Analysis: Easy access to guns in a trigger-happy culture

Easy access to weapons allows normative people who temporarily lose control psychologically and socially to resort to extreme acts of violence.

By DANNY GAMISHI
April 17, 2007 20:47
2 minute read.
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Research showing a correlation between the ease of access to weapons and rises in crime comes as no surprise. To say it's the only reason Monday's mass shooting at Virginia Tech University took place would be a stretch, but the US constitutional amendment protecting the right to bear arms was certainly the most significant contributing factor. Easy access to weapons allows normative people who temporarily lose control psychologically and socially to resort to extreme acts of violence, including murder, and even mass murder, depending on the weapon involved. The motivation to pull the trigger is deeply rooted in the American way of life, although if you contrast violence in America to what Europe witnessed over the last century, America seems like an oasis of peace. As for Israel, where the environment exposes one to continuous demonstrations of violence, from infancy to old age, it is just a matter of time before the same kind of violence that hit Virginia on Monday grips our communities. The most frightening aspect of such a prospect is that when it comes, it will not be restricted to school campuses. It will extend to the larger society, to discotheques, hospitals and any other place where large numbers of people gather. There is no difference between these types of homicidal acts and Palestinian terrorism. Both cases entail mass murder carried out with no regard for the consequence, and inspired by irrational choices. Those who go into schools to kill know full well that in the end, they themselves will be killed. The same goes for suicide bombers. These people are psychologically prepared for what they are about to do; Israelis should begin to prepare themselves, too. This type of violence reflects alarming behavioral conditioning on the part of the perpetrator, psychologically, biologically and environmentally. For example, an attack inside a concrete structure could be triggered in someone bearing the scars of traumatic experiences from school or a hospital stay. The physical environment has an important influence on the decision to commit such a crime, and the choice of an attack site is symbolic. The good news is that such "environmental complexes" can be addressed and the threat reduced. The answer does not lie in our children lining up to see the school social worker, but begins in the homes. If people are made to feel cared for, take a greater interest in one other's well-being, and are committed to turning away from a "broken-window society," some headway will be made in preventing such attacks. However, until such progress is made, managers of public places have a responsibility to see that adequate security is provided to face these threats. Israel needs another major public security effort; this time, however, it is to protect us from ourselves. The writer is head of the criminology program in the behavioral sciences department at the College of Management. He was interviewed by Yaniv Salama-Scheer.


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