The violence of American youth

I’ll let the firearms debate be played out elsewhere.  What other factors might matter?

American youth have different attitudes toward life and death than do
youth in other countries.  The authors cited a World Health Organization
study, which reported that American youth are more likely to believe
it’s appropriate to kill to protect their property than were youth in
Estonia, Finland, Romania, and Russia.  Similarly, the cited study noted
reports that adolescents in the United States are more likely to
approve of war than were youth in any of those countries.

Here is more.  Here is the U.S. trend over time, plus a comparison with Europe.  I see weaker social and family constraints, whatever their other benefits, as having dangerous effects on the psychotic outliers.

The good news?  School-associated homicides are less than one percent of all homicides involving students.  And this:

…trends throughout the 1990s show that the number of school homicides
has been declining.  Yet within this overall trend, homicides involving
more than one victim appear to have been increasing.

One politically incorrect interpretation is simply to note that American youth are becoming more ambitious and more "productive," not just in hi-tech.  Note also:

…the overall risk of violence and injury at school has not changed substantially over the past 20 years…

Here is an article which suggests the U.S. rate of youth violence is not so out of the ordinary, although it does take different and sometimes larger-scale forms.  Here is a more pessimistic (but more statistically selective) picture.  Here are further international comparisons.


And what if the rumors that the guy was an immigrant from China are true?

It's not American youth, it's America. Americans are far more attached to the idea that voilence is a viable solution to both individual and national problems than citizens of any other western country. You see it in the willingness to go to war, the acceptance of guns and the militarisation of law enforcement

I had a history professor always spoke about how violent America is when compared to other countries.

I don't buy it. yeah, if you compare this country to france or Germany, America may come across as violent.

but nowhere is there such homogeneity than in Europe (which was achieved by the genocide of world I and II. Indeed, there lack of crime came at a price).

Nowhere on earth do Locke's principals mean so much. most americans do believe that a human being has inherent worth, which is more than can be said in many places around the world.

I am of the opinion that Americans are more prone to violence due to their transient nature.

It is not at all uncommon for someone to grow up in New York, go to school in California, and live in Texas. As a result of all this moving about, many Americans (and their children) do not develop roots and a respect for the community.

This contrasts with smaller countries, where moving about is limited somewhat by language and legal barriers (although those are falling in Europe).

I covered the last Columbine-style high school shooting for UPI in 2001 at Santee H.S. outside San Diego. There were 31 television trucks there, creating a forest of satellite aerials. My assumption at the time was that this vast media coverage of high school shootings created more of them. But, it turned out there weren't more Columbine-style shootings at high school. So, I don't know what causes the rise and fall of this kind of crime, just as I don't why there were all those post office shootings for awhile, then they completely stopped (then there was another, recently).

Of course, there continue to be gang shootings among minorities at high schools all the time, but the media just treats that as background noise.

Our IT driven lives seem to create a world-view which seperates the humanity out of our fellow humans. Everything and everybody previous generations relied upon is now seemingly replaceable, without much exception. And whether or not this is related to the technology boom, the family and community cohesiveness of this country seems to be rapidly deteriorating. Both of these coupled together bring rise to unempathetic individuals with marginal respect for the life of an individual.

The authors cited a World Health Organization study, which reported that American youth are more likely to believe it's appropriate to kill to protect their property than were youth in Estonia, Finland, Romania, and Russia.

This doesn't strike me as relevant. I do think it's appropriate to kill to protect property, and I believe this precisely because I have such strong respect for the rights of the innocent. Those other countries could arguably use a bit more of that kind of attitude.

I wonder what happens when you take drug- and gang- related violence out of the data.

@Don: They - the darkies you refer to, I take it - are not American?

The cultural influence on the level of violence is most related to the effect on acquaintance crimes, or "crimes of passion." See for example the research and collected information by Richard Nesbitt and Dov Cohen entitled Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South. Societies with an emphasis on honor have more crime that involves defending one's property, reputation, lover, etc., from assailants known to you. Stranger crime is a fairly different variable, and massacres yet another.

But nowhere in Europe it created such a guncrazy society as the American.
I see weaker social and family constraints, whatever their other benefits, as having dangerous effects on the psychotic outliers.

Of course individual massacres are rare enough to have little correlation with the overall violence statistics. See the Dunblane Massacre in the UK, or the Fabrikant Affair at Corncordia University in Montreal in 1992. Also see the École Polytechnique Massacre in Montreal in 1989, with 14 fatalities.

A close to spurious point could be made by "scaling up" the eighteen fatalities in the two Canadian incidents alone by their population (one-tenth population of the US) to demonstrate that, per capita, Canada has has more school shooting deaths. One could go even further and wonder "What's wrong with Montreal?"

I don't think that it would prove that something is even more rotten with Canadian and Quebecker culture than American, but I also don't agree with the sweeping generalizations offered on this thread either. It certainly gives the lie to JSK's assertions.

A good survey article on "The Violent Brain" here at SciAm:

For what it's worth, I think the big missing element in your post is the often-organic relation between brain structure/injury and violence.

The brain-tumor-violence thing has played out time and again. I've seen it in the news, and even in friends-of-friends. It is something that traditional moral philosophy is (IMO) behind the curve on.

I don't buy everything Steven Pinker says (in particular I don't see any need for aggessive atheism), but I do buy that society and law lag brain science in important ways.

Well, this shooter was Korean. Go figure.

There seems to be an assumption that violence and death are unnatural. I don't want to be the victim of violence, and would likely not inflict violence on someone, but why the presumption that it is not as natural as children or alcoholism.

People are violent. The media and politicians exploit violence to perpetuate the "culture of fear" we live in here in the US. It sells and motivates.

"I don't think that it would prove that something is even more rotten with Canadian and Quebecker culture than American, but I also don't agree with the sweeping generalizations offered on this thread either. It certainly gives the lie to JSK's assertions."

I don't get your remark... I was just reacting on the 'America is violent because of etnical diversity'-comment: Europe is
diverse too.

What else might be involved?

Two things:
-Mental Health

The US is a giant tournament. A lot of outcomes. Compared to a lot of places, the ceiling is so high that the sky is the limit. But the floor is lower than in other industrialized countries. Your outcomes are often considered a reflection of your worth as person. You are not tied into larger communities and groups. Individualism gives us great creativity and productivity. It also leads to crime.

-Mental Health is not totally unrelated. People are isolated, alienated in the US. It's a highly transient society. It's easy to get lost in the shuffle. Isolated crazy people end up reinforcing their problems, perhaps to the point of psychosis. There are no other human beings who will interact with them, help them out. That's just how it is in America.

If I had one recommendation, it would be to destigmatize the seeking of treatment for mental health. Maybe--just maybe--if we'd shown a little more compassion to this guy in the past few years, he wouldn't have committed these atrocities.

This is not to excuse the guy. He is a monster. I wish there were a hell so he could burn in it.

But wouldn't it have been nice to prevent the creation of this monster?

America, land of opportunities -- including the opportunity to act homicidally.

Seriously I think there's something to it. We're big and wide-open; people can self-create here in ways they often can't in other countries. But although part of that is great -- entrepreneurship, eccentricity, inventiveness, etc -- part of it isn't so great. As anyone who lived through the '60s can remember, when you take the lid off some great things come flying out but some demons do too.

Mental illness as an explianation for events like this is insufficient. The manifestation of mental illness depends on the culture or society. In the Victorian age women suffered from hysteria, now hysteria is seldom seen and eating disorders are common. A hundered years ago paranoid people did not worry about being watched by household electronics. The fact the the shooter was mentally ill does not mean it was not a result of violence of the society.

Naturally you might be interested in comparing, say, the USA with the UK. What worries me far more is comparing the UK with the UK of 50 years ago.

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I am very interested in the thoughts and the issues expressed here. I have recently been studying Indian culture and politics and I have been fascinated by the work of Arun Gandhi, the founder of M.K. Gandhi Institute. I believe that his message of peace and non-violence consistent with the tradition established by his grandfather, Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, is truly inspiring and important given the recent events in VA. If you wish to hear him speak in person, I understand he will be at The Chautauqua Institution the week of July 9-13. This debate is an important one and I encourage you to review the M.K. Gandhi Institute's web site as well.

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Plan a great summer full of intellectual and spiritual nourishment. These are the things that will make a difference, educating ourselves on establishing a culture of peace.


There 19 different specific guns covered, including certain 9mm handguns.
The crucial criterion was more than 10 rounds in a magazine. I do not
know exactly what guns this guy had, but I have heard that he got of 44
rounds in 11 seconds out of two guns. Sounds to me like they would have
been covered.

"There 19 different specific guns covered, including certain 9mm handguns."

No handguns were in the list of so-called assault weapons. Magazines were.

"The crucial criterion was more than 10 rounds in a magazine."

That's a function of the magazine, not the weapon itself. Magazines are detachable and separate. You can drop a magazine and replace it in about a second. So you could carry 14 10-round mags or 10 14-round mags and it wouldn't make a difference.

The real issue here is that this guy had his way for plenty of time. He could have been carrying six-shot revolvers and still done pretty much the same thing.

"I do not know exactly what guns this guy had, but I have heard that he got of 44 rounds in 11 seconds out of two guns."

I doubt it.

"Sounds to me like they would have been covered."

The magazines would have been, but there had been so many magazines produced before the ban that there never was a time you couldn't buy larger magazines for 9mm pistols.

I apologize to Tyler and Alex for becoming unpleasant on their excellent blog.
However, in the next-to-last sentence in my last post I meant to say that I was
in "no mood" to be polite. That stands.

BTW, 44 rounds in 11 seconds with those two guns is quite possible. Two
17-round magazines for the Glock and one 10-round one for the Walther.
Adds up neatly to 44. Use one Glock, use one Walther, slap on the other
one to the Glock, easily done, 44 rounds in 11 seconds.

So, I say, bring back the assault weapons ban. This is reasonable and it is
politically doable.

Barkley needs to calm down. 44 rounds in 11 seconds could not be shot accurately enough to kill people and it really is a moot point. Speculation from a helicopter pilot? Keep that one to yourself, that hurt your argument. They didn't have guns that devistating back in Vietnam? Yeah they did, pretty sure the best personal sidearm produced to date has been around since 1911, a semi-automatic .45 which is a more powerful round than either weapon the shooter had. You call Matthew a "fantasist" but who is the real fanatic? You're the one with an axe to grind about weapons in a not so concise or factual argument. Magazine size is irrelevant. Columbine still happened with the arbitrary 10 round limit of the weapons ban.

"If Cho Seung-hui had only been able to buy two Walthers instead of one Walther
and a Glock, then in his moment of maximum murderousness he would have only gotten off 30 rounds rather than 44 in those nasty 11 seconds." Someone likes to make grandiose statements, let me guess, english major? No, your spelling is horrible.

Why should Matthew have to apologize for something he had no control of, again? You're really off the deep end with your statements and do more to harm your argument than I ever could.

This will be my last comment here on thnis, but there is a final shoe to
drop. Just for the record, I asked my colleague/friend, the Vietnam Vet,
his source for the story of 44 rounds in 11 seconds. It was NPR. Also,
there is no doubt that with guns of this sort it is pretty easy to pull
that off, not hard at all.

However, Will, I am sure that you can assure yourself that none of those
extra 14 rounds were involved in killing any of the 32 killed. Sleep
easy at night on that assurance...

Sigh... I had said my last would be my last comment on this, but as you are VT
grad, Roger, I guess you deserve a reply. We are all Hokies now, at least for awhile...

1) Of course, because there is a rule banning guns on campus does not mean that it will be obeyed
or enforced. It was not in the case of Cho. Anyone could still have carried a concealed weapon
and nobody would have known, including someone who might have shot him.

2) I do agree, however, that the existence of such a ban probably means that there will be fewer
concealed weapons being carried on campus, than if there were no such ban. However, I suspect that
such a practice would still be pretty scarce. Nevertheless, just as the banning of the 9mm. Glock would
have made it less likely that a mad shooter would get off as many rounds and kill as many people so
the slightly increased percentage of people carrying weapons might have meant that somebody might have
shot Cho soomer than he shot himself.

3) I see a couple of problems here. One is that we simply never hear reports of citizens with concealed
weapons in states that allow this (and VA does in general, although the campuses have banned guns, period),
shooting up people committing violent crimes. The claim that we have all these citizens preventing crimes
by using their concealed guns is near zero, although maybe this campus example might have proven to be an
My bigger problem with this is the idea that if we have more people carrying around more guns, this
will reduce gun violence. I realize that John Lott has published a bunch of studies at the state level
claiming this, but I note that John Lott got his lawsuit against Steve Levitt for criticizing his studies
thrown out of court, and even the folks at the American Enterprise Institute figured out that the heavily-
funded by the NRA Lott was playing games with his data, and some other things as well, and did not renew
his contract. He currently holds a visiting professorship at SUNY-Binghamton, but I would say that his
studies are not particularly reliable.
What I see as a whole lot more reliable are the international comparisons. People who have guns around,
in their houses or on their persons, are a lot more likely to use them in irrational and unwarranted ways,
murdering a spouse or child or friend or themselves in a fit. The international suicide data is murky and
overwhelmed by cultural factors, but ironically on Monday morning in WaPo, in the Science section, there
was a story reporting that states with looser gun laws have higher suicide rates, which pretty much covers
for the cultural factors, unless one wants to argue that Texans are more suicide-prone culturally, he-men
that they all are, supposedly.
I cannot resist telling why even the most conservative members of my family, including especially
my late father, have always been very pro-gun control. My father had a half-uncle who died in a gun
accident at the age of ten. The family had a gun. He and a friend took it out and began playing with it.
The safety was not on. He got shot and killed. Since then, no guns in any household in my family, no way.
Guns are more dangerous to the people who own them than they are to anybody else. Heck, look at Cho Seung-hui,
who in the end took his own life with one of his guns.
So, I mostly see the increased chances of somebody getting drunk or angry and pulling out their concealed
gun and stupidly shooting somebody else, or themselves, or just doing so by accident, as much more likely than
the gun carriers stopping the very occasional lunatic mass murderer who hits campus. Much better to make it
much more difficult for people in general to get guns they really do not need, like 9mm. Glock handguns that
can shoot 17 rounds per mag, and also to tighten background checks on people buying whatever guns are allowed,
as it is now clearly was a problem with the officially certified by a court "dangerous to himself and others"
Cho was when he went and bought the weapons that he killed and wounded all those people with, including himself.
And now, I really intend to shut up on this thread once and for all. My apologies once again to one and
all for my ranting and raving.

You people have it confused.Someone or something pushed him to do that,maybe he had been messed with all his life and just couldn't take it any more and just snap.You cant judge him either you can just show empathy.Me I"m 19 and I can tell you there is a revolution coming and the youth will lead it

Basically i think that the US is the craziest place in the World, so many diff types of people.. Sum rich smiling faced geeza who wears a silk robe with his initials on it, lots of blonde 'sex bombs' walking around him and has a mansion worth more than 20 of the World's poorest Countries. Has his own programme as well!! Not saying hes a bad guy, infact rate him for takin advantage of the 'invisible boundary' lol, but wen u see models an singers an other celebs sniffin lines an doin illegal stuff an they can get away with it, still on the new issue of vogue or source or wateva magazine, it does not set good role models for youth. With the media an materialistic bullocks that is in our faces 24 7 people are becoming SHEEP!! Wow negative aren't i lol

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