“The practical reason for freedom is that freedom seems to be the only condition under which any kind of substantial moral fiber can be developed—we have tried law, compulsion and authoritarianism of various kinds, and the result is nothing to be proud of.” – Albert Jay Nock.

On the news today, there was an alert that a gunman named Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez shot and killed four marines. The soon to come calls from left leaning advocates for more gun restrictions and from right trending statists for more police saturation of the community can be heard already. There will be talk of myriad causes of violence including substance abuse, mental illness, gun ownership, and violent media like movies and video games. There will be more talk about international and domestic terrorists. Undoubtedly the name “Isis” will come up. They might be invading our homeland with locally recruited teenagers. Herein, another cause is discussed that virtually no one will suggest: Our own propensity for violence is self-fulfilling. It stems from the conviction that violence can solve problems. First these five usual suspects are briefly presented.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is often cited as a cause of gun violence. Drugs and trading them are prohibited. As a verboten activity, enforcement of agreements cannot be taken to court. With the lack of a legal framework for conflicts, the contending parties have no choice but to resort to violence. It is not pills or powders that lead to murders and assaults. A lot of prohibited drugs deaden the energy of the user thereby dissipating his ferocity. Rather it is the prohibition that constitutes the cause.

Some substances, such as alcoholic beverages are said to increase viciousness. They do so by reducing inhibitions, but not all people become violent. If a person already has a predilection towards aggressive behavior, reducing inhibitions tends to increase its realization. So, even in the case of these drugs, the conviction that violence can effectively solve problems plays a major part.

Mental Illness

Mental illness sometimes gets the rap for violence. Once again, there have been several recent documented cases wherein a person with psychoses used firearms in criminal acts, but association is not the same as causation. The question must be asked, why would a mentally ill person do that, or why would this person resort to violence at all? Could it be that people around him model the use of violence to solve problems? When the psychotic see the apparent power of gun wielding people, especially authorities, who believe in their hearts that they can effectively solve problems with weapons, it is natural to jump to the conclusion that they too can resolve their own issues the same way. Violence appeals to a few of the mentally ill as an easy, shocking, and effective way to find solutions. In this they are merely acting out according to the mentors that surround them.

Gun Ownership

Guns are tools pure and simple. It is people who become violent for whatever reason. During other times and places, and even now, different tools are used to inflict injuries. Not so long ago, there was an incident in a small mountain town in Colorado where a person used a bulldozer to demolish many buildings. Guns are not required to commit violent acts (though in this case after the damage had been done, a gun was used to commit suicide).

An incident in Texas occurred a couple of years ago. A student with something like a utility knife ran through the school slitting the throats of over a dozen other students. Again we see guns are unnecessary to create great havoc. All that is required to hurt a lot of people is the conviction that violence can effectively solve problems and the resolve to act on that conviction.

Before moving on, it is worth asking whether any identifiable groups of armed people are highly associated with gun violence. Indeed there are at least two such groups. These groups have much in common. They both face a variety of difficult issues. They both must deal with people. Most importantly, both armed robbers and policemen frequently resort to gun violence to “solve” problems. Why do they do it? They do it out of a conviction that they can effectively reach resolutions that way.

The glaring difference between armed robbers and policemen is the level of acceptance by other people. When a thief issues threats or carries them out, very few people approve. Almost all people will understand that he is violating the very foundation of civilized society.   When a policeman uses gun violence, most people approve. The former tends to not set a precedent or provide a model for acceptable behavior. The latter, on-the-other-hand, tend to provide mentoring of acceptable behavior. Lots of people view the police as upholding the foundations of society. Therefore, between these two groups, it is most important for the police to avoid the use of violence. By-the-way, this is the main reason why the average policeman patrolling in public should be unarmed.

Violent Movies and Video Games

A common theory for the causes of violent behavior is that movies and video games depicting ferocity inspire impressionable youth to commit criminal acts. Maybe so. The real question is why do movies and video games often depict this violence in the first place? They are forms of art that reflect back to the culture what people believe. As with most art, these media depict the community in graphic detail. Such movies and video games are popular because so many people are convinced that violence, especially with guns, can effectively solve problems. Without such widespread belief, there would be no market for them and they would be rare.  Once again, it is these convictions that provide the impetus for the depiction of aggression in media, not the other way around.


The need for intensifying the war on terror will be discussed in vehement terms. What will be lacking is a convincing discussion of why people at home and abroad resort to dreadful acts of barbarism. And why do they focus their evil deeds of the US or the West? Very few (perhaps Ron or Rand) will suggest looking in the mirror. Natural are the feelings of anger that follow one’s family being droned. This fury definitely inspires terrorist acts of revenge. But it will be seldom that this subject is broached. Instead we will hear how the parents have failed. We will hear a lot about how the US needs to provide more foreign aid or increased funding for schools.  Some will propose that American government must provide jobs to keep teens employed in productive activities.  To the contrary, it is the unprovoked military and constabulary attacks that leads others into terrorism.

The Underlying Cause of Violence That No One is Discussing

The preceding topics are only briefly discussed; more information on those topics can be found elsewhere. The purpose of this article is to present the underlying reason why aggression occurs so frequently.

The conviction that violence can effectively solve problems is most prevalent among leaders in government and their supporters. Most people seem to believe in each of the following prohibitions and controls. If immigrants are perceived to take away jobs, we only need to take action to control or prevent people from crossing the border. If movies appear to cause violence, we only need regulate the content. If drug cartels are violent, we only need to control the drug trade. If raw milk can make people sick, we only need to enact a prohibition. If a gunman might shoot other people, we only need to ban, license, or regulate guns. The extent of such controls, regulations, and prohibitions has become so ubiquitous that little is left for personal freedom to act. And yet, new codes are enacted frequently and proposed daily. Just the other day, a suggestion to establish an offender list for animal abusers appeared on FB. (Is not animal abuse already illegal? Just asking the question.)

Implementation of any of these restrictions, along with thousands of other prohibitions and controls, requires enforcement. That is nothing other than the application of force on peaceful people. Typically, this coercion consists of the use of batons to beat people, pepper spray to disable those whose actions are disapproved, guns to injure or kill people, and cages to isolate them. Hardly a day goes by wherein the news as seen on television, read in newspapers and books, or posted on the internet does not present a plethora of graphically violent beatings, sprayings, and shootings.


The frequency of crime stems from the culture of violence. Any time someone advocates new legislation, any time an armed policeman stops a non-violent “offender”, or anytime a child in school is exposed to a policy of “zero tolerance”, sadism becomes yet more ingrained in our ethos. Guns are not the problem; neither are knives nor bulldozers. Those objects are tools. The desire to oppress follows from the conviction that violence can effectively solve problems. Those who want a less violent country with fewer mass shootings or stabbings must start by renouncing the belief that the violence required to enforce more legislation can effectively solve problems. The most important type to eschew is the advocacy of more governmental controls, for this violence specifically tends to establish a model for aggression.

Key words:

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