As the news continues to cover the tragedy in Virginia, I wanted to take a step back. I wanted to look not just at this occurrence, but at the "bigger picture". I wanted to consider the seeming increase in shootings in the last few decades. I want to consider what has changed.
I think we can safely say that the mass shooting trend started in 1966. August 1, 1966 Charles Whitman climbed the tower at the University of Texas in Austin, shooting over 36 people, killing 16. Since then, we have seen mass shootings in San Diego California, Luby's Kileen Texas, Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado, Westwood Baptist Church Fort Worth Texas, Red Lake High School Minnisota, Jonesborro Arkansas. I know I have left many out of the list, but you get the idea.
What has changed since 1966 to help account for the increase in shootings? A few things come to mind;
Guns- Many will say that the increasing numbers, and easy availability of guns has caused the increase in shootings. But can we honestly say that? Until 1968, anyone could order firearms through the mail. There was no paperwork to fill out, no background checks. Just send your money off to any number of firearms sellers and the postman would deliver your gun to your door. Guns were sold in stores like Wesern Auto, Gibsons, and others. Boys in their teens could walk into the local hardware store with money saved from mowing yards, and walk out with a genuine military rifle such as an Enfield, Springfield, or even an M1 Garand. Boys as young as 14 were carrying .22 rifles through town on there bicycles to go shoot with friends. Students regularly took rifles and ammunition to school, left them in the office, and retrieved them after school to go hunting.
Since 1968, the year of the Gun Control act of 1968 was made law, guns have been heavily regulated. No more mail order of firearms. Firearms must be purchased from licensed dealers, with all the required federal paperwork in order. Only adults over 18, and in some cases over 21 are allowed to purchase firearms. Laws regarding purchase and possession have gotten increasingly tough since then.
I don't think we can blame "easy access".
Family- Starting around the late 60's, we have seen an increase in the number of divorced and single parents. The divorce rate is somewhere around 50% now. Half of all marriages end in divorce. Single parenthood is almost the rule rather than the exception it used to be. What that means is we have more children being raised with at least one of their parents missing. The nuclear family of the 50's with a Mom, Dad, and kids is the exception now. Kids are being raised without Dad as a role model in the house. Mothers, instead of being home and raising children with love and rules, are working to make ends meet and leaving child raising to babysitters and day cares.
Is it possible that the lack of a "stable" family core, and the missing role models could be part of the problem?
Attitudes- My, how attitudes have changed since the 60's. The baby boomer generation led the charge in questioning attitudes toward everything. The subsection of the Boomer generation known as the "Vietnam Generation" were the ones shouting "Question Authority!". The increasing numbers of people who question age old values, and challenge what right is, and even what "is" is are a direct offshoot from that time. We now question the value of family; remember "It takes a village to raise a child" ? We question the correctness of private property. We even question the morals of the Capital Enterprise system. This has led some to conclude that there is no right and wrong, only how things feel.
Could this play a part in the change we have seen since the 60's in violence?
Entitlement- How many immigrant families came to this country to make a living? How many businesses have been built from hard work and effort? Contrast that with the current welfare system. We have now multiple generations that believe the "government" owes them a living. They truly believe that they deserve to get money (mine and your money) to live on because the simply exist. They have no plan or desire to earn the money. People in this country are not working, not producing anything, not adding to the output of anyone, yet they are holding a hand out and believe they are owed a check and housing. And we are letting it happen. We are allowing them to live it, and teach that way life to their offspring.
What happened to the idea of working for what you get? What happened to working harder if you wanted more? How do we allow our hard earned money to be given to people who are not only not producing, but are an actual drain on society? We have failed ourselves if we allow it to continue, and we have failed those we condemn to that way of life by not expecting more of them.
Could this be part of the problem?
Could it be as simple as saying "America has changed"? Could it be that we ourselves have changed?
The fabric this country was built on was one of independent people. A people together for the common cause.
Are we still, as individuals, independent? Can we make our living by our own hands and ideas? Is our success or failure decided by our own actions, or do we depend on others? Do we need the approval of others to build a better widget? Do we consider what others will think of us because of what we produce? Do we seek permission to live our lives, and ask forgiveness for success?
Is this country a group of people together united under a common cause? Are we still "A shining beacon to the world"? Or do we, as a country, try to raise the baseline, by lowering the bar? Have we become a country that praises success, or one that targets mediocrity?
We look to find something to blame for this type of violence. We try to figure out what has changed. We want to point our finger at something as say "That's it!" so we can somehow change it back.
I wonder, is it us?