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Jonathan Kraut: Culture of violence must be changed

Posted: December 25, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 25, 2012 2:00 a.m.

I debated whether my Christmas Day message to you should discuss something as terrible as the deaths of the innocent. Today is a day to celebrate our faith, family, the offering and receiving of gifts and of hope for a better tomorrow.

But today is also a day to remember loved ones who are no longer with us. Especially today, we feel the pain of loss and miss the smile of a family member, a friend, or a neighbor no longer here. Despite the uncomfortable nature of this article, perhaps Christmas Day is in fact an appropriate opportunity to discuss hope for a better and safer tomorrow.

In the seven days since the deaths of 27 innocent souls in the Newtown, Conn. shooting on Dec. 14, reports that our nation has lost another 128 victims to gun violence. The Independent reports, “About 85 Americans are shot dead daily, 53 of them suicides. Every day, one of those killed by firearms is 14 or younger.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates we average about 31 firearm deaths daily at the hands of another. That means that by today, Christmas Day, firearm deaths since the Newtown event has grown to more than 250.

This for many does not mean much because the victims to us are unknown personally. But the random nature of gun violence will one day result in gunfire in a local school, at the mall, or other public place in Santa Clarita.

Without change, one day senseless death will visit us here too. That is why I am reaching for new hope this Christmas Day.

Banning firearms is not going to work. There are just too many weapons. A November 2012 Congressional Research Service report stated in 2009 there were approximately 310 million firearms in the U.S.

It is not guns that kill people, it is people that kill people. We can’t outlaw people, so many are going after military assault weapons. Right now there are an estimated 2.5 million AR-15 assault rifles in the U.S., which means about one of every 50 adults has one.

A ban on or a mandatory registration of assault weapons will only apply to the honest. Gang members, the mentally unstable, criminals, and Second Amendment nutcases will ignore any prohibition anyway.

Nor is the solution posting armed security or law enforcement officers at the entrance of every classroom, movie theater, shopping mall retailer or food court. It would take more than the entire U.S. armed forces to accomplish such a feat, and even then, those bent on death and terror will still find a way to carry out their plans.

I see so far only but a few logical means by which this great nation can offer more safety and better protection from gun violence.

First, our cultural consciousness needs to shift. Hollywood and the television offer what sells: guns, violence, revenge and shock value. It is easy for our entertainment industry to keep pushing what always makes a profit. Americans, already numb to gore and violence, keep getting fed more and more horrific scenes. We need to stop patronizing some of these gory and mindless scripts. When American values shift, the entertainment industry will follow, and so will diminish in our culture the calls for violence and revenge.

Second, video game developers should be encouraged, if not required, to shift electronic video game content. Like any emotional stimulant, continued use of violent video games causes chemical activity in the brain, not unlike drug use or even endorphin release through prolonged exercise. I believe video games create an addiction by design. Neural pathways are developed by game activity promoting continued use and further neural reconfiguration. It is apparent some mentally impaired replace reality with elements from their gaming experience.

Finally, local agencies should be compelled to aggressively inventory and diagnose those with mental and emotional conditions. A National Mental Health Registry should be created to prevent some persons from buying weapons and ammunition and require its’ registrants be re-evaluated periodically.

While we can’t control the actions of every crazy person, we can diminish the conditions that contribute to deaths of many, preserving innocent lives for future Christmas Days.

Jonathan Kraut serves in the Democratic Party of the SCV, on the SCV Human Relations Forum, and SCV Interfaith Council. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or other organizations.


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