The 3 Biggest Forgotten Issues in the Gun Debate


It’s been two weeks since the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and the country is still searching for answers — and solutions.

For one side, the problem is with guns: they’re too easy to buy and should be more heavily restricted, if not outright banned in some cases.

And for the other side, the problem is with mental health: there are no mechanisms to prevent insane people from getting guns, and more broadly, mental illness in general needs to be addressed.

Both sides are right, in some respects more than others. There are gun loopholes that need to be closed and maybe some new laws and policies that could be enacted. And mental health in our country is absolutely in serious crisis, driven by the de-institutionalization movement decades ago and a lack of willingness or imagination to work on real solutions.

But are we missing other aspects of the debate which transcend politics and policy? Are there larger issues at play?

Yes, there are — in fact, I can think of three. And only a handful of people are talking about them:

1.) The first is the way our modern culture glorifies violence. It’s true that guns have always been a part of the American story and are embedded in our culture in ways unique to us. But our forefathers viewed guns as tools, not as means to create destruction for the sake of destruction. Today’s TV shows, movies, music, and especially video games portray gun violence as a cool, awesome thing. You need only to play a few minutes of Grand Theft Auto to see the way guns are portrayed to the young men who consume this media.

2.) The second is the crisis of masculinity in our country. Men and boys are constantly given a message that they are worthless, or inherently evil, or both. Tens of millions of children are growing up without a father in the home. Children’s cartoons almost universally portray fathers as dimwits. Young men are subtly told to step aside so women can take their place. Millions of 20- to 40-year-old men in their prime working ages are wasting away playing video games, watching porn, and working inconsistent jobs. They have little or no intention of getting married and raising a family, and if they do conceive a child, they often don’t take responsibility.

A few prominent people are raising this issue — Dennis Prager, psychologist and YouTube sensation Jordan Peterson, commentator Matt Walsh, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) have been on the forefront — but we’re just starting the conversation. Perhaps the Left ought to ease up on identity politics for just a little while so we can adequately examine the role of men in today’s society.

3.) The third and most unacknowledged issue related to this debate can be described in one word: Evil. Is it real? Does it exist? Our secular society sees a 19-year-old boy in Florida or a 64-year-old man in Nevada, both accused of murdering dozens of innocent people, and insists that they must have been insane. And while they may have been — is it possible they were under the influence of evil, too?

Our modern society does not want to think that maybe there is a God and that, maybe, he is opposed by evil forces. Instead, we search for empirical, verifiable explanations for terrible tragedies, even though we can’t always find them. In some cases, all we can do is turn back to God. Now, I do not want to imply, nor do I believe, that mass shootings are in some way a punishment from God. All I am saying is that we need to acknowledge evil is real, and we must combat it with love.

It’s high time that we step back and take stock of where we are as a society and where we want to go. Change the gun laws a bit? Fine. Fix the mental health crisis? Absolutely yes. But let’s not waste this opportunity to address the larger questions as well.

Thomas Valentine

Thomas Valentine is a columnist for

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