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Peace & Life Connections Index

#382 Gun Violence, Mind's Drive - October 13, 2017

Next Conference Video Up We’ve now posted another in our series of videos from our 30th anniversary conference in August. This was a workshop session focused on end-of-life-issues called The Challenge of a Throw-Away Culture. Panelists included Greg Schleppenbach, Associate Director, Office of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Maureen Swinger, Editor, Plough Publishing House; and Steven Bozza, Professor of Bioethics, Catholic Distance University (who uses the Charlie Gard case to illustrate).

Photos: Left, Greg Schleppenbach. Middle: Maureen Swinger & daughter, Aviana. Right: Steven Bozza


Yet Another Mass Shooting Once again we mourn a massacre as a shooter in Las Vegas fired on a concert crowd, killing 59 (including himself) and injuring hundreds. We ask the urgent question: why? Not just about this case, but about the many mass shootings of recent years. Unlike the socially approved forms of killing we focus on opposing, these mass shootings are strongly condemned by just about everybody. Among the many ideas for why is the “legitimization of violence model” (see quotation below). The basic idea is that when the government uses violence to solve problems, people pick up on it and apply it. Studies have suggested this pattern occurs with war and with executions. It provides people a model to follow. Therefore, having socially approved killing can be an inspiration for killing that isn’t socially approved at all.


More on Gun Violence About two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides. Veterans are less than 10% of the population, yet account for about a fifth of those suicides. They become casualties of the war long after the war is over, because the trauma of combat continues. Veterans also have experience with guns. Also, of course, the push for “assisted suicide” makes suicide seem more socially acceptable.


Latest CLN Blog Post: The Mind’s Drive for Consistency At our conference, Rachel MacNair had a presentation, now turned into a post, on how consistency isn’t merely a good idea, but a strong drive in the human mind. People typically feel stressed when their ideas and/or behavior are out of whack. It’s not just that most people feel a need to be consistent – and can go through some marvelous mental gymnastics to explain why they are when they clearly aren’t – but that we can use that drive as a strategy. When forms of socially-approved killing are increasing, people decide it can’t be so bad. When such forms are decreasing, people are more open to hearing what’s wrong with them, to account for that behavior.

Photo: Table discussion at the conference; Rachel MacNair is second from left.


Quotation of the Week Dane Archer, 1984 Violence and Crime in Cross-national Perspective, Yale University Press, pages 66, 94 Note: Archer comments on his studies, applying points below to both war and executions. He didn’t think of the consistent life ethic, but it’s obvious to us that it applies. What all wars have in common is the unmistakable moral lesson that homicide is an acceptable, even praiseworthy, means to certain ends. It seems likely that this lesson will not be lost on at least some of the citizens in a warring nation. Wars, therefore, contain in particularly potent form all the ingredients necessary to produce imitative violence: Great numbers of violent homicides under official auspices and legitimation, with conspicuous praise and rewards for killing and the killers . . . Even though social scientists have in the past amassed impressive experimental evidence that violence can be produced through imitation or modeling, they have in general neglected the possibility that government—with its vast authority and resources—might turn out to be the most potent model of all.


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