Solving problems with guns

Michael Swickard, Ph.D.

Every year for decades there have been students bringing guns to school to “fix a problem.” In the days after the school shooting many people speculate on how the kid obtained the gun and got it to school along with many more how-it-was-done questions.

I never hear the question: why did this kid think using a gun would solve any problems? Rather, it causes more problems than can be imagined. So where did that student get the notion that bringing a gun would make things better?

What this something the child learned in school? Of course not. It is not part of the public school curriculum. Further, it is not modeled behavior by teachers to shoot problem students, regardless of how irritating students can be.

Yet, students are bringing guns to school apparently with the belief that the guns will solve their problems. If they do not learn that notion in public school, they must learn it somewhere else. Is it in the home?

Most parents reject that premise. “I certainly do not teach my children that shooting someone will solve problems.” But they do. The message is transmitted repeatedly to their children. Under their supervision kids watch hour after hour of television and movies where the solution to problems is to shoot someone.

The average school age student watches hundreds of “shootings to solve a problem” a week. Heroes as well as bad people, all larger than life, solve their problems with guns.

Research strongly suggests a correlation of behavior in children exposed to violence. Kids in one research project were observed with fellow students for an hour. Then they watched violent cartoons for an hour and were observed with students for the hour afterwards.

In the second and third hours, the incidence of aggressive behavior increased dramatically. The research is compelling that watching television influences behavior. That is why advertisers spend millions on commercials. It influences behavior.

The responsibility lies with the parents to protect their children from these influences. The copycat syndrome has been established by the police in some types of crimes. It is seen on television and then replicated in society.

Television and movie violence is so pervasive because it is the most easily created form of drama, “Is someone going to die or not?” I’m not saying kids should be kept completely away from all television, but it should be screened.

The issue is not to stop television from showing the use of guns as a solution to a person's problems, rather, the issue is that parents must stop letting impressionable kids watch hour after hour of this guns will solve problems message.

It is like planting a tree. The best time to plant a tree was ten years ago, the next best time to plant a tree is now. The best time to screen television programs was ten years ago. The next best time is now. No, we do not need a law, we need a culture that understands the influences on children.

Email Swickard’s novel, Hideaway Hills, is available at