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A Remedy for American Mass Shootings

These are modest beginning remedies and should be followed by further investigation into the motivation behind each shooting

AMERICAN MASS SHOOTINGS

The Remedy By Dr. Dale Taylor

Publisher’s Note: There is an epidemic in The United States where over 200 mass shootings have taken place since the year 2000, with over 18 of them during the first two months.  Solving this problem will take more than an overall ban on assault weapons (an absolute necessity, but an overall change in the consciousness of America.  This will not be an easy task but an effort well worth it.  We are a society of more than dreamers. We have done what was once impossible: landing on the moon.  We can do this, again.

Mass shootings are a public health epidemic in the United States and it is time to get past the singular focus on "gun control" as the only solution. The NRA has a point when they say "guns don't kill, people do" and that is exactly the point. It is time to look at what is making people pursue the thrill of shooting at other people rather than just at objects or animals.

From the viewpoint of neuroscience, studies of cerebral functioning reveal that behavior is the outcome of activity in the human brain and is a direct result of whatever experience and perception goes into the human brain.  Just as watching someone drive or simulating driving a new car on tv makes any person want to go drive one to get that same experience for real, repeatedly simulating shooting and killing people on advanced graphics video games gives certain people the uncontrollable drive to get that experience for real.

Whether that person’s brain did or did not have the ability to resist those urges is irrelevant once the drive is established in his/her brain. This simply is how the human brain works regardless of whether you want to label it a “mental illness” when that person then becomes a lethal danger to everyone else. 

Guns have been available to the general public for centuries and gun violence on tv and movie screens has been regularly shown for well over a half century.  However, people could easily avoid internalizing what they see because they were aware of being spectators, not participants in the experience. They did not train their brains to accept shooting humans until and unless they were in the military.  However, that changed during the past two decades when, instead of shooting at a duck, inanimate objects or imaginary monsters on a screen, VR (virtual reality) has allowed people to experience shooting very realistic looking humans and that experience has fostered the desire for the real experience. Most people are able to resist or dismiss those urges, but a few individuals harbor such a lethal combination of anger and weak impulse control that random mass shootings have become a pervasive problem to society.

I encourage those who will object because of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to actually READ the 2nd Amendment. It is only one sentence and begins with the words “A well regulated militia.” All that follows falls under that requirement. To ignore these words has had an effect similar to ignoring the first three words of the Sixth Commandment which admonishes all that “Thou shall not kill.”


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The recommended action to reverse the current trend has many facets: 

  • Make video games in which users experience shooting at non-human targets only.
  • Allow sale to the public of guns that shoot not more than one bullet or round each time the trigger is pulled. Automatic and explosive weapons are to be sold only to the military.
  • Enforce measures such as background checks to be certain that guns are not being purchased by people with any known history of mental illness.
  • Require a designated minimum response whenever a potentially dangerous person is reported to a law enforcement agency.

These are modest beginning remedies and should be followed by further investigation into the motivation behind each shooting.

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Dale B. Taylor, Ph.D., is a Board Certified Music Therapist, former Chair and current Secretary of the Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long Term Care, member of the AMTA Music & Memory Work Group, a recent Visiting Professor at Augsburg College and Alverno College, Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Department of Allied Health Professions at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and founding Director of the Music Therapy Program, past Editor of the International Journal of Arts Medicine, Secretary-Treasurer and member of the Board of Directors of the International Arts Medicine Association, member of the International Relations Committee and former member of the Assembly of Delegates of the American Music Therapy Association and the National Association for Music Therapy, past Chair of the NAMT Certification-Registration and International Activities Committees and National Coordinator of Student Affairs, and past member of the Wisconsin Public Health Leadership Institute. He has also served as President and Vice-President of the Great Lakes Region of NAMT, chaired the founding meetings of the Wisconsin Chapter for Music Therapy, served on the boards of Music Education for the Handicapped and the International Association of Music for the Handicapped, and is a member of the Music Therapy Neurology Network.

Dr. Taylor’s presentations of his Biomedical Theory of Music Therapy have been made at conferences and academic institutions throughout the United States as well as in Canada, South Africa, Argentina, Colombia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Estonia, Japan, Korea, and Australia. His papers on this and other topics appear in the Journal of Music Therapy, Music Therapy Perspectives, International Journal of Arts Medicine, and he has authored numerous chapters appearing in books edited by colleagues.

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