Psychology has proven that a person’s personality and behavior is partially determined by the environment that person grows up in and becomes accustomed to. Genetic factors play a role, but let’s ignore those for the time being. For example, Palestinians have a well known hostility for Israel. They are not born with this hostility, they are raised with it and it becomes instilled into them; it becomes part of their identity. Despite American’s sense of being a superior culture to them and everyone (Yes, we all think it, so let’s not kid ourselves), we are still prone to environmental factors playing a major role in the molding of a person’s moral framework throughout their childhood, adolescence, and early adult life.

             One of the obvious sources of this is the media. Studies show that the media conditions us to become desensitized to violence and death. Television, Internet, video games and any other imaginable media outlet provide a source to vicariously live the life of a criminal. Some of these outlets show the guys on the good side of crime. Shows like CSI and Law and Order provide some insight into the inner workings of our criminal justice system. Though these are more often than not inaccurate depictions of how the system works, there are plenty of reality shows documenting the investigation and court process truly works, though these shows are seen as less entertaining. Reality is much more mundane than fiction, and this tends to show in the ratings.

            On the other side of the gun, there are also a plethora of media outlets depicting the life of a criminal in fiction and reality. Films like Scarface (1983), Goodfellas (1990), and Blow (2001) all showcase how the drug trade and gangs operate, with the latter two films being based on true events. The entire time, viewers know that the drug trafficking and the murder is all illegal. The life of crime is glamorized and seen as enticing despite the fact that people watching it know it is illegal. Why? The rewards. These films do not show any punishment for the criminal’s actions throughout the film. Yes, the main character may be arrested thirty minutes or an hour into the story, but he always gets out of it and goes back to the life of crime. Viewers tend to forget about that minor speed bump in the criminal’s life, and the thing that sticks in their memory is the rewards. They see drugs, money and sex all as an outcome of crime. And who doesn’t want that? Our society has become a place where these three things are highly coveted, and people who watch these films tend to see using violence and firearms as a means to gaining to gaining these three things. For a while these characters live that glamorous life everyone sees, but for some reason the viewer tends to ignore the end. In order of the films mentioned earlier, here is the fate of the main character: dead by gunfire, witness protection, prison. Oh, what a glamorous life.

Just as gun control laws are only a part of the problem, the media is only a fraction of the problem when it comes to an individual’s view on gun use and crime. For a child with no pre-disposition to mental illness and with no developmental conditions, the environment we are raised in provides a very basic moral framework very young age. In many inner city schools, children and adolescents are exposed to firearms at a very early age. Sometimes it might not be a real gun; it might only be a BB gun or a pellet gun, but nevertheless a symbol of violence. They see their peers in school and many outside of school involved with drugs and firearms and see this as normal, no matter what race they are. Freedom to roam the streets outside of school in a close proximity to their classmates and people in the neighborhood furthers this exposure and gives them a sense or normality. Most of the time, these guns are not acquired legally. Changing the gun laws will not solve this issue.

            Outside of the inner city areas, the media has a much larger impact on firearm use in suburban areas. Death by bullet in suburban communities are often people in their own homes protecting themselves from intruders, and sometimes they entail premeditated plan which most likely had to do with money. The youth are often influenced more by media than their surroundings, though parenting and a lack of a moral framework has a strong impact.  In rural communities, firearms are a way of life to hunt and to protect their livestock from dangerous animals, as well as any intruders who may make an attempt at stealing expensive farm equipment. Unless drugs are involved, they are rarely abused.

            As mentioned earlier, the media glamorizes violence. In the case of the Newtown shootings, as well as every other school shooting in recent memory, news networks had coverage of the incident almost instantaneously after it unfolded. Inaccurate details were reported, and people quickly jumped to conclusions about what happened. The shooter’s identity was quickly publicized, though this was also inaccurate initially. People express disgust, saying that they cannot believe someone would do something like this. And people ask why. If everything happens for a reason, what is the reason for something as horrible as this? A Christian will say it is God’s plan. An atheist will say it is a combination of Causality and Chaos Theory and that this outcome was inevitable due to the Laws of Physics. Everyone will explain this tragedy based on some belief they already held and use it as an explanation. 

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