Mona Charen

For centuries, guns have been plentiful in the United States. Young men, and often young women as well, were taught gun safety and how to shoot before they were old enough to drive cars. Yet your chances of being gunned down by a total stranger at your local school or bank or church in 1644, 1744, 1844 or 1944 were exactly nil. Yes, we had some spectacular political assassinations, but to suggest that the easy availability of guns accounts for the grim social realities we've created in the 21st century is simplistic to the point of foolishness.

No, something else is at work. Our culture has been all about disinhibition for the past generation or more. We've lost our inhibitions about sex (and we celebrate this as liberation), about eating (we've gained an average of 50 pounds over the past century, and we blame it on genes) and about violence. We marinate our children in the gory stuff starting just after the teddy bear phase.

Glorification of gun violence in particular is the mainstay of the video game world, movies, television and popular music. Pornographic images of violence, such as those in movies like "Kill Bill" and "The Matrix," are not even controversial anymore. If you protest, a thousand letter writers will point to Westerns or Shakespeare and sneer that there's nothing new under the sun.

Perhaps. But the murders in great literature and old Westerns were morality plays or character studies. The murder was an evil act. In today's entertainment, it's more like a fashion statement, and, instead of featuring one or two victims, requires a death toll of dozens or hundreds or thousands. For all of us, but especially for the borderline types, this is pure poison to the soul.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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