The newest contributor to NRA News, Billy argues that our political leaders focus on the tools of violence rather than the logic of violence, and this inevitably leads to bad policy.
Since the Newton tragedy there have been a lot of different people talking about guns, violence, and gun related violence. What strikes me about these conversations is many people are proposing solutions, but very few are talking about the causes of violence. How can we even begin to propose and assess potential solutions to a problem that we’ve neither defined nor do we fully understand?
Let me give you an example: When the FBI is called in to help solve a crime they typically bring in a profiler, someone who can help them get into the mind of the criminal. A profiler works under the basic assumption that there is a logic to violence and that if they can find that logic, they can predict, prevent, and solve violent crime. And yet, when we start talking about potential policies to curb violent activity, we skip this vital step.
In order to identify the logic behind violence, a profiler has to set aside judgments of right and wrong and ask what drives people to violence. What are the conditions in which violence makes sense?
Violence is inherently primal and therefore follows an evolutionary logic.
Let me break that down a bit.
One of the primary reasons people engage in violence is because they
perceive it will elevate (or simply maintain) their status in their social system.
We see this all the time. Violence is rife in gang-dominated cultures. Violence is the way that people in that system prove that they are a leader or a loyal follower. It is also the way that different gangs within the system vie for power and access to resources. In these examples, violence is a type of currency. Whomever has or displays the most, wins.
You might be thinking this is unique to gang culture, it’s not. The same is true in mainstream culture. If someone has regularly been kept on the outside of the system– maybe they are a social outcast, or they just don’t fit in. And then, we reward violence, especially national tragedies like Newtown or Columbine, with infamy and immediate celebrity, it follows that violence might be an attractive choice. It follows a logic, it will elevate their status within their social system. It’s important to note here, that this isn’t about actual threats to one’s survival it’s about the perception of threat, real or faint. If someone perceives a threat to their livelihood, they can often justify and will often choose violence.
The quest for survival, or even security, is one of the key drivers of state-sponsored violence, something I will discuss in more detail in a later video. But it also happens on a micro level.
When someone has an addiction to, say drugs, a threat to their access to that drug may very well seem like a threat to their survival. If violence can rectify that, it might make sense. It’s a logical choice if it assures their survival.
Survival isn’t only, or perhaps even primarily, physical. People commit violence to protect their financial status, their political status, and various other aspects of their livelihood. A perceived threat to any of those things can instigate a violent reaction.
I am not saying that violence is justified in any of these situations, nor am I saying it is not. That isn’t the point. The point is that there is a logic to violence. It follows identifiable and predictable patterns. The FBI calls this profiling, law enforcement calls this a motive, I call it the logic of violence. And yet, none of our policymakers seem to be talking about it at all.
If most violent crimes follow a logic, identifying that logic gives us access to the tools necessary to begin to curb violence. We can make policies to mitigate logical violence if we understand the logic. But instead of using this knowledge as a tool, we are constantly being asked to focus instead on a tool, a gun, that is sometimes used to commit violence. And that, is the most illogical thing of all.
According to the stats I began this video with, 10.3 violent crimes have been committed while you were watching. There is a good chance that none of those crimes involved a gun.
There is an equally good chance that all of those crimes followed a logic.