May 20

Blog #154 -What kind of problem do we have in America?

So I started out the pre-writing for our discussion about guns by first asking – does America have a gun problem, a violence problem, a mental health problem, or a toxic masculinity problem?  Do we have a combination of these problems? Why or why not?  And of course, I got a variety of responses where many of you said that we’re experiencing a combination of these issues.  And we watched this video looking at the history of the Brady Bill primarily (with a secondary quick look at the the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994) and a balanced look at how different people across the country view guns, both negatively or positively.  See the video below:

Why We Can’t Have a Civil Conversation About Guns from Retro Report Cuts on Vimeo.

We then talked about America’s distrust of standing armies, the country’s reliance on an armed militia to defend itself in the early days, and we read the 2nd Amendment and briefly discussed its history of being interpreted by the SCOTUS (History and court cases found here).  In a brief summary, there were very few legal challenges to the 2nd Amendment in the 19th and 20th Century, the cases primarily focused on the first clause of the Amendment on the well regulated militia, as exemplified by the Miller case in 1939 that seemed to tie gun ownership to being part of a militia.  However, scholars and legal experts continued to debate the issue in the latter half of the 20th Century as it appeared that most American gun-onwers were NOT part of an organized state militia given the establishment of a large, permanent army.  By the time SCOTUS determined D.C. v. Heller in 2008, the Court separated gun onwership from service in a militia officially and established an individual right to own a gun in your own home for protection.  This right was expanded in the 2010 case, McDonald v. City of Chicago and in last year’s case, NYSRPA v. Bruen which expanded the right to carry guns outside of the home instead of just in the home for self-defense.

And so when we looked at the 5 gun control advocacy groups and the 5 gun rights advocacy groups and their websites, we found a variety of goals and arguments for gun control or gun rights.  Some policy goals for gun control groups ranged from a new assault weapon ban, a limit or ban high capacity magazines (thanks to 4th hour, I found out that anything over 10 rounds is considered high capacity), increased stronger background checks, and limiting guns from “certain groups” as one of the groups put it, essentially enforcing or creating Red Flag laws or preventing those with a history of domestic violence from getting them.  One group, like the Brady Campaign, had some interesting stats and graphics, a few of which I could not find the source of their info (like 3 graphics below).      

They gave sources like the CDC for some of their stats on gun deaths, injuries, etc., but these three in particular I wanted to see the sources.  Some of the groups relied on first-hand accounts of traumatic shootings to bolster their claims, but it seemed that one of the newest groups founded in the wake of the Oxford and Uvalde shootings, Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence, didn’t seem to have any solid policy goals or proposals other than no gun violence in schools.  Looking across the five groups we analyzed, some groups have a state by state approach while others call for national legislation to achieve their policy goals.  Nowhere did these groups promote gun confiscation, which would most likely (I won’t say 100% because as we have seen in the past few years, some federal judges will approve or pass injunctions on the flimsiest of reasons) lose in any court in the land as a massive violation of the 2nd Amendment.  Personally, I believe that a confiscation law, first, would never pass Congress (no matter what kind of gun) though it might pass in a very liberal state but I still doubt it (because the law would never go into effect b/c gun rights groups would file an injunction in federal court to stop it from going into effect), and second, it is a direct violation of the 2nd Amendment.  Confiscation is a punishment inflicted on all Americans who own and handle their guns responsibly and for legitimate reasons.  Confiscation is fantastical thinking and completely unrealistic.  And if it happened in other countries, their circumstances nd histories greatly differ from the U.S..

On the gun rights side, most groups were opposed to any type of gun control as being an infringement upon a person’s absolute right found in the 2nd Amendment.  The NRA, the 2nd Amendment Foundation, and the Firearms Policy Coalition advocated for sport shooting and educating and expanding educational opportunities exposing teenagers to the importance of gun safety.  One group, National Association for Gun Rights, has currently as its website banner a misleading banner claiming that President Biden has signed an Executive Order requiring Universal Gun Registration (assumed to be much like how all kinds of vehicles are registered) which you can see here.

But what Biden’s EO, signed in March of this year, has done was to push for something close to universal background checks before gun purchases (see the EO here).  To be fair, the NRA paints an accurate portrayal of Biden’s EO here, but uses inflammatory headlines and pics (see below).  Biden’s Executive Order Targeting Gun Ownership

The main problem with these kinds of misleading and inflammatory headlines and graphics, as I see it, is likely intentional – to make the federal government led by Democrats out to be the adversary that must be defeated at all costs because your very rights – all of them – are at stake.  This leaves no room for compromise, and several of the gun rights groups we analyzed proudly proclaimed that they are against any kinds of compromise with gun control advocates.   And this kind of thinking can lead some small number of gun rights groups to engage in their own kind of fantastical thinking – that one person with their arsenal of guns will be able to prevent or stop a tyrannical government like the U.S. with the armed forces at their disposal (Don’t believe me? This is a quote from the FPC’s Constitution: “We believe that well-armed people make tyranny at scale significantly more costly and thus positively changes the economics of authoritarianism as against those People;”) (source).  This might have been true in 1791 when the Bill of Rights was approved, and the federal government had a tiny army.  But not now.  Like I mentioned previously, confiscation of all guns (or even just existing assault weapons) is an unealistic and unconstitutional pipe dream, and given the adversarial kind of thinking outlined above, would result in massive death and carnage.  But if some people think they can hold off or defeat the best-financed armed forces in the world, they are also engaging in fantastical thinking.

As you can see, we spent the majority of our time discussing attitudes about guns and why people might oppose or support gun control measures.  What I would like you to do is to return to the original pre-writing question and answer that along with your choice of questions below:

  1. Does America have a gun problem, a violence problem, a mental health problem, or a toxic masculinity problem?  Do we have a combination of these problems? Why or why not?  
  2. Is there another problem that is plaguing America besides any of the four listed above?  If so, what is it and how is it negatively affecting America?  If not, don’t answer this question.
  3. Listening to some of the gun control measures we had discussed the past 2 days, which of those would you support?  Why?
  4. If you think America has primarily a violence problem, what kinds of solutions can you envision would help address the problem?  Explain.
  5. If you think America has primarily a mental health crisis, what kinds of solutions can you envision would help address the problem?  Explain.
  6. What are your thoughts on the concept of toxic masculinity?  Is it real or is it some kind of made-up thing to target men for being naturally aggressive?  Or is it something else?  Explain why.  (This definition comes from Wikipedia – Toxic masculinity is thus defined by adherence to traditional male gender roles that consequently stigmatize and limit the emotions boys and men may comfortably express while elevating other emotions such as anger. It is marked by economic, political, and social expectations that men seek and achieve dominance.)

You must answer question #1 and then pick two additional ones to share your thoughts about.  If you use anything that is not your own original thought, please follow my example here and cite your sources.  Your total answer for all 3 questions should achieve a minimum of 400 words total.  Due Tuesday night, May 23, by 11:59 p.m.  

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Posted May 20, 2023 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

56 thoughts on “Blog #154 -What kind of problem do we have in America?

  1. Titus Smith

    1. Does America have a gun problem, a violence problem, a mental health problem, or a toxic masculinity problem? Do we have a combination of these problems? Why or why not?
    Yes, America has a gun problem. When it is common for children to hide under desks in fear of active shooters in elementary schools and high schoolers to practice defending themselves, it is evident America has a problem. The number of yearly mass shootings increases every year which shows that America has a problem. Some politicians seem to prefer letting kids die to letting go of a machine gun. When an 18-year-old kid fresh out of high school can legally and readily purchase a gun with no background check and little to no barriers, it is evident that America has a gun problem. There is violence everywhere no matter what but guns make the violence significantly easier and guns have a drastically high fatality rate, so while the problem is violence, guns are a crucial part of that problem.

    3. Listening to some of the gun control measures we had discussed the past 2 days, which of those would you support? Why?
    Among the various gun control measures we discussed in class, I find myself most supportive of background checks. The reason behind my support for background checks lies in their ability to prevent firearms from falling into the hands of individuals with dangerous backgrounds who may pose harm. By implementing background checks, individuals with concerning histories can be flagged, thereby preventing them from purchasing firearms. I particularly appreciate this aspect of background checks, as it ensures that people cannot simply walk into a store and acquire a gun without undergoing scrutiny regarding their past behavior and potentially criminal activities. Essentially, background checks serve as a deterrent to prevent unfit individuals from obtaining firearms and engaging in hazardous acts. However, it’s important to note that background checks also allow law-abiding citizens to continue acquiring guns, as they will appear in the system as non-threatening individuals, thus enabling them to purchase firearms without complications.
    5. If you think America has primarily a mental health crisis, what kinds of solutions can you envision would help address the problem? Explain.
    the United States is currently facing a significant mental health crisis, which has been worsened by the ongoing pandemic. Mental health issues have been on the rise, highlighting the urgent need for solutions. there should be an emphasis on increasing access to mental health resources. By improving accessibility, individuals would have greater opportunities to seek and receive the necessary support and treatment they require. Additionally, addressing the root causes of mental health problems is crucial. Identifying and addressing factors such as social determinants, adverse childhood experiences, and systemic issues can contribute to long-term prevention and improvement of mental well-being. Lastly, ensuring more affordable access to mental health resources is vital, as financial constraints should not be a barrier to receiving necessary care. By implementing these steps, it is possible to mitigate the increasing instances of mass shootings and gun violence, creating a safer environment for all individuals across America.

  2. Emily Kruntovski

    Does America have a gun problem, a violence problem, a mental health problem, or a toxic masculinity problem? Do we have a combination of these problems? Why or why not?
    I truly believe we have a combination of these problems in America today. I feel like the types of guns that are sold and readily available to most Americans are unbelievable. I cannot understand, other than members of the military should have access to semi-automatic or automatic guns. These types of guns seem to be the ones that are causing the mass shootings on the news lately. So many people can be hurt so fast with not even a chance to get away. I understand people want to have the right to have a gun for protection or a gun to be able to hunt, but these types of guns that are causing mass amounts of people to be hurt and killed do not need to be accessible to everyone. Even those in law enforcement do not use those types of weapons so why should every person have access? It is written in the 2nd amendment the right to bear arms which for some may hold true, but you should only need to use this gun for protection. It seems that most of the events that have occurred have been to strictly harm others intentionally. I am sure that this is where the idea of mental health could come into play in this debate. Looking at those that are committing these shootings, does their mental health concerns make them want to hurt others? As stated by Jon Cherry “Gun control components have typically framed the gun violence epidemic in the US as a symptom of a broader mental health crisis. But every country has people with mental health issues and extremists; those problems aren’t unique.

    What is unique is the US’s expansive view of civilian gun ownership, ingrained in politics, in culture and in the law since the nation’s founding.” (The latest mass shooting in Texas puts focus on America’s unique, enduring gun problem – Vox) Because the rights are truly part of the history of the nation, people feel like it can never be changed.
    Listening to some of the gun control measures we had discussed the past 2 days, which of those would you support? Why? I feel that I would support tougher rules on banning assault weapons, require background checks for all gun sales. These checks should be done before purchase, confirmation should be done to prevent those who are past felons or domestic abusers should not be able to purchase a gun. The order will also remove the gun manufacturers immunity from liability holding these gun sellers and manufacturers accountable. Better control and monitoring on Gun sellers to be sure they are following the rules in selling and not giving out weapons without proper checks. As far as ban of assault weapons, this is critical to implement, but will be difficult. In no other country is there access to these types of guns, there is no need for these types of guns in the hands of regular citizens.

    If you think America has primarily a violence problem, what kinds of solutions can you envision would help address the problem? Explain:
    I do believe that America has a violence problem. All of these mass shootings that have been happening seem like people want to cause as much harm to others as possible. Gun related violence is the biggest threat to basic human right to live. I feel like when guns are involved people feel threatened or fear which can ultimately effect a person for their whole life. It just seems like violence is the only way people want to deal with difficult situations. If we do not start to control the gun violence then people will be afraid to really function, they will not want to go to school, or go to work or go to a gathering thinking that something or someone is going to hurt them. We need to get back to dealing and talking about situations, not resorting to violence to be heard.

  3. Camryn J

    Yes, I think we have a combination of all of these problems. Though I believe the primary issue we have in America is with violence and lack of control, other factors such as mental health and toxic masculinity exacerbate that problem. I think the ease in which one can access a firearm in this country is the driving issue that we have. However, the stigma among Americans when it comes to mental health and vulnerability among men plays a role as well.

    4. I think the biggest change that needs to be is to the ease that someone can obtain a gun. Many Americans feel very threatened and upset at the thought of gun control. I think this is because of a genuine misunderstanding of what most envision. I don’t believe banning firearms is the first action we need to take. I think we need to increase things like background checks, training, and regulations for someone to get a gun. Some of the most horrific shootings I’ve heard about were so deadly because the shooter had access to an automatic weapon. Not only should it be harder to access a gun, but our country needs to take a look at the types of guns a regular citizen can access. When debates over gun control spark, we automatically discuss the second amendment. Something I think that is important to note is when the second amendment was written and the context we need to view it in. When the second amendment was created firearms were nowhere near what they are now. Saying everyone had the right to a gun that took five minutes between shots to reload is not the same as saying everyone should have the right to a semi automatic pistol. Additionally, I think that violence problems are much deeper than things like mental health and toxic masculinity. I think it’s important to look at struggling communities, where violence is more prevalent to fully understand changes we need to make sure that everyone is safe.

    6.I think toxic masculinity is completely a real thing. Just as young girls grow up learning things about the importance of their physical appearance for men, I think the same happens regarding emotions for men. I think toxic masculinity goes hand in hand with mental health issues. When people feel that they can’t be vulnerable and truly express themselves they can resort to isolation.

  4. Gillian Erickson

    1. our nation has a lot of problems relating to guns, violence, mental health, and toxic masculinity, instead of a singular issue. The high rates of gun-related violence, such as mass shootings and killings, make it clear that there is an issue with guns. Violence, in general,is not just related to guns, there are many more like domestic abuse and street crimes. The mental health problem is complex and sometimes related to other issues. For example, people with untreated or undiagnosed mental health conditions may be more prone to engaging in violence. Toxic masculinity, characterized by gender norms and hostility, can contribute to a world of violence. These problems reinforce each other, making it difficult to address them one by one. It is necessary to take a complete approach including steps to control access to guns, better mental healthcare, educational efforts to tackle toxic masculinity, and efforts to address the root causes of violence in American culture.

    4) Here are some of my ideas to address America’s gun violence problem.
    1. Better background checks to strengthen gun control measures and lower the availability of guns to people prone to violence.
    2. Better access to affordable mental health care that works. This would include early intervention and prevention programs that could help identify and support people who may be at risk to engage violent behavior.
    3. Community groups that work to address the root causes of violence, such as poverty, lack of education, and limited opportunities. This could help create safer environments and provide safer alternatives to violence.
    4. All in all we need to address systematic differences in the nation, to fix the underlying causes of violence in underprivileged communities.
    I think that these solutions could be used in government agencies, community organizations, healthcare providers, educators, law enforcement, in society.

    6) In my opinion, toxic masculinity is not a made-up concept to target men for being naturally aggressive but what it is, is a term used to critique harmful gender norms. Toxic masculinity can be shown in various ways like, hiding emotions, aggression, dominance, hostility, and objectification of women. These expectations can contribute to a range of issues, such as violence and mental health problems. It is also important to remember that toxic masculinity does not mean that all men do these behaviors. Toxic masculinity shows the pressures and expectations that can negatively impact people and it gives an opportunity to challenge and redefine gender norms for the benefit of everyone.

  5. Anaiah Green

    #1 Yes, America does have a gun problem a violence problem, a mental health problem and a toxic masculinity problem. We have these problems because they are engraved in American history. Americans have been patriots who have loved their guns since the beginning of our independence. America has a toxic masculinity problem for the same reason as why America has a gun problem. It’s been there since the beginning of the creation of this country even before. We have a mental health problem like many countries but because unlike a lot of countries in America it is not as easy to talk about your mental health because it can change the way the world looks at you

    #2 I think another problem America has is extreme political partisan issues. The country is so cripplingly divided by political parties. It’s hard for Americans to even coexist with someone from a different party. You can’t have a simple opinion on which party without being considered immoral. When someone has a preferred party they are seen as foolish. Usually a thought like this can be warranted because some people are super obsessed with their political ideologies. Then the leaders of these parties make up stupid reasons to prove that their party is the best and discredit the other party and supporters just blindly follow. They say things like the other party consist of liars or one party is full of racist people. People start to deeply believe what the leaders of these parties tell them. A lot of the time the people who a devoted to a political party aren’t even the ones the leaders of these parties are concerned about.

    #4 I do think America has a violence problem. I think a solution to this violence is to address the issue with income inequalities in society. Poverty has a lot to do with violence and crime and I think focusing on that can help. Also putting more effort in trying to provide Americans with education can help. School can give people a purpose and a sense of belonging as well as direction which can lead to less violence among young people. A lot of schools in America don’t have the proper funding to provide teachers with resources to invest in students’ education and well being enough to get them interacting in school so they may turn to other places that lead to violence.

  6. Jayda Evans

    I think America 100% has a gun violence problem. I think we do also have a general violence problem. On a nationwide level, we think that we can solve our problems by going to war, or on a personal level, by fighting. It doesn’t even have to be a physical fight. We think we can “win” by hurting someone. I think this is a huge factor in all of America’s mental health problems. Often mental health is stigmatized, and people are afraid to admit they go to therapy and it’s sad, because everyone deserves to have someone that listens to their problems and can help them. I also think we have a major toxic masculinity issue. I know just in school, I’ve asked some of my guy friends if I can paint their nails, and most of them say yes, but there are a few that just stare blankly at me and say, “I’m not gay” and then I am forced to educate them on the fact that putting colored paint on the tips of your fingers is not conversion therapy. Society has forced guys to fit into this macho gym rat stereotype but it’s wrong and I feel like that’s also why they feel like they can’t show their emotions, which leads to the bottling up of emotions.

    I do think there is another problem. I think another problem is when parents don’t know how to say no to their children. Some kids just have zero discipline, and it makes them think they can get away with anything. And if you’re a rich white man, you can. Which brings me to my problem with the police. Cops aren’t all bad of course, but it is an incredibly corrupt system that needs to be fixed. I don’t understand why it is taking so many innocent black people dying for people to understand that reaching straight for your gun isn’t the answer. I get that in certain situations you might not know what the right thing to do is, but even if someone is guilty of something, it is not up to the police officer to decide whether or not they die.

    I think a major factor is the mental health crisis, and I think we need to start talking more about mental health and make it feel less taboo. Being depressed or anxious is normal, and that’s something no one talks about. I myself am a huge advocate for mental health awareness. I talk to my friends and people that may be struggling openly about my personal mental health so people know they aren’t alone. I have an extensive list of mental disorders, and as hard as it is to talk about them, I do because someone out there might be struggling with the same thing. Mine include major depression disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, attention deficit disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. These things affect my daily life, but the difference is that I am receiving help. If my parent didn’t have great insurance, I would not be receiving help. I think that everyone should be able to get help no matter what their financial situation is. We have a wellness counselor at school and therapy dogs, but I think we need actual therapists that can provide real solutions to the problems that high school students might be having. And if this student is having thoughts about hurting themselves or others, that child’s parent needs to be called and they need to be helped. I think that kids also need to be more open to talking openly and honestly with their therapists and they have to want to get help and actually express their problems.

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