I was asked why I thought today’s youth seem more prone to gun violence (and violence, in general). That is – why is this a recent issue rather than one seen over a much longer history (especially when kids had far more exposure to weapons)?
Frankly, the question itself contains a good part of the answer – exposure.
When I was young (I promise, it wasn’t that long ago – the 80s), I remember my dad teaching me gun safety with the bb gun. I also learned that I would get a nice butt kicking if I didn’t practice what I was taught and if I used the gun without permission. My dad was always happy to pull out the gun and go shooting with me whenever I asked. I had also seen the guns at my grandmother’s home and knew where they were stored (no they weren’t not locked up but the ammo was in a separate, known, location).
So why didn’t I shoot myself or one of my friends etc? Basically, due to the openness of having guns around and my family’s matter-of-fact attitude, guns were never a draw to me. Rather than being taboo, they were more like a common object seen anywhere (like a sharp knife – who cares). The exposure and knowledge of proper use made the gun uninteresting.
I played outside a bunch as a kid but also did watch a fair amount of TV. Nevertheless, the programs (movie and TV) on weren’t overly focused on the pyrotechnics (usually more on characters overcoming a challenge) and portrayed the use of firearms as a defensive means (ie the good guys used them to stop the bad guy, typically in a very short shoot out). Things were much more focused on the storyline.
Now, people hide their guns, don’t teach their kids about them. Folks are so paranoid they avoid any discussion about the gun and don’t offer to take the kids shooting. Children learn gun use from violent TV shows much more focused on pyrotechnics (blasting everything in sight – guns are the storyline) and an offensive use of firearms (today, the evil character is often elevated to hero or all characters are portrayed as moral equivalents) along with the news media constantly treating firearms as a taboo.
The result is that kids see guns as a very intriguing item with the idea that they are used to shoot people for fun.
For my friends and I, we weren’t tempted to check out the gun when mom and dad were out of the house simply because it wasn’t worth the risk of being caught – all we had to do was ask and dad would take us shooting. Today’s kids, on the other hand, have a much greater temptation – it may be their only chance to take a look at mom/dad’s cool thing and try out that neat stuff on TV.
Ultimately, much of this lies on the breakup of the traditional family and the tolerance of declining moral values.