How Do We Change the Culture of Gun Violence in America? Protect Our Kids

COMMENTARY Crime and Justice

How Do We Change the Culture of Gun Violence in America? Protect Our Kids

Jun 17th, 2022 3 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Terris Todd

Program Manager, Civil Society and the American Dialogue

Terris is the program manager for Civil Society and the American Dialogue at The Heritage Foundation.
I believe that we have adopted a culture of crime in this country. Christina Gessler / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Several mass shootings have dominated the media the past several weeks, and it’s left us as a country asking why these horrific incidents continue to happen.

Individuals, families, communities and corporations need to make responsible choices regarding violence in media production and consumption.

Although we cannot individually end mass shootings, we can collectively govern our children into a productive life.

Several mass shootings have dominated the media the past several weeks, and it’s left us as a country asking why these horrific incidents continue to happen.

I believe that we have adopted a culture of crime in this country, and until people—primarily parents—take steps to limit their children from seeing violence and teach them to respect law enforcement and respect the correct use of firearms, we will continue to see a generation of people committing violent crimes that include mass shootings from rural farm towns to the inner cities.

In Black American neighborhoods, we have normalized shootings that happen on the busy corner near the liquor store. Here’s one all-too-frequent narrative: Gang members roll up in a vehicle to another set of gang members. They have a shootout, and someone ends up murdered—either the intended target, an innocent bystander or both. The family of the deceased resorts to setting up a fund to bury the deceased. The case then goes unsolved because no one will testify.

Here’s another narrative: Our kids are watching and playing too many violent video games that normalize and glamorize shooting and killing people. These games, by themselves, may not turn kids into killers, but they certainly desensitize their users. For Father’s Day, I would like to see dads take leadership and stop their sons from playing such games at a young age. It is detrimental to their mental health.

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Individuals, families, communities and corporations need to make responsible choices regarding violence in media production and consumption.

We cannot overlook the fact that music, entertainment, technology, gaming—all of these things have contributed to us embracing a culture of crime. Many of you can remember music from back-in-the-day. When I was growing up in the 1970s and ‘80s, and when my parents grew up in the ‘60s, the music seemed to be more uplifting and positive, especially during the Motown era. 

Those old-school songs told stories about life. They gave us stories about relationships and how they were in love with their woman or with their man. People danced to the old-school music and had a good time at dance parties or clubs.

Today, we have music that encourages shooting, sexualization of others, drugs, dishonoring one another—and worse. The list goes on and on.

On one video game out now, a player gets points for shooting someone or by dropping bombs on them. We have technology that is so advanced and so accessible, it’s undoubtedly damaging our kids' ability to think critically or rationally. Children’s brains are not fully developed, and they can't really decipher between good and evil at an early age.

There’s a common denominator in the crime stories we see or read about. There is always hate in the heart of the perpetrator. 

If it’s someone from a different ethnicity shooting and killing people in a grocery store and claiming to be a White supremacist, it’s a hate crime. 

If it’s a gang member in Chicago who shot a 7-year-old girl six or seven times as she sits in the back seat of her father’s car at a fast-food drive-thru, it’s a hate crime.

If a crazed man shoots people for no apparent reason on a New York City subway, where the strictest gun laws in the country exist, it’s a hate crime.

Yet while a mass shooting at a grocery store is considered a hate crime, the shooting of a little girl in Chicago is not listed as a hate crime. As such, it doesn’t receive the coverage it deserves. Let’s demand media outlets report on mass shootings in the inner cities as much as they report on mass shootings in rural areas and suburbs.

One must ask the question, “Why are these shootings not happening in our urban schools?” Perhaps because they have armed personnel on site, multiple locked doors and security cameras.

Finally, parents are their child’s first government. Parents set the law in their child’s life. Unfortunately, some parents, little by little, hand their children over to another government, and it often leads to the destruction of the family.

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The Heritage Foundation has written articles that speak to this specific topic, stating that family plays an essential role in developing thriving children and adolescents, and its role must be respected in policy and supported in communities. Unfortunately, more and more, children are experiencing disruptions in what ought to be their most secure environments.

Civil society institutions, like churches and support groups, play a critical role in building and maintaining safe and thriving communities.

This Father’s Day, my prayer goes out to the families who have lost loved ones to violent crime. Although we cannot individually end mass shootings, we can collectively govern our children into a productive life.

Always be proactive so your kids won’t be adopted into a culture of crime.

This piece originally appeared in The Detroit News