Violence: Gun & Otherwise


On October 25, an article appeared in ABC news online written by Ivan Pereira, who believes he sees that America has a problem with “gun violence” (“America has a gun violence problem. What do we do about it?”). There is little to recommend this piece, but he does make one good point when he refers to people developing behavior patterns that “. . . make them more prone to violence in all of its forms; violence against partners, violence against the community and violence against themselves. . .”

This is a message so often overlooked or ignored by those who argue that we should restrict Second Amendment rights. The murders we see on TV or learn about from one source or another arise from tendency or temptation to harm, injure or kill others. The story of Cain’s murdering Abel is among the very earliest morality tales in the Bible.

Unfortunately, Periera seems to lose sight of this profound truth and gets distracted  by “gun violence“. As is so often the case with those attacking the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, he focuses on the tools, rather than those who use the tools.

He quotes a commentator as saying with regard to killers using guns “. . . some are premeditated acts of aggression, some are domestic disputes, others are part of other crimes such as robberies, but the one common denominator is access to a firearm.” Since he only considers killings done with guns, this is like saying that listening to the radio requires access to a radio. And of course this commentator misses Periera’s other point, expressed more or less in passing elsewhere in the article, that the real common denominator behind all murders is the intent to do harm.

Early in the piece Periera talks about so-called mass shootings being “a symbol for some of Americas obsession with guns . . .” Those who like to watch courtroom dramas may want to leap up and shout, “Objection­—assumes facts not in evidence!“ He also compares the U.S. to some other countries with regard to rates of  “gun violence.“ As has been pointed out in this column numerous times, when you look at all the world’s countries, the U.S is among the lowest in homicides.

While from beginning to end he takes an alarmist position as to injuries from people misusing guns, he presents a couple of graphs showing that in the U.S. deaths and injuries that follow from firearm misuse are decreasing, rather than increasing. Others have reported the same thing. Readers are also told about an “. . . epidemic of injury by firearms . . .” which doesn’t square well with the decline—as shown by a graph he presents—in injuries arising from people who misuse them.

What can one conclude from all this? Perhaps, that occasionally the fog lifts just a bit and it can be seen that people often harbor malicious motives and are drawn to awful acts. While sometimes these thoughts and acts arise primarily from an individual’s psychological make-up, at other times social relationships figure heavily, as in violence perpetrated by street gang members.

Hitler arranged for millions to be poisoned by gas. Ted Bundy bludgeoned and strangled dozens of victims. Those who seek to act murderously will use whatever means at their disposal.



Tom E Gift, MD

—Thomas E. Gift, MD is a child and adolescent psychiatrist practicing in Rochester, New York, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical School, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

All DRGO articles by Thomas E. Gift, MD