Diving Deeper into the Heart of Gun Violence

L. Michael Hall
2022 Neurons #22
May 30, 2022


Thinking superficially will lead you to look at a gun, which does the immediate violence in a mass shooting, and, presto, you will suddenly and absolutely know the problem. You know the problem and the whole problem—guns. Of course, at this point you are thinking very shallowly. You are not considering who is holding the gun, or pointing it, or why. You are also not considering the context of the shooter—his immediate context, his mental health or the lack of it, his ability or inability to cope with reality, his inner anger, rage, depression, mythologies, prejudices, etc.

Thinking a bit more systemically, we need to consider three of the key factors: the person, the weapon, and the environment. To focus exclusively on the tool for the violence (in this case a gun) is to ignore the much more important variables— the context and the person.
∙ Why are almost all mass shooters young men?
∙ Why are they young men with a history of adaptive problems? (Violence, drugs, alcohol, gangs, domestic abuse, etc.)
∙ Why are they individuals with mental disorders?

These are the questions that need to be asked. With all of the strict gun laws and background checks that have been passed, the solution is not more of the same. Why? Because the problem is not external; it is not the gun. A person who wants to kill can use a knife, a hammer, a car, a bomb— all sorts of external devices will do. The problem is internal. The problem is inside the person who wants to kill.

Yes something is seriously wrong, but what’s wrong are not the gun laws. We already have laws that prevent guns getting into the wrong hands. What we don’t have are laws that identify those wrong hands. We need “red flag” laws for that. Even more we need to address the environment in which young men grow up. Today they are exposed to an incredible amount of violence on TV, in the movies, on the internet, sometimes on their streets. But where are they to learn how to interpret the difference between make-believe movie violence and real violence? We need to do more to address the idea that violence solves problems. It never does.

We also need to address the home environment where there is far too often a lack of respect for self and others, discipline, focus on self-improvement. We need to address the school environment where there is a failure to teach the most important things—how to learn, how to care about learning, how to learn about oneself, how to care about others, how to grow up and be a moral person, etc.

The problem is an inside–out problem. What happens outside is but a symptom and/or expression of the inside world. And that’s where the problem is in these young men. In a book that I’m working on at the moment on Predictive Thinking, I wrote the following on the subject of hope. In presenting a Hope Spiral, one that can go up as well as down, I wrote this:
“If frustration is not positively dealt with, it tends to become a toxic form of anger—unuseful and destructive. That’s when it spirals downward. People then turn their anger against the world, against others, the government, God, or whoever (or whatever) they think is the cause of the interference. This anger, is not only unuseful, it is more typically counter-productive. And if the anger finds no effective and legitimate expression that helps to deal with the block, the anger becomes toxic. It then becomes rage. Such rage is then anger lashing out, usually mindlessly and that, in turn, creates even more problems for the person. It ruins relationships and resources.
Rage in the context of loss of hope often results in destructiveness. It could be destructiveness against oneself (i.e., suicide, drugs, alcoholism). It could be destructiveness against others and society (i.e., violence, crime, gangs, nihilism). These are expressions of hopelessness. People of hope do not do these things; only those without hope. Hope immunizes us from those forms of destructiveness. Hope is the cure for being human and living humanly.” (Predictive Thinking, p. 116, to be published in a month or two)

Now take a high-school drop-out such as the kid in Uvalde, Texas, a kid who was bullied by others, and who apparently had learned that violence is a solution. He was also a person who was undoubtedly living without hope. And living without hope can turn a person ugly and bitter inside so that it becomes mindless rage and violence. That’s the problem we have to solve. We have to create cultures of hope. Problems that have their source on the inside have to be solved by an inside solution. That’s where we need to look.

For more, see the two newest books from Neuro-Semantics: www.neurosemantics.com/shop/

Inside–Out: Empowered from Within (2022)
Inspiring the Heart (2022)