Mass Shootings: Cultural Values Are the Problem, Not Guns

(Flickr, quotecatalog)
(Flickr, quotecatalog)

After every shooting in the United States, an international group of puritans appears, advocating for the prohibition of gun ownership, as if that measure were a solution to what is a much deeper problem: the access to weapons.

To believe that the dilemma lies in weapons and not in cultural values is not only a simplification that borders on the absurd, but also a denial of the facts involved in human responsibility.

Perhaps only drugs have sparked a similar debate, with fanatics on both sides; and, as with the bearing of arms, the attack is on the consequences instead of looking at the cause right before our eyes.

To save lives, and for the good of society as a whole, we must be clear in what many do not see as a truism-despite it being so: drugs do not consume themselves, weapons do not shoot themselves.

In Uruguay, a country where the possession of weapons is highly regulated, there are proportionally more deaths from firearms than in the United States (number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants). Switzerland, meanwhile, the third most armed country in the world, and where the acquisition of weapons is legal and (46 out of every 100 inhabitants have weapons,) does not have mass shootings or an alarming number of firearm deaths.

It is time to conclude that the cultural factor is determinant for the type of tragedy in which the United States seems to be, for the moment, submerged.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right of citizens to bear arms. This has been the case since its implementation in 1791, when the country was barely 15 years old.

The opposing views of English philosopher Thomas Hobbes and his French counterpart Jean-Jacques Rousseau were known at the time as “The Hobbes vs. Rousseau debate on human nature,” and it is a debate that still awakens passions.

Hobbes argued that the human being had a certain innate inclination to evil and that civilization saved human beings from their own ethical misery. Rousseau argued the opposite: man is born benevolent and pure, and civilization (in quotation marks, according to Rousseau) is what corrupts him.

Common sense agrees with Hobbes. Science, too. Different archaeological discoveries would indicate that the first genocide in history was committed by homo sapiens against the Neanderthal, long before any indication of civilization (Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari, 2011).

But why bring up Hobbes and Rousseau, or events that occurred 28,000 years ago, in the arms debate? Because what International Puritanism is trying to do (which follows Rousseau’s school) is to remove all responsibility from the murderer and transfer it to an inanimate object that, in itself, does no harm. Puritanism denies evil as if we were all members of the Barefoot Carmelites until one day, a weapon levitates and places itself in our hand.

Someone could argue that it is precisely because of human evil that weapons should be prohibited. But such a person would be out of touch with reality, and unaware that in Europe the main “weapon” for mass murders is a truck or, should it fail, a sharp object. Would he also request a ban all types of vehicles and require plastic knives?

To find solutions you have to step away from naivety: if someone wants to kill, he will always find a way to do it, with or without weapons, with or without regulations.

A good part of the Democratic electorate will now proceed to demand for Trump to do what no Democratic majority in power did: restrict access to firearms.

This subject requires contemplation. For one, the Second Amendment is almost 230 years old, while mass shootings have been a recurrent event for just under 30 years. What happened in American society in recent decades? Are we not facing a kind of decline that plunges human beings into frustration and drags people towards violence?

I would never want to feel the pain of the parents who said goodbye to their children at breakfast who never returned home because someone, with many problems, was angry with the world.

However, only one certainty remains: in a superfluous culture that idolizes everything ephemeral, when guns are banned, the same principle will extend to trucks; when trucks are banned, they will go after knives; when knives are forbidden, they will go after baseball bats…


Subscribe free to our daily newsletter
Sign up here to get the latest news, updates and special reports delivered directly to your inbox.
You can unsubscribe at any time