Is Violence in America's DNA? We Asked, You Answered

Is Violence in America's DNA? We Asked, You Answered

Why you should care

Because it’s the most divisive — and sensitive — topic in America.

Welcome to Third Rail With OZY, a new TV show presented by OZY and WGBH, where we debate provocative hot topics with experts and celebrities every Friday night. The subject of last week’s show was “Is Violence in America’s DNA?” You answered, and here are your thoughts, edited for clarity. Check back later this week for the question we’ll be debating this Friday on PBS at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Missed the episode? Catch up here!

Jim Finley

The idea of “America’s DNA” is a myth. We are a nation of individuals; a nation in which new residents are born and are growing up all the time, as the elderly die; a nation with a high rate of immigration, therefore one with a higher population turnover than most. For all these reasons, our culture is always changing. Is fascism part of Germany’s and Italy’s DNA? No. Is apartheid part of South Africa’s DNA? No. Australia’s origins were just as violent as America’s, and it’s a less violent society at the moment. Despite the fact that news reporting of violence increases year by year in the U.S., actual violence has been decreasing for decades. Scaring people is profitable. It’s good for ratings, and it helps sell a lot of products (including guns). More responsible news media would be helpful.

Janice Lynn Epperson

I think it’s a testosterone thing. Twenty-first-century men have traded clubs and rocks for automatic weapons in order to feel relevant and powerful. Apparently you have to own a gun to be a “real” man. How many mass murderers do you know who are women?

Laurie Mu

It is plain and simple — it should be called Radical Caucasian Terrorism.

Joel Rivera, Brentwood, California

Evil people with an intent to kill with whatever is at their disposal kill people. It has something to do with the condition of the human heart. Such a person without a gun will still kill no matter what. Murder will never be stamped out or legislated out of existence with any kind of bans.

Brad Learmonth, Manhattan, New York

Altering our addiction to violence, our glorification of the gun, our desensitizing of killing and mayhem and our insane ideology around the Second Amendment and the multibillion-dollar business that has been built around it will take a cultural shift of a magnitude I can’t imagine this nation undertaking without a major and most likely calamitous event or series of events. There are so many things that would need to change that it would take generations.

Third Rail Guest Steven Pinker

Brad Whitcomb

America was born of violence and celebrates it endlessly. Even the national anthem commemorates a military engagement and the free and the brave who fought in it. War is America’s business. War on drugs, war on crime, war on poverty, war on illiteracy. Seriously. Americans don’t pay attention to anything unless it’s preceded by the word “war.” Guns are a vice. Like alcohol, they’re an addiction. So how about a “war on guns”?

Rich Warren, Lewiston, Idaho

If strict gun control is enacted, where the average person can’t own one, home invasions will skyrocket. Crime will go through the roof. Most people will not be able to protect themselves. Don’t kid yourselves; criminals will be able to still get guns.

Macaire Moise, Queens, New York

The continent was founded on violence and hatred. Embedded into the soul of this racist country.

Pauline Overby, Hawley, Minnesota

Weapons will always be abused. Guns are tools. The only way to control them is the same as we do other military tools: Declare autoloading anything as military-only — autoloading shotguns, autoloading handguns, autoloading rifles. Each autoloader could be exchanged for a credit to buy an allowed weapon. After that, possession of an autoloading anything would be an automatic prison sentence. We already ban full automatics.

Bill O’Brien

[I’m] sitting here reading through the comments, and it is obvious that nobody has an interest in really attacking the problem. If the solution or the person delivering the message doesn’t match your political ideology, then everyone goes on the attack. The truth is that we constantly go after the National Rifle Association as being the root of the problem when not one single NRA member has ever been involved in one of these incidents. Our politics are so filled with hate and vitriol that it is a powder keg looking for a spark — yet nobody is willing to admit that their party might play a bigger role in the violence than the other party. Instead, when a mass shooting occurs, we rush to find out what the shooter’s political and religious affiliations were so we can start blaming … without any real facts. The only truth is that deep down, unless someone’s political agenda benefits, we have no interest in addressing the real problems.

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