Here we are in the wake of another heart shattering mass murder of children in an American school. The pattern of response has become so familiar: shock, outrage, mourning, discussions about the odd, solitary, bullied perpetrator from a broken home who loved guns. And then the inevitable turn to the panacea: gun control.
I don’t have a problem with controlling the ability of Americans to purchase weapons. Coming from Israel, where you need to jump through many hoops, including the ability to convince the licensing bureau why you need a gun before you can purchase one (and believe me, every Israeli has a very good reason to have a gun these days), it seems a no-brainer. However, if Americans want to prevent the next tragedy, gun control isn’t nearly enough.
First, Americans have to do something about the breakdown of their society. The assault against the family structure in America which began in the Sixties with the “new morality” has had devastating results, with the biggest losers being America’s children.
A new Pew Research Study of 130 countries and territories shows that the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households. Almost a quarter of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults (23%), more than three times the children around the world who do so (7%).
This might have something to do with the fact that about half of all marriages in America end in divorce. And that might have something to do with the fact that 165 million Americans 12 or older currently abuse drugs, if we include alcohol and tobacco. Forty seven percent of young people have used an illegal drug by the time they graduate from high school.
Add to that the statistics of teenage addiction to online gaming and the true picture of the nightmare teenage school shooters becomes frighteningly clear. A 2021 study in the journal Addictive Behaviors found that among 3,000 students, more than 19 percent of males and 7.8 percent of females were classified as having gaming disorder or addiction. And those numbers are likely to increase as the industry gains even more ground.
In the United States, spending on video games grew by 30 percent in the second quarter of 2020, to a record $11.6 billion. Worldwide, gaming industry revenue is expected to reach $180 billion in 2021, with an estimated 2.5 billion people playing around the globe. That will mean even more children addicted to video games like Fortnite, Minecraft, Fall Guys, and Animal Crossing, which are among the most popular video games for teens.
In a Chinese study of the Center for Mental Health education at Southwest University in Chongqing, researchers found that male adolescents especially saw online gaming addicts suffering from increased “social anxiety, depression and loneliness.” The excessive use of online games may isolate players from the real world and “does little to facilitate the development of real life relationships.” Almost thirteen years ago, research into the effects of of pathological gaming, regardless of violent content, was shown to predict an increase in physical aggression among boys. And this is without taking into consideration how many murders and other violent crimes to which children have been exposed by television and movies, not to mention real life.
It is time that Americans wake up to the fact that the horrific mass shootings that are breaking the hearts of the American people are the result of a deeper malaise that is eroding values and sending American society into a tailspin in which its young people are growing up unloved, unsupervised, and extremely angry; angry enough to shoot their parents and grandparents, and pull the trigger on helpless children.
Taking away the guns from those who have no reason to have them is a good start, but as a panacea will disappoint. The disaffected loners who are the waste products of America’s toxic and rapidly disintegrating social fabric will find another way to express their hatred. You can bet on it.