Live By The AR-15, Die By The AR-15

Unarmed Black victims of police violence (may their families know peace), L-R from the top: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown
Image source: trauma doc Dr. Andre Campbell on Twitter

Live By The AR-15, Die By The AR-15

For AR-15 in that sentence, you could substitute drone, missile, or nuclear bomb.

That the U.S. leads the world in mass shootings, especially at schools, is a fact no one disputes. Regular people see a clear connection between a Pentagon budget that gobbles up more than half of annual expenditures by Congress. Regular people also see the pretense of elected officials who take millions in campaign contributions from weapons manufacturers and pro-weapon lobbying groups like the NRA and then tweet “thoughts and prayers” when the inevitable next mass shooting occurs.

Why then is social media is full of people blaming one of the two corporate parties for the massacre?

With the Ukraine war party in power right now controlling the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives why is our federal government still failing to enact gun control? Fund universal mental health care? Rescue from poverty the 20%+ children without housing or food security?

Who is falling for using the deaths of children to further the false dichotomy our corporate rulers think will deliver civil war (we’re well on our way) rather than the revolution we need?

Though I do support stringent gun control I don’t think that alone will reduce mass shootings. Other countries that are overrun with guns do not see 18 year olds cutting their own faces, shooting their own grandma, and then massacring little kids while local cops let them proceed. 

Did you know that in other countries, people with schizophrenia have auditory hallucinations that may be benign or even loving? In the U.S., people with schizophrenia hear voices urging them to violence.

Of course other nations weren’t built on genocide of indigenous people (not all nations, anyway) and enslavement of kidnapped laborers.

We are a traumatized nation. And trauma begets trauma. 

The vast majority of mass shooters are men, around 98%. Men and boys have no more access to guns and ammunition than women and girls do, so what’s the explanation?

It could be something most analysts overlook: adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs.

Back in 2019, researchers studied every mass school shooting from 1966-2018.  The vast majority of mass shooters in our study experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. The nature of their exposure included parental suicide, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and/or severe bullying,” wrote criminal justice professors Jillian Peterson and James Densley for the Los Angeles Times.

The ACEs questionnaire and scale were developed to quantify and name the cause that creates such devastating effects: high levels of stress are toxic for our nervous system as humans. If experienced in childhood, they can lead to actual changes in the structure and function of the brain. And researchers say the effects of stress on male brains is different.

Additionally, if high levels of stress lead to acting out behavior, this can often trigger additional stress as authority figures respond violently to the behavior. Ask any teacher if they’ve seen this in their school.

Forensic ACEs reveal that the vast majority of violent criminals have a high ACEs score. Poverty results in ACEs e.g. children experiencing eviction, hunger, or lack of medical care for themselves and their caregivers. Being targeted for one’s race or ethnic identity also raises the ACEs score.

Nearly 1 in 6 people in the U.S. reported four or more ACEs  as adults in a study by the CDC with Kaiser Permanente which found, “ACEs can have lasting, negative effects on health, well-being, as well as life opportunities such as education and job potential. These experiences can increase the risks of injury, sexually transmitted infections, maternal and child health problems (including teen pregnancy, pregnancy complications, and fetal death), involvement in sex trafficking, and a wide range of chronic diseases and leading causes of death such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and suicide.”

One a national level, our ACEs are through the roof. Using nuclear bombs on Japan after letting the Holocaust proceed, producing a zillion big budget films glorifying this and other violence, police murdering Black, brown, and indigenous people with impunity, illegal invasions that killed millions and which the pepetrators later laugh about in public…

I could go on but it would fill volumes.

Live by the sword, die by the sword is an old idea found in the New Testament (an account of radical truth-telling in the face of the brutal occupation of Palestine by the Roman Empire). One translation reads “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”

The U.S. Empire has some very bad karma. And it’s breaking our hearts that children pay the price.

But as long as violent patriarchy is the organizing principle of our culture, nothing will change.

About went2thebridge

Retired teacher, grandmother, activist, blogger and citizen journalist.

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