ACTION ALERT: What Makes American Society So Violent?
November 14, 2017
Emily Costello / The Conversation & Shannon Watts / Everytown for Gun Safety
There are several factors behind US violence. A child who is spanked learns that physical force is an acceptable method of problem solving. Many states still allow corporal punishment in schools, despite research that clearly shows long-term negative effects. America's gun culture often causes police to fear for their own safety, resulting in unnecessary shootings. A culture of aggression sends men to prison and follows these prisoners behind bars. Increasing use of guns only feeds mass killings.
What Makes American Society So Violent?
Emily Costello / The Conversation
(October 6, 2017) -- These stories from The Conversation archive explore how violence permeates different aspects of American society.
#1. Kids Today
Do American parents teach their kids violent behavior through the use of corporal punishment? A professor of psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University and Tufts Medical School, Ronald Pies takes up the question: "Is it OK to spank a misbehaving child once in a while?"
Pies begins by acknowledging that researchers and parents often disagree on this topic, but ultimately concludes "spanking a child may seem helpful in the short term, but is ineffective and probably harmful in the long term. The child who is often spanked learns that physical force is an acceptable method of problem solving."
And yet, Pies doesn't feel that parents who spank their children need a stern lecture -- and certainly not an even stronger punishment.
"It isn't that the parent is "evil" by nature or is a "child abuser," Pies writes. "Often, the parent has been stressed to the breaking point, and is not aware of alternative methods of discipline -- for example, the use of "time-outs," removal of privileges and positive reinforcement of the child's appropriate behaviors."
#2. Paddling Still Frequent
Unfortunately, parents' belief in corporal punishment often follows their children to school.
As Joseph Gagnon of the the University of Florida writes, "19 states still allow corporal punishment [in schools], despite research that clearly indicates such public humiliation is ineffective for changing student behavior and can, in fact, have long-term negative effects."
According to Gagnon, every day approximately 838 students are paddled in American schools. And children in less affluent communities were more likely to be hit.
Why is this practice still so pervasive? Gagnon and his colleagues talked to school principals to find out. They learned, "principals cite pressure from parents as a primary reason for using corporal punishment. Despite the science, the idea that corporal punishment is effective, 'Because that's how I was raised,' pervades the discussion."
#3. A Culture of Aggression
Of course, schools aren't the only institutions in the US were physical violence takes place. The criminal justice system is another. Paul Hirschfield of Rutgers University studies violence perpetuated by police in various countries.
"American police kill a few people each day, making them far more deadly than police in Europe," Hirschfield writes.
Although the cause of police killings is complex, Hirschfield believes one factor is American gun culture -- which causes the police to fear for their own safety in too many situations.
"American police are primed to expect guns," Hirschfield writes. "It may make American policing more dangerous and combat-oriented. It also fosters police cultures that emphasize bravery and aggression."
#4. Behind Prison Walls
Too few of us take the time to think about how that culture of aggression follows prisoners behind bars, writes Heather Ann Thompson, a professor of History and Afro-american and African Studies at the University of Michigan.
"That so many are blissfully unaware of just how many people are, or have been, subject to containment or control is, perhaps, unsurprising," Thompson writes. "Prisons are built to be out of sight and are, thus, out of mind."
And yet, Thompson writes, "the closed nature of prisons remains a serious problem in this country" -- and one that demands closer scrutiny.
"In September 2016, prisoners at facilities across the country erupted in protests for better conditions," Thompson writes. "In March and April of 2017, prisons in Delaware and Tennessee similarly exploded. In each of these rebellions, the public was told little about what had prompted the chaos and even less about what happened to the protesting prisoners once order was restored."
But, she writes, "it is obvious that much trauma takes place behind bars while we aren't watching."
NationofChange is a nonprofit organization that provides an online magazine, daily newsletter, and activist platform -- all free to the public. It's hard, expensive work, and our daily operations are funded entirely by donations.
ACTION ALERT: Movement to End Gun Violence
Shannon Watts / Everytown for Gun Safety
In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting -- the largest and deadliest mass shooting in modern American history -- we know that there's no easy solution to gun violence in our country. But we know the answer is NOT inaction.
This is a critical time for our movement -- a movement of more than 4 million Americans, including more than 60,000 Moms Demand Action volunteers, working to end gun violence in our country.
Gun violence is an American epidemic that we're fighting against every way we can: in all 50 state legislatures, Congress, at town halls, on social media, and much more. We're urging action from legislators, having discussions with business leaders, and building our network of grassroots activists connecting with new volunteers every day to bring us closer to realizing a nation free from gun violence.
What We're Doing to End Gun Violence
In the States: We've defeated more than a hundred dangerous NRA-backed gun bills in state legislatures. That means we've stopped the NRA's dangerous "guns everywhere" agenda in red, blue and purple states. We've also helped pass bills strengthening gun laws across the country.
Since the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook School in 2013, eight states have passed bills to ensure there's a background check on every gun sale -- this means that nearly 50% of all Americans live in states where background checks are required on all gun sales, including internet and gun show sales. And in this year alone, seven states -- from Rhode Island to Utah -- passed laws to keep guns away from domestic abusers (in fact, the law passed in Rhode Island just days ago!).
In Congress: NRA leadership has a tight grip on Congress, but we're fighting back. After the Las Vegas shooting, NRA leadership is calling on Congress to pass two extreme gun bills:
(1) the SHARE Act, which would make it easy for felons and domestic abusers to buy gun silencers; and
(2) "Concealed Carry Reciprocity," which would gut your state's gun laws and force your state to accept the weaker concealed carry standards of other states.
Where you come in: Our victories can't happen without the tireless work, dedication and passion of Moms Demand Action volunteers and survivors of gun violence. We're at state capitols day in and day out meeting with lawmakers and testifying at hearings.
We're tweeting, calling, and building real relationships with lawmakers in every state. All to make sure that we defeat bad gun bills and pass strong gun laws.
We're also making an impact in our nation's capital. In August, we visited over 200 Congressional offices urging Members of the House and Senate to oppose dangerous NRA-backed legislation.
And when we're not urging lawmakers to take action, we're on the streets, at community events, on college campuses, and recruiting more people to advocate for an America free of gun violence.
We're only getting started -- with your support, we'll be advocating for more good bills and beating plenty more bad bills in 2017, 2018, and beyond. And in the coming weeks, we'll be organizing hundreds of events nationwide, so please take the next step in our movement:
ACTION: Sign up to volunteer and find out how you can get more involved in ending gun violence in your community.
With your support, we will win this fight.
Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.