Men: Put Down Your Guns

Tuscon shooting rampage suspect Jared Lee Loughner is pictured in this undated booking photograph released by the U.S. Marshals Service on February 22, 2011. REUTERS/U.S. Marshals Service/Handout

(The above people all have something in common. Let me give you a hint, they can pee standing up.)

As too often I have had to say this I say it again. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those involved in any senseless murders. I write to understand and to give more insight into how we can fix this troubling trend in our country.

Ae Padilla

Let’s regulate guns and let’s focus on mental health. Good, I got that out of the way quickly. Because I refuse to be (at least for now) one of the countless of Google results for the left and right argument about how to stop these seemingly normal killing sprees in our country. It’s not that I don’t think those articles are relevant, or that they don’t start a dialogue that should have been started a long time ago, because I do. I just think for the sake of a different opinion, and one of course I fully agree with, we need to discuss something that is not often discussed enough.

Because we do discuss these shootings, we discuss them frequently and it is usually perpetuated by the recent mass killing event like the one in Oregon at Umpqua Community College on October 1st 2015. We see them trending on twitter next to funny hashtags like #Imhappywhen (fill in the blank here.) We see them satirized on The Daily Show. We see them scrolling on the bottom of our breaking news bar. But we still never talk about the one fact that is staring us straight in the face.

How “American” of us to ignore the fact that 98 percent of those who commit mass murders are men. That all of these violent crimes, in what we deem one of the most civilized countries on Earth, are done by males and those who self-identify as males.

Now I know what you are thinking, an influx of thoughts I hope to hit spot on with my argument following this. The first being that I am a woman, which lends itself to the idea that I am man hating or man blaming. Yes, I am a woman. And yes, I am blaming men among other people. But hopefully you realize that is because we need to.

In a situation as pivotal as innocent lives being taken (and hopefully being saved) I have to follow statistics, because statistics never lie. The fact provided to us is that again 98 percent of those who go on mass killing sprees (a figure reinvented to shooting at least four people without a “cooling off” period) are men. With this declaration we have the “who” of our puzzle figured out automatically. Who does this? Males, more specifically males between the ages of 18-25. We have the where (spin the wheel ladies and gentlemen and pick between church, mall, school.) And we have the when (now every single day in the United States- as I write this two different shootings have occurred in two separate universities just in the past ten hours.)

But still there is that pesky little why. We all look for the why. We long for the why as a society. I wrote a whole book (Ekland) based on the why, why someone would commit the worst legal and moral crime a human can commit on a fellow human. But maybe what we should all be asking is not why. But why are men committing these crimes? Because maybe some more important answers will follow if we ask that question instead.

Let me instead make declarative statements than ask questions simply for the sake of asking questions. Men commit these massacres, unlike women, because they live in a society which fosters their entitlement to commit these acts. They live in a world which demands they have one hyper extended view on what masculinity means to them. Although a combination of biological urges, I would go as far as to say testosterone and innate aggression as do most scientists, contribute to these rampages, it is as I believe most things are — nurture over nature. We as a society accept the violence in males, denounce their violence too, and by doing so glorify that same extreme violence. In this case world, maybe you don’t need to pull the trigger to have a part you play in the murder of innocent people.

To start this off is to start off in childhood, before any male would ever be able to know what a mass shooting is, in the developmental years we didn’t know were so crucial until mom and dad blogs started popping up across the web. We’ve heard it before, and it resonates with us, because it rings true.

Boys are more likely to be hyper active and destructive when they are younger than girls because they are “hardwired” that way, because evolution over thousands of years has not changed from the days in which men had to be the dominating force in the family. This was and is due usually to external pressure from outside harm — basically men needed to be the protector, and the violence was warranted and justified. Women were (and are still) seen as the more nurturing types, hold any kitchen jokes.

In reality there is little research to prove this theory, and if part of that science does hold true then the actions behind what evolution would say are not.

In reality we are all a product of our society, (yes even you hipsters.) Because most likely we grew up, subconsciously or not, from an authoritative influence being told certain “truths.” Girls need to behave themselves and learn to communicate over tea cups. Boys can play around and hurt each other because my favorite: “boys will be boys.” That’s not to say that girls shouldn’t want to play house while boys should not want to roll around in the mud or vise versa, that is only to say that before kids are even aware of what gender differences mean they are being forced into them – and boys aggression, which can easily be turned to violence, is overlooked as something fun.

And we are ok with this “fun” because we realize that it is “make believe,” if only for the moment. If you aren’t buying it then you aren’t hanging around enough 5-7 year old boys. My own personal example, available to anyway who has been in a classroom, is the seemingly normal way that boys pretend to shoot each other when they play games. They raise their hand into a fake gun position, we’ve all done it, and then point it at another kid and yell “you’re dead, you’re dead.” They will probably laugh afterward, and really that’s the end of it.

Oh look at our acceptability of this so early on.

Lets be honest, no one pops out of the womb knowing what a hatchet, machete, or a gun is. Unless the republicans are reading the second amendment to their stomach, knowing your rights is not an option here. Where boys at such an early age get this idea of  normal gun violence is from you guessed it – the media.

Whether it be books, movies, or video games, firearms particularly the American handgun is rooted as being the intrinsic sign of male power. And boys pick up on this soon. Guns are given to sons as early gifts and fathers take their sons to gun shows before they can see over the counter. It’s not that I have any problem with the concept of a firearm, that I do not understand its purpose. I might lean to the left on a lot of issues, but with most of them I can see the middle. My problem with “the gun” is that we have placed it in the hands of young boys, who see it as a rite of passage too often and the only way to attain power. And that the more guns you have, the more people you kill on video games equals the more respect you have not even from others, and listen this is important here, but from yourself.

Let’s take the example of Vito Corelone, everyone’s favorite Italian from The Godfather. One of the main character as the “alpha” male for lack of a better term. His gun of choice? A Smith & Wesson Model 27 Snub nosed revolver with 3.5″ barrel – .357 magnum. Not to dismiss that there were no double barrel shotguns used in this film at all, but what is so striking about his firearm is how “small” it would be by today standards. A gun like that, in a figure we deem a hero in an action movie nowadays, wouldn’t be enough for us. That’s why it only took about twenty five years give or take for Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss to use semi-automatic guns in the Matrix.

You might be thinking, well there is a female right there, using a gun as a male would! Clearly this is not just a male issue. Yes females use guns, but in the context of popular culture they use it as an accessory to their attractiveness, not all that different from how a female in modern times might be found more desirable because she goes to the range. With males in the media, the more guns they have and more importantly the bigger their guns or weapon of choice (think The Terminator here) is the more power they have. The direct relation cannot be argued, and more importantly the idea of guns being “womanized” proves this point also. How many times, I am speaking to the women who have bought a gun, have you been directed toward a pink gun to buy? I know I have.

Now there is nothing wrong with buying a pink gun, they look pretty cute if guns can be cute, but what happens when one is offered to you is a display of the niche market that gun makers are catering towards – women. Men are the ones who own the most firearms and they are the ones who control first and foremost how they look and how they are branded.

To summarize: boys are able to realize that guns kill and that guns are commanding, two deadly combination early in life. And when you add into the mix entitlement it only gets worse.

Unless you fail to acknowledge any type of history, please disregard Texas History books as actual history, then you know that men, particularly White Christian men, have always been the most privileged people in this country. They are the only group of people that have never been denied their unalienable rights. They were always allowed to vote. They were always allowed to own firearms. With privilege comes, unless actively worked against it, entitlement. This is the idea that White men feel as if they are owed everything because they once were given it before…usually at the expense of others.

Never for a second believe that entitlement does not lead men to formulate these mass killings we see today, because it does. Entitlement from the male shooter can come from the threat of his religion or race, the religion or race he feels all “alpha” males should have. It can come from the belief that he should have gotten a raise at a job (because losing a job to men has been statistically seen as a harder emotional burden to carry) or it can come from the simple rejection from women.

Case in point for these observations is first, Dylan Roof. “I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. … We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the Internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.” Roof, writing his manifesto, focused on the duty he felt that he had to rid the world of Black people because they were posting a threat to how he perceived America (a place of the superior White Christian man.) Killing nine churchgoers in Charleston was his way of reaffirming his entitlement in this country.

Or Elliot Rodger of the 2014 Isla Vista Killings in California who according to Wikipedia “ described his childhood, family conflicts, frustration over not being able to find a girlfriend, his hatred of women, his contempt for racial minorities and interracial couples, and his plans for what he described as “retribution”” in his own manifesto. Targeting women in a sorority as he drove by shooting at them, he displayed what too many of these killers have in common: everyone else, including women, are the problem.

This is not to say that every killer is White, and that this race is the downfall of all of these murderers. Seung-Hui Cho, the man responsible for the deadliest violent gun act on this country at Virginia Tech was South Korean. But Seung-Hui Cho, like countless others, complained often about the women who had rejected him, the hope for a girlfriend, and the disappointment that he was still a virgin. In fact many of these men die virgins including the Columbine Killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who rant in their journals about their sexual shortcomings. Harris himself in 1999 said: “If people would give me more compliments all of this [the attack] might still be avoidable…. You know what, maybe I just need to get laid. Maybe that’ll just change some shit around.” He goes onto write his “hit list” which include women who have rejected him (this is extremely common with all killers.)

Because in a world that we live in the rejection from women is not just a personal blow, but one that can snowball into wanting to kill the women who reject them. It does not matter if they actually end up killing those particularly women, just that this is seen as an acceptable thought pattern for them.

In the case with race among men who attack people, there have been an increasing number of minorities who commit mass murders. In direction proportion of killers to the general population White men still outnumber by just a small fraction, but they do. White men seem to kill people on a larger scale but Black men are disproportionately likely to commit homicides and be the victims. My argument is that men in general, and the increasing number of minority men who do kill on a mass level are remembering their status quo or buying into their new one – they deserve to kill because they are better than everyone in the classroom or public space they kill. Isn’t it easier to walk into a place and start firing when you feel as if you are better than everyone in that place? When the world has been telling you that since you were born?

It’s easy of course to point to mass killings as our basis in all facts about men killing, but most of the gun violence in our country happens domestically. 70 percent of mass shootings actually happen inside a house, and most of them are perpetuated by men. The victims are often women and children and those men that are killing them most likely know them. Usually a revenge killing by an ex-boyfriend or by someone who was been “wronged” by a women is what triggers these acts. These aren’t discussed enough, and most likely will continue not to be, because it is often looked at as a personal issue and not sensational enough to be on the news. But here again is men for the most part in the roll of killer.

And that roll is not just on other people, it is often on themselves too. There will be others who jump on the idea that I am waving a pitchfork hoping to bring down the entirety of the male species, that is not the case at all. Often I speak about the trouble that men go through with gun violence, inflected on them by the help they do not or rather cannot seek. Millions of men a year commit suicide, but like domestic abuse, it is rarely talked about. For a few reasons this holds true: the idea that committing suicide is an act we wish as a society never happened. Because of course, it garners no clicks on articles, and because it would remind us that that we are not doing enough to help the men who do this.

While women are more likely to attempt suicide it is men unfortunately who go through with the act more, because men often assist the help of firearms to kill themselves as opposed to pills or other methods which are capable of being stopped. While women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, it is men that are unable to take the steps to help themselves with depression and suicidal thoughts.

In a society which demands that men “man up” a male talking about their problems is simply the last thing he wants to do, he would rather instead take out his anger on a group of people and get killed or commit suicide in the process. Which begs the question, are some mass murderers killing people simply because they can’t say I need help?

That may seem like pushing the boundary but I don’t think it is at all. Countless reports across college campuses and from psychiatrists state that men are less likely to seek help and less likely to go therapy, a choice which could ultimately save their lives. And they don’t do this because they have been brought into a world which states that having depression is a “woman problem.” And that if you are sad, the only word acceptable to use because how dare you use depressed, than talking is not the way to alleviate yourself of feeling this way. That is why often after the death of people, or after divorces, men find their outlet for depression as being more active. This can be anything from running to fixing cars to playing video games. But most of the time they try to brush it off, even taking care of others before taking care of themselves.

But what does this have to do with shooters? It has a great deal to do with them actually, considering that a reports puts those who go on rampages as usually being suicidal first. The number is somewhere around 70 percent and that should hopefully wake up America’s shrugging attitude of indifference. (By the way, when I heard that Christopher Harper-Mercer was apparently discharged from the army for a suicide attempt I was not surprised, it actually made more sense.)

It does not matter how we can help innocent victims if we do not help the victims before they become the perpetrators, which is why it was very important to me to write a line in Ekland which deals with this idea (I swear I can’t plug my book if it is not even on shelves.) “They would only care about us because we were a threat to others never because we were a threat to ourselves.” In all honesty, sad but true, how often do people say “why didn’t he just kill himself?” after the events we have read about too often on the news. Shame on us for even thinking that in context to not saving innocent lives but dismissing someone elses.

Can we make our world a place where the actions to help men’s self aren’t physical? I hope so. But they come from women and from men alike. It’s not enough to hear the funny dismissive words of men saying that women will never go on rampages because women are too nice and not crazy enough to do anything like that. That is not complimenting a women it is not taking accountability as men.

Before anything else is thrown this blog’s way, violence in women is slowly but steadily on the rise too, and it has been apparent before. 16 year old Brenda Spencer in 1979 shot at an elementary school injuring eight students before answering to cops why she did it simply with “I don’t like Mondays.” Then we have a foiled plan in 2015 from a woman who wanted to commit mass murder with her friend on Valentine’s Day. She hoped to be “The first female shooter” – proving that maybe the only way we will start remembering the names of the people who do this now is if the names are female.

We talk about statistics, we talk about what we could do to curb these horrifying heinous acts. If 98 percent of people who did this were White, Black, Hispanic, Asian we would talk about it. If 98 percent of people who did this resided in the south we would talk about this. Hell if 98 percent of people who did this were obsessed with one certain movie we would talk about it. We would dissect it that much.

But we won’t talk about this. Why is that? Is that because after everything this is the most politically incorrect thing to say? You tell me.

But the statement stands true. Men, put down your guns.

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