This morning, I heard NJ Gov Chris Christie explain the evolving conservative position on gun control. It must be part of an overall focus that addresses violence in our culture. Guns can't be singled out. This broad stroke approach includes, mental health care, violent video games, and violence in the media.
Christie said it’s not healthy for kids to be blowing people away in their basement for hours in violent video games, like Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, apparently did. Christie went on to say that he and his wife do not allow these kinds of violent video games in their house.
While I applaud the Governor, and agree with him about the violence of American culture, I disagree with his conclusion that you can’t deal with guns except in a larger cultural context. This entirely misses the point. You have to start somewhere. And guns are by far, the most lethal expression of violent culture. The culture with fewer guns is by definition, less violent.
The only means we have of changing our violent culture is by changing the way the culture manifests itself. In other words, to address guns IS to begin changing a violent culture. Moreover, it is the easiest part of the violent culture to begin fixing. Here’s why it’s important to do what we can do.
Most people are perfectly capable of distinguishing the fantasy world of violence in a video game with violence in real life. However, for those who find that distinction harder to make, i.e those with mental and emotional illnesses, it’s even more important for the culture to reinforce the distinction.
For example, in the fantasy world of a video game, a player can wreak unimaginable harm and destruction, as Gov Christie rightly notes. Blowing fantasy people away left and right. But, when the culture mimics a fantasy video game and makes 100 round magazines and semi automatic assault weapons available in real life, the culture in effect colludes in blurring the line between fantasy and reality. It invites those with mental or emotional illnesses to step across that treacherously thin line, and provides them the tools to do it.
There are no quick fixes to cultural violence. We can choose to focus on what lies beyond our control, and use that as an excuse to do nothing, or we can change what we have the power to change, and take it one step at a time.
Governor Christie, let’s roll up our sleeves and change what we can. Now.