President Obama’s recent visit to Chicago and his proposed gun control legislation will do little to address the epidemic of violence in our society. In 2008, 12,000 Americans died at the hands of gun violence, while during the same period only 11 people living in Japan did! We as a nation must explore why there is such a vast discrepancy.
Growing up in America is much different today than it was only 30 or 40 years ago. The media exposure of violence is unprecedented. We can’t understand how a young man could shoot up classroom of small children or randomly fire into a crowd during a “drive by” shooting. More young people are shot in Chicago annually than in our military operations in Afghanistan.
As all of this seems inconceivable, we need to look at it in the context of the larger issues of cultural violence exposure and desensitization. In our movies, all too often gun violence is the hero’s only method for conflict resolution. Our violent video games have a real-life appearance. It is not surprising that our young people are becoming desensitized to violence.
Another important challenge is the lack of access to comprehensive psychiatric services for our young people. In the past several decades, younger and younger children and adolescents are being diagnosed with major psychiatric disorders. Comprehensive psychiatric care is often unaffordable and therefore unobtainable for many families.
America is indeed different today; our recent generation grows up in a far more serious world. These are complex issues that demand comprehensive study and cultural change — there will be no easy or quick legislative solutions. Mr. President, it will certainly take far more than federal gun control legislation.
Dr. Charles Nozicka
Pediatric Emergency Medicine
Advocate Condell Medical Center
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