What Can Psychologists Say About Gun Control?
Robert Brown wrote his review of the book Ending Campus Violence: New Approaches to Prevention before the horrible killing in Newtown, Connecticut, but the book and the review are relevant. The book's author, Brian Van Brunt, calls for a team approach to preventing campus violence. He proposes establishing three teams that will focus on the following issues: threat assessment, behavior intervention, and risk assessment. Psychologists working in schools at any level might benefit from studying this approach and the case studies Van Brunt presents.
Given the strong, emotional national reaction to the Newtown tragedy, gun violence is likely to be a topic for discussion in graduate and undergraduate psychology courses. How will those discussions be framed? I imagine that in graduate professional courses grief management and prevention of violence will be the focus. However, in most of the rest of the country, if my middle-class neighborhood is any indication, the debate will focus on gun control issues. That debate should not be simply political bluster. There is a psychological side to owning and using weapons of all kinds.
The Newtown killer used guns, including an assault rifle, that were part of a collection belonging to his mother. Leaving aside the Freudian implications, this example raises questions about parental modeling, the desire for owning many weapons, and the basis for the thrill of firing powerful guns. Many people are using dispositional explanations for mass killings—the killers are crazy. An official of the National Rifle Association is blaming video games. How can psychologists contribute to this discussion?
By Robert D. Brown
PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(1)