Gun Control or Male Violence? The Root Cause of the Colorado Shooting

by GreenMachine on Mars 20, 2016 - 11:30pm

It was on July 20th, 2012 that convicted killer James Holmes open-fired during the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” in theater 9 at the Century 16 multiplex in Aurora, Colorado (The New York Times Editors). The police promptly arrested Holmes in the multiplex’s parking lot, but it was too late, as the mass shooting left 12 people dead and 70 others injured (CNN Editors).

This is unfortunately just one example of many cases of male violence experienced in the world today. In fact, according to statistics, males commit 86 percent of armed robberies, 86 percent of domestic violence incidents leading to injury, 99 percent of rapes, and for every 62 mass shootings, men are responsible for 61 of them (Tough Guise 2 Editors). In spite of all this, the authors’ thesis is that gun violence is the root cause of the incident and that it is imperative society comes up with a solution to limit this form of crime, whether it be with stricter gun laws or by making it easier for citizens to access guns, since too many innocent lives are being taken. However, this post will show that the debate of gun control is superficial and that if individuals want the amount of violence around the world to be reduced, it is important for the media to tackle the real issue of male violence.

Firstly, prior to the shooting, James Holmes was in a state of depression - he had a mental illness known as schizotypal personality disorder which caused him to be socially awkward and as a result, he felt isolated (CNN Editors). Secondly, he struggled to overcome what he considered to be the “physical shortcomings” of his ears, nose, eyes and injured penis (CNN Editors). Knowing this information, many people are quick to label mental disease as the culprit of the mass shooting. However, the court named two psychiatrists to independently study Holmes, both of whom ultimately concluded that Holmes was sane, rational and knew exactly what he was doing on the night of the murders (CNN Editors). In addition, even if mental illness was not the cause of murder, the vast majority of violent incidents due mental illness are committed by men, which yet again brings up the issue of male violence. The fact that “The New York Times” never considered the possibility of the mass shooting being driven by mental illness, let alone the reality that men are often the perpetrators in these cases, is a clear example of how the media avoids this important issue.

Additionally, knowing that Holmes was sane and rational inevitably gives rise to the issue of the “man box,” which consists of a series of rigorous constraints on a mental and behavioural level that a man must follow in order to be considered a “real man.” According to the theory, men are supposed to be strong, tough, powerful, muscular and in control. Men who show emotion, act smart or are sensitive are seen as weak and frail and are punished by being called a fag, a pussy and gay. According to these criteria, Holmes falls under the category of a weak man. What he considers to be his physical deficiencies does not allow for him to be the strong, powerful and muscular man he is expected to be and thus, he feels ashamed. Furthermore, by being depressed, he is showing signs of emotion and sensitivity which is the definition of a failed man according to the rigid rules and regulations of manhood. Although many say that he should have sought help, similar to the case of comedian Robin Williams, Holmes would have be looked down upon and seen as feminine, digging himself into an even deeper hole (Revisiting Masculinity Slides 2). But what can Holmes do to change the script and become a real man?

Men, according to some, are taught to lash out against others if their masculinity is in jeopardy. The use of violence is especially encouraged in movies and by the media to the point where male violence is seen as cool and the new norm. For example, in the film “How to Train your Dragon”, Hiccup does not want to do violence against dragons, which befuddles his father to the point where he says “You’re not my son” (Tough Guise 2 Editors). This shows how the father is trying to train his son to follow him in his violent footsteps more than anything and by his refusal, it is as if Hiccup has commit a huge crime. In terms of the media, on the rare occasion when they do discuss the gender of the perpetrator, they always dismiss male violence for biological reasons, saying that “boys will be boys” and that males are naturally prone to violence (Tough Guise 2 Editors). So what are the consequences of combining the need to abide by the “man box” and the acceptance of violence?

Finally, due to the severe cultural pressure imposed on men to conform to manhood, in addition to male violence being the new normal in society, Holmes felt a mass shooting was the appropriate route to take in order to reinforce his masculinity and insure his inclusion inside the “man box.” He believes that dominating over weaker individuals in society demonstrates his manliness, as Holmes said that their deaths served the single purpose of heightening his self-worth (CNN Editors). Unfortunately, despite this glaring problem and damaging path men who deem themselves “unfit” take, “The New York Times” prefers to avoid the issue entirely. Similar to the media coverage of the Adam Lanza school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, “The New York Times” focused its attention on the cursory debate of gun control as evidenced by the title: “Gunman Kills 12 in Colorado, Reviving Gun Debate” (The New York Times Editors). Much of the article discusses the pro-gun and anti-gun arguments instead of getting to the core issue. Furthermore, in the rare event violence is brought up in the article, the gender of perpetrators is never discussed. If society wants to see the problem of male violence fixed, the media’s coverage of these types of incidents, such as the shooting in Colorado, needs to reflect and emphasize upon the real issue in order to increase awareness worldwide.

In conclusion, if society wants to see a reduction in violence overall, it is important for media groups to make individuals aware of the reality that men are more often than not the perpetrators, as well as to why men feel the need to use violence. When “The New York Times” writes “the nation was plunged into another debate about guns and violence,” the true problem at hand is not being addressed and nothing will ever be resolved. Research has shown that traditional manhood is dominating men and that if they feel the need to defend their masculinity, they are likely to lash out against others (Tough Guise 2 Editors). This problem needs to be addressed quickly and it starts with people having easy access of these facts via the media.


Works Cited

O'Neill, Ann, Ana Cabrera, and Sara Weisfeldt. "A Look inside the 'broken' Mind of James Holmes." CNN. 10 June 2015. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.

Tough Guise 2. Dir. Jeremy Earp. Perf. Jackson Katz. Media Education Foundation, 2013. DVD.

Frosch, Dan, and Kirk Johnson. "Gunman Kills 12 in Colorado, Reviving Gun Debate." The New York Times. 20 July 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.