America doesn't need gun control; Americans' need to be less "trigger happy" when triggered by unhappiness or upset
I don't know about you, but as I look out from my home I don't often see hostile Indians with bows and arrows trying to kill me or my family, nor do I see a wild animal bent on eating me (recent appearances of bears in Los Angeles' suburbs notwithstanding). Maybe robbers or armed burglars are a real threat and certainly the urban violence of gangs is a real threat to those who live there.
The laws regarding the right to bear arms to protect oneself were written when that was a legitimate reason to have a gun. However the need to protect oneself appears to have shifted to the need to retaliate and seek revenge on those who may have embarrassed or humiliated or laughed at us.
Why is there such a need to violently do that? What is there about other cultures like Britain or Japan that don't need to resort to violence when they are insulted?
I think multiple factors are involved.
First, the vast majority of people that resort to guns to retaliate against slights to their ego are men. When we are young, parents and teachers fight an uphill and in the end losing battle to get boys and then men to "use their words" to deal with conflict. Some of the reasons boys and men find that so difficult is that males are driven by testosterone and adrenaline, a.k.a. aggression and the need to fight vs. flee. Men who feel they lack courage, don't feel like men. Women on the other hand are driven by oxytocin and estrogen, a.k.a. bonding and building (nesting). Men also have less of a connection between the left (logical) and right (emotional) sides of their brains -- via a connection called the corpus callosum -- than women. That means that as emotional as women may get (and vent it verbally), the logical and emotional sides of their brains are more connected. That connection may contribute to the sixth sense that women appear to have about their children and spouses. The greater disconnect in men means that they can go from robot-like logical to "fanatical" baseball fan ranting in the blink of an eye.
Second, Americans appear to pride themselves on being the "cowboys" of the world. To Americans that makes them feel that they are courageous warriors. To the rest of the world such rude "we don't need no stinkin' badges" cowboy behavior seems more like we are merely "enfants terrible." Americans act as if their impulse is their command. They eschew having to resist impulses and instead view it's their God-given right to gratify them. The most primitive and immature among us might even think, "God wouldn't have given me these impulses, if He didn't want me to act on them."
Third, other countries find comfort in their traditions. Britain likes having a Royal Family. Japan likes much of its dress, food habits, "respectful" way of interacting with each other and has a deep respect for its history. The respect for and even love of tradition in other Western cultures is like a safety brake on runaway impulses. They serve as the "superego" showing oversight to a runaway "id" (the American feminist revolution did such a good job of discrediting Freud and his oedipus work, that they also threw out his ego psychology with the bath water). America sees itself as innovative and glorifies "disruptive" thinking and pushing the envelope. And regarding our history, people from foreign countries know more about American history than Americans from their education -- another institution that Americans think is unnecessary.
What's the solution?
The core values of a people serve as a filter and grand interpreter of experience. Until we develop shared values where we find exercising restraint, pausing before we shoot from the hip (literally or figuratively), controlling the push for immediate gratification in the service of lasting satisfaction, focusing on what we have to be grateful for instead of retaliating and seeking revenge for what's missing we will continue to be a nation that uses its guns when it should "use its words."
I will be on Canada AM on Monday, July 30 at 8:05 a.m. EDT to discuss psychopathy vs. psychosis and schizophrenia as it might relate to the state of mind of the Colorado shooter.
Follow Mark Goulston, M.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/markgoulston