widely available. Gun owners have to swallow their pride and accept that their ego has to face a little inconvenience so thousands of others stop feeling so much pain, and that if they continue to stifle efforts to restrict gun access, they are accessories to thousands of murders.