College Shootings and Emotional Responses

We had some more shootings today.  Two of the six top stories in my Google news feed right now are about the recent shootings.  This comes right on top of my post yesterday, where I said that guns aren’t the real problem.  I used figures from the FBI and the CDC, and I built an argument based on facts and rationality, rather than emotions.

But now I’m looking at my news feed, and I’m looking at things people are posting in social media, and I have to wonder if I got it wrong after all.  I want to keep an open mind, and use rational thinking.  But I can feel the pull of the herd, and right now the herd wants to get rid of all the guns, because people are dying.

I’m not the only one that has doubt.  Here’s a link to someone that grew up with guns, that has decided that its his responsibility to destroy the gun he has.  It’s a man that has been responsible with his firearm, keeping it dismantled and locked up so that no one in his household would accidentally hurt themselves.  But he feels that’s not enough, and the only real solution is to destroy the gun completely, and encourage other people to do the same.

That is an emotional response.  Rationally, if he was keeping the weapon dismantled and locked up as he said, that gun wasn’t going to hurt anyone.  The detergent near his washer and dryer was probably a greater danger than the weapon.  The vehicle parked in his driveway has more chance of killing someone.  So destroying that gun isn’t a rational act, it’s an emotional reaction.

Where does this reaction come from?  From what we’re seeing in the news.  From what we’re seeing from our social network, which is picking up the story and amplifying it.  Driving the herd.

This makes me think of Jon Stewart, and what he did for so many years on The Daily Show.  He showed us flaws in the news system, where the story we were seeing wasn’t always grounded in reality or rationality.  It wasn’t just Fox, either, though Fox is the worst culprit.

Right now, we’re focused on tragedy, which is riling our emotions, and emboldening some to take action.  We would be monsters not to feel something.  People are dying.  Innocent kids are being shot, and we need to do something.

What I don’t want to see are more emotional reactions, especially if they are wide-sweeping.  Whatever we do, it needs to be appropriate and thoughtful, and not simply justifiable.

What I wrote yesterday might be wrong.  I haven’t seen anything yet that refutes the facts or reasoning.  I believe I used good sources for my data, and I did not overreach in my assertions.  But I’m willing to have my mind changed, via rational discourse.  Showing me dead college kids is not rational discourse.  All that will do is make me sad.

I have to wonder what other terrible things are going on that we’re not seeing, because we’re focused on gun violence.

I wonder what would happen if we reported every car crash fatality with the same vigor as we report every shooting.  We’d be exhausted very quickly.  A quick Google search tells me that there are 3,287 deaths from car crashes every day, and more than half of those deaths occur to people between the ages 15 to 44.  Another google search tells me that 274 people are shot every day, leading to 86 deaths each day from gun violence.

But let’s not get distracted.  Right now, we’re focused on these kids that have been shot at college.  That’s what everyone’s talking about.  That’s what’s driving the conversation.

So what do we do about it?  What do we do that is actually effective, and not simply reactionary?

2 thoughts on “College Shootings and Emotional Responses

  1. Hello, Brian,

    I read this article and the “Guns” article. (Thank Susan Boring, btw.)

    It seems a good effort.

    I thought I would offer up a factoid that ought to be of interest. The CDC had intended to do more research into gun violence and was blocked by the NRA. This was in 1997, as I understand. Just today, NPR interviewed one of the Congressmen from that time period who now regrets at least some of the results of blocking that research.

    To my way of thinking, serious CDC research into gun violence is in everyone’s interest.

    In a perfect world, I would offer up all sorts of links for you. As-is, I will simply offer up the (for me) low-hanging fruit of the NPR interview and let you go from there. I believe the interview will fit reasonably well with what you are already asserting.

    Good luck with your writing!
    http://www.npr.org/2015/10/09/447098666/ex-rep-dickey-regrets-restrictive-law-on-gun-violence-research

    • Hi Greg,

      Thank you very much for the comment and the link. You’re right, that was a good interview.

      I like informed decisions. I like getting as much information as possible before acting.

      I agree that CDC research into gun violence is in everyone’s interest. I’m sure that fear was behind blocking the CDC and defunding the research. Fear is powerful, especially in regards to a loss of power, or loss of influence, or even just having one’s ideals questioned.

      I wouldn’t want to fund research that was directed with an agenda. I wouldn’t trust the NRA to do the research into gun violence anymore than I’d trust anti-vaxers to research the safety of vaccinations. But I think the CDC is probably trustworthy.

      Thanks again for the comment.

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