In light of last month’s shooting tragedy in Conneticut, I was asked about guns, their availability and appeal, and gun control.
I don’t make any claims to be an expert in analyzing such a thing but I do have a few opinions that I welcome your comments on in an effort to try to understand what we are doing as a society to foster and enable rampant killing and how we can work to turn things around.
Let me say outright that I support stringent gun control and firmly believe that accessibility to guns makes it too easy for someone to get one and use it against others.
But I think we have to look at systemic reasons behind the kinds of mass killings we have seen over the past 20 years.
Here, in super-condensed nutshell form is my take on it.
I think there are a lot of boys in trouble emotionally. They are not given permission or space to be fully evolved humans, able to express tenderness, gentleness, and empathy (as I’ve written in previous postings on this blog) and are grasping at male role models,the most prevalent and accessible of which are found in mainstream shows, games, and books).
And those role models, by and large, are black and white heros who may ultimately be ‘fighing’ for an admirable cause, but are nevertheless battling. And frequently they’re battling for barren planets or elusive or questionable rewards. It’s all about action and conflict.
So a boy who’s lonely, outcast, troubled by family issues, or simply having trouble finding their way can feel like they’re doing something about it by getting a gun and shooting a bunch of people without any regard for the consequences of their action.
And gaining notoriety at the same time – even if it is of the most negative kind. There too, I think that we as a society need to question our growing need for attention and our willingness to do and publicize things that are stupid, demeaning to ourselves or others, dangerous, or cruel in order to get it. Think of the kinds of things people put on facebook, or about the boastful attitude of those exhibiting what I consider wanton and idiotic behaviour of Stanley Cup rioters in Vancouver in 2011.
Regarding guns and their appeal to many or even most boys, here are some of the tactics we have used in our family to manage our son’s interest in them (which began around the age of 3 and levelled off around the age of 7).
- Honour the impulse to aim for a target by giving alternatives (hitting a bull’s’ eye with a bow and arrow, squirting some toilet paper in the toilet with their cute little penises, and aiming for trees, fences, fence posts with snowballs).
- Minimize exposure to mainstream consumer games, shows, and products that so frequently spiral down to the lowest common denominator – namely conflict in an us vs them scenario. And question and discuss why story characters wouldn’t rather play, eat, run, sing, or do any other number of things that are more fun and less painful to do
- Delay, distract, and redirect your sons to remind them of other things they like to do by giving them lots of opportunities to run, climb, hide, and be physically playful in the real world. I think they’re a lot like puppies; they can’t help being frisky.