Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Violence is our plague

Psychologists, including those at the University of Massachusetts, have long debated whether violence is a part of human nature, or if there is hope for people to learn to resolve their problems without spreading destruction. A society without violence is possible, but the presence of violence is cyclical, buried beneath a lifetime of American culture.

Elvert Barnes/ Flickr

Thanks to decades of acceptance and indifference to war and bloodshed, the idea that violence is inevitable has moved from our foreign policy and now permeates daily interaction. Americans are furious at violence among civilians, but nothing will change unless the government and parents challenge the acceptance of violence.

People are not even fazed anymore when they read that hundreds of young people are murdered in cities throughout America or when another kid brings a gun into school. We accept the false idea that violence is inevitable, but examples from around the world can discredit the notion. Australia enacted firearm laws and saw an elimination of gun massacres, a reduction of gun homicides and the creation of a less violent society. Many European nations have lower gun homicide rates than the United States, despite having access to firearms. Mass gun violence is mostly an American problem.

“Violence is like the greatest infectious diseases of all time,” says Gary Slutkin, founder of Cure Violence (formerly known as CeaseFire), which seeks to end Chicago street violence by treating violence like a plague. According to Cure Violence members in a Frontline documentary called “The Interrupters,” the group aims to prevent the transmission of the idea that grievances must be solved through expressions of strength instead of finding brotherhood.

Cure Violence’s work has been emulated in cities throughout America. Similar groups explain to those involved in street wars that the “death before dishonor” mentality is a part of these city communities because no one has stopped it from being passed down through each generation. The roughest of American neighborhoods deteriorated as we used prisons as a replacement for college and rehab. We now face a population that only understands life gripped by the disease of violence.

The notion that only certain people are susceptible to violent behavior, whether they are of a certain race, community or are fans of certain kinds of art, is proven false when we see the change Cure Violence brings about. Although youth gun violence is often seen as a socioeconomic problem, recent school shootings lead to the belief that it’s also a failure of parenting in our society.

Many blame the entertainment industry, and it is easy to blame hip-hop, heavy metal, MTV or violent movies for kids bringing guns into schools. But this is too convenient an excuse that politicians and special interests groups would love to have the American people believe. Our disease of violence comes from the proliferation of guns and the neglect of larger problems by the people who influence America.

Gun control must be the first step in curing the epidemic of violence. If our society cannot hold firearms without killing each other at record numbers, then we need to use background checks and bans on certain weapons to limit our murdering ability. While the founding fathers were right to make sure Americans could bear arms to defend themselves, our constitution predates technology that allows weapons to have incredible killing capabilities.

Congress cannot pass gun control, despite overwhelming public demand, because it’s more obedient to special interests. Politicians want us to accept gun violence as a reality of life instead of a fixable problem so they will not be forced to stand up and act. Congress will act when Americans force an ideological change that rejects the notion of a country plagued by violence. This ideal is possible, as Slutkin’s group reveals in “The Interrupters,” which reveals how parents and people can still convince our nation’s kids to put down the guns. We still have a long way to go; we just need to understand that the NRA does not know what life is like in the cities and abandon their idea that video games are to blame. We must instead take individual care of the people society pushes to the brink of shooting.

Brian Bevilacqua is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • S

    Stefan HerlitzNov 24, 2013 at 4:18 am

    Violence of every kind, including gun violence, has been in constant decline for decades, independent of gun bans/regulations.
    The countries against which America is compared do not face the same issues we do. They are overwhelmingly homogeneous societies which have taken thousands of years to coalesce. The United States is a mash-up of peoples from all over the world- just about anything or anyone can be “American”.
    It is not good that we have more violence than others, but it would be a lie to say that things aren’t getting better.

  • O

    ObserverNov 20, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    If you think that AMERICAN cities, of all places, are “hotbeds of all the social justice and community organizing you could ever hope for”, you’ve clearly never set foot in any city anywhere else. Compared to cities in virtually any other industrialized country, American cities are practically a libertarian’s wet dream.
    And while American rural areas are less violent than *American* cities, those same rural areas are at the same time much MORE violent than rural areas in more left-leaning countries. Small towns in places like Sweden, France, or (especially) Switzerland are far safer than small towns in the US.
    The fact is, cities are ALWAYS more violent than rural areas, in every country, every system and every culture. American rural areas are not safer because they are more conservative. They are safer because they are rural areas. The US as a whole is far more violent than Europe, Canada, Japan, etc. (note: Japan isn’t left-leaning, but it is collectivist)

  • Z

    Zac BearsNov 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    The worst thing about these threads is that adults bemoan “youthful ignorance” when the reverse is true. Who “doesn’t value hard work?” Who “no longer encourages and rewards individualism?”
    @Bill Collins: You receive a government subsidy every day. It is called the sidewalk, or a road, a school, a snow plow, trash collection, the police, or fire services. Do you want to pay market price? Do you want to pay the government (or worse – a private firm) per mile driven, or school day attended, snow storm, pound of trash? Per crime or fire? Or pay the fire department a monthly fee for coverage? That’s the ultimate “free market” solution to collective problems. If you can’t afford it, do it yourself. Next time you are robbed or your house catches on fire, you investigate it or you put the fire it out. Alone.
    Good parenting is teaching your kids to help their neighbors, however possible. Medicaid does that. So does Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicare, veteran’s benefits, disability insurance, and unemployment benefits. They do it in vastly larger proportions and for more altruistic purposes than private charity ever can or will.

  • G

    Genghis KhanNov 14, 2013 at 10:29 am


    Every time I think a Leftist can’t go any sillier, you folks smash through the limits.

    Where is there high crime and violence? In the cities – hotbeds of all the “social justice” and “community organizing” you could ever hope for.

    Where are things safe? In the rural areas, where “traditional values” – like rugged individualism and personal responsibility – hold sway.

  • A

    AlexNov 10, 2013 at 2:30 am

    What we desperately need to be encouraging more in children and young adults is social responsibility, not “rugged individualism”. The individualist philosophy of caring only about oneself and not about the well-being of others is what makes American culture so violent in the first place. It’s easy to go from “I don’t owe anything to anyone else” to “I don’t care if other people live and die”, and from that to “I’ll kill some people that I hate”.

  • M

    MikeOct 29, 2013 at 1:25 am

    You do a good job explaining the complexities of violence in our country, and then conclude with a call to ban certain types of firearms, without even explaining what they are or how they are more dangerous. An ineffective ban on arbitrarily charachterized firearms is the first thing we should do?

  • B

    Bill CollinsOct 28, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    ” Our disease of violence comes from the proliferation of guns… ” Wow, I will forgive your youthful ignorance and assume that you want the right thing for our country. I will assume that your lack of life experience simplifies your world view such that you can honestly believe such simple attributions. Our violence comes from the lack of thoughtful parenting. It comes from a group of society who do not value hard work. We no longer encourage and reward rugged individualism. We allow half of the country to receive some sort of government subsidy. It comes from allowing the criminally insane to walk the streets instead of institutionalizing them.

    I will certainly allow that guns are an effective tool for killing. They are an enabling technology for the dregs of society to commit heinous crimes. But they are in no way responsible for the crime.

  • G

    Genghis KhanOct 28, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Bevilacqua’s argument has more holes than swiss cheese.

    Let’s start with the obvious. Gun control does not control violence.

    Thomas Sowell: Gun control crusaders unconstrained by facts

    There are countries with strict gun control and lots of violence; strict gun control and low violence; lax gun control and high violence; lax gun control and low violence. The availability of guns has nothing to do with violence – violence has everything to do with human nature and the culture of the country.

    Gun control does not decrease violence, study finds

    But to anyone not wearing ideological blinders, this has been known for a long time. E.g., The Samurai, The Mountie, and the Cowboy, by David Kopel. Up until the 1960’s one could order handguns by mail; the crime rates then were fractions of today’s rates. What happened in the 60’s? The dissolution of families through Leftist politics.

    Even in the US, the examples are clear. Where is there lots of gun violence, pray tell? The cities… like Chicago, New York, Washington DC, etc. But, but, but… how can that be? All these places have strict gun control. In fact, if you remove the largest few cities from America’s statistics, America’s violence rates fall below those of most European countries.

    Second, he assumes that people like the Crips and Bloods will suddenly become enlightened souls. *cough sputter* This is the problem with most Leftist utopian dreams; they say “If only human nature can be changed.”

    Then, he attacks the NRA as a “special interest”. Yes, it’s a special interest, just like gun control advocacy groups like the Brady Bunch are special interests. They obtain their power from their membership. The NRA’s membership is over 4 million people, and it speaks for them.

    Lastly, he writes about the technological advances of today’s firearms as compared to the state-of-the-art in the Founder’s time. He does so while typing this on a computer, and broadcast through the internet. Both technologies unknown in those days. When he goes back to hand-run printing presses and town criers, he’ll have more credibility.

    For the record. I used to be anti-gun, until a cop neighbor suggested I get a gun. This flew into the face of everything I’d heard. So I did my own research. I wrote to both sides, compared data. The gun control side lies. Period. They omit data, they distort information. Bevilacqua would be advised to examine both sides’ data and literature before making decisions… it might even convince people he’s thinking instead of emotionally reacting.