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Remaining Positive in the Face of Tragedy

Columnist Mike Moran argues that violent crime is actually getting better.

On Dec. 14, 2012, our nation had its heart shattered into pieces when news broke of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. The second most fatal school shooting in U.S. history was made even more devastating when it was reported that most of the victims were between 5 and 10 years old.

As Americans are want to do, loving support quickly poured in from all over the nation in the form of fundraisers, vigils, and promises of a strong-counter protest to block out those sub- humans from the Westborough Baptist Church.

When such a heart-wrenching event occurs, it seems near-impossible to not get pessimistic and fearful over the existence of violence in our world. Right now media outlets and politicians are throwing around terms like "epidemic of gun violence" and "alarming trend." However, and I mean no disrespect to those who were affected both directly and indirectly by this horrendous event, I believe it’s important for us to remain positive and rational about the current state of violence in our world.

It feels counter intuitive (or even blasphemous in the world of media) to suggest that human violence is diminishing. That’s certainly not the message we here from our leaders, new casters, and that grumpy little guy named cynicism that resides in the darkest parts of all of our minds. But scientific study after scientific study has proved human violence, is lessening with time. In fact, one could even make the argument that, not only is violence declining, its vanishing off the planet at a rate unprecedented in human history, despite constant technological advancement in weaponry.

Take the U.S. for example. Though we have a relatively high crime rate for a developed nation, things are getting better all the time. Remember twenty years ago when we were all convinced the mainstreaming of gangsta-rap would turn our young ones into merciless, violent, thugs? Well, in fact the opposite has happened; violent crimes in America have halved since then

Of course cities like our own Baltimore have gotten an un-proportionately small piece of this positive trend, but are none the less getting steadily more peaceful, as evidenced by urban violence in America reaching a forty year low in 2011.

Even if you factor in the wars we are involved in, still less than .01% of Americans die violently.

It’s not just the first-world that is improving. IQ averages throughout most of the world, just won’t stop going up with every generation, and more intelligence means less killings. This tendency towards peace had been evolving since humans first started forming nations. In pre-state ages, about 15 percent of any given population died violently. By the 20th century, despite the advanced deadliness of weaponry, only about .7 percent of people did. The number has lowered even further in the 21st century.

Of course, no amount of data or statistics can erase the grief we feel when we hear about an innocent life taken, especially a child’s. And perhaps some good will come out of the ensuing hype; I’m certainly not opposed to more gun control and a closer look at a metal health system, broken since the Reagan era.

But I urge you to not allow the media circus surrounding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to feed into a negative world view. Although we will always mourn loss of innocent life, we should also remember to commend ourselves as a species for creating the most peaceful era mankind has ever seen and be grateful that tragic events like the Sandy Hook shooting, however heartbreaking, remain extremely rare.

Sanchez January 02, 2013 at 08:54 PM
"violent crime is actually getting better" Can you choose better words? Like decreasing?
Mike Moran January 02, 2013 at 09:16 PM
Good point! I didn't write that part.
Josh January 02, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Thoughful piece, Mike. The tragedy still lingers and cannot be erased. But, it's good to know that on average violence is decreasing.
Mike Moran January 02, 2013 at 10:49 PM
Thanks Josh!
Fran M. January 03, 2013 at 07:19 PM
Thanks for reminding us about the better sides of ourselves. We need to be hopeful, and we really should be - we are growing and even evolving.
Sarah M January 04, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Great article Mike! Found this today which reiterates your point about media sensationalism: http://kusleika.com/breakfast/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/beafraid.jpg
Shawn January 07, 2013 at 12:54 AM
Kudos on a great article Mike. I find it alarming that media hype sensationalizes a very miniscule problem in our society such as gun violence to in effect cause mass fear mongering, yet never actually investigates the root cause. Instead of pointing out the fact that every one of the "mass shooters" were on one or more doctor prescribed psychotropic drugs, the media blames the second amendment. Again, great article Mike!
Mike Moran January 07, 2013 at 08:34 PM
Thanks Shawn. I can't cite this but I've read that school shooters are nearly impossible to study because they are so rare. And the only reason why random mass killings have taken place in several schools since the 80s is because of the media attention the killers get. Fortunately media outlets like CNN are starting to not repeat the killers name and show his photo a million times, as that has proven to inspire copycats.
Casskar January 23, 2013 at 02:43 AM
Interesting read Mike...I, a Canadian, would like to personally extend to all, the sympathies of my country in regards to that shooting...your neighbors to the north were equally shocked and heart broken...we followed the events with sorrow and sympathy...may I send prayers for all the victims and their families, and pray that healing will come...when events such as this happen, know America, that your Canadian cousins, feel for you as well.
Casskar January 23, 2013 at 02:48 AM
Americans are a wonderful and amazing people,,,as a Canadian is never ceases to a astound me the things this nation has accomplished...I have hope and belief that this great country will find a solution to this problem...If you can put a man on the moon, and go to Mars, you can do this...I have great faith in this country of yours...you will be able to find peace in your streets and schools I have no doubt...and to hear that things are improving is proof of that.

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