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The Issue of Gun Violence in the USA

Violence in the USA

The United States have a large number of social problems despite a well-developed legal system. In this regard, gun violence is one of the most acute problems existing in the American community. Gun violence is usually manifested in two basic forms: mass shooting and firearm violence. Various researchers are trying to offer their own versions that can explain the problem and thus provide the possibilities for implementation of effective programs to address this problem. In my opinion, it is possible to designate two main causes of gun violence in the USA, namely, 1) the features of American culture that can be seen as a gun culture and 2) the influence of the mass media, which often focus on violence as a means of interaction with the world (in the form of various video games, songs, movies, etc.). These reasons are well founded. Compared to them, the theories trying to explain the issue by studying the medical features of people seem to be less sensible and justified.

The first cause is connected with the fact that American culture can be regarded as a culture that encourages the carrying of firearms. Some may argue that this fact has nothing to do with the gun violence in the US since “Owning a gun is not a responsibility that everyone should assume. Most guns kept in the home will never be used it for self-defense” (Harris, 2013, p. 36). Indeed, it may seem that there is no connection between the possession of firearms and their use in prohibited cases. However, studies of the American culture allow one to see the simple fact that the majority of Americans prefer to have a firearm. The reason for this is connected not only with banal desire to be able to protect oneself and one’s own family. Different studies make it possible to see that the American culture is the gun culture, which emphasizes the idea that each American should have a firearm. Additional argument in favor of this idea is the fact that it is quite easy to get a license to use the firearms. In fact, “it is deeply rooted in American culture to have easy access to firearms, permissive regulations regarding the carrying of concealed weapons, and the enactment of laws that authorize citizens to use a gun in public spaces to defend themselves against an imminent deadly threat” (Lemieux, 2014, p. 78). One can observe that law enforcement agencies and authorities that allow the use of firearms do not conduct serious tests on the adequacy of person’s mind. On the one hand, the American legal system seeks to protect the rights of people to defend themselves in public spaces and uses a legal law principle known as ‘duty to retreat’, which is designed to prevent further violence (Lemieux, 2014, p. 78).  According to one of the positions, “the U.S. firearm death rate (including homicide, suicide, and accident) has been stable since 1999” (Orient, 2013, p. 78). However, this problem is quite relevant because the murder rate is high enough (Wintemute, 2015).

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The second cause is directly related to the first one because it also testifies the influence of American culture on the distribution of gun violence in the United States. This cause can be determined as the cultivation of violence in various media culture. This cause is disputed by various experts, many of whom claim that the images of violence presented in mass media cannot have a decisive importance in this regard. Nevertheless, not all researchers can agree with this point of view. According to its opponents, the images of violence presented in the mass media might have a very negative social impact. In particular, these images primarily affect the psyche of adolescents by creating certain patterns in their minds. Under the influence of other favorable factors, these images might find their practical implementation in the form of aggressive behavior that can even lead to a murder. “The debate on risks of media violence in academia or the general public is far from being over” (Elson & Ferguson, 2013, p. 2). One should clearly understand the growing influence of the mass media on the human psyche, especially the psyche of young people. While mature people aged 30 years have a stable mind, young people may not always have a strong resistance to the images that are constantly reproduced in popular culture. This information provides a number of options to combat this problem, which is able to obtain epidemiological scale, especially among the juveniles (Wilson, 2000).

As one can see, these reasons are quite justified for the understanding of gun violence in the United States. However, many experts may suggest other reasons for explaining the problem of gun violence in the United States. According to one theory, gun violence in many cases is the result of mental health problems that cause aggressive behavior. This, in turn, becomes a cause of violence, even leading to the use of firearms. In theory, it may seem that this idea is quite justified by the fact that a man without any mental disorder would hardly kill people with firearms. However, statistics suggest opposite data. In fact, most of the gun violence is committed by mentally healthy people who pursue certain objectives and whose action has certain reasons. “Contrary to popular belief, … mental illness by itself is not a leading contributor to interpersonal firearm violence” (Wintemute, 2015, p. 13). Various studies allow one to see that mental illness is often a cause of suicides because suicide is largely the result of the depressed state of the person. This depression, caused in particular by mental illness, makes people commit suicide in many cases.

To sum, the study on gun violence makes it possible to detect a fairly close relationship between gun violence and the features of American culture. Firstly, one of the causes can be seen the fact that American culture is a gun culture that promotes the use of firearms. Most Americans believe that it is imperative to have a firearm with them. In addition, the fact that it is quite easy to get a license to use the firearms suggests that Americans are rather loyal to the free circulation of firearms among the population. The absence of sufficiently stringent methods of testing the adequacy of those people who want to get the right to carry firearms is an additional argument in favor of this idea. The second cause of gun violence can be seen in the features of mass culture that promotes images of violence. Psychologists see a close connection between such images and the promotion of aggressive behavior. The solution to this problem might involve a strict control over the issuance of licenses to use firearms, as well as information that is being popularized in the means of mass media. These tasks are quite complex. Nevertheless, they play a particularly important role in the fight against gun violence in the United States. American society must understand the full measure of responsibility for the use of firearms. Every American who has a firearm should perfectly understand the consequences of its misuse.