The Creative Culture and the 2nd Amendment: A Recap

By Lauren Glass, '13

According the U.S. Department of Justice Statistics Report, 11,101 homicides by gun were carried out in the U.S. in 2011.

Why that many, and how can that be changed?

That’s the question a room full of students, teachers, artists, and community members debated at last week’s Creative Culture Exchange.

Ok, so a discussion about gun violence and the second amendment may not seem like the kind of artsy topic that usually consumes a Creative Culture Exchange discussion, but there’s a point to be made. Art is about creativity, but creativity isn’t just about “art.” Creativity is a necessary component to problem solving any issue. And in that sense, it takes an artistic approach to solve any problem, even one as political as gun violence.

The discussion certainly demonstrated this creative aspect to problem solving. Creativity is about generating new perspectives and ideas, and the perspectives and ideas that were given spanned the entire range of the spectrum. There was no shortage of issues to be touched on: mental health, gun culture, media effects, American exceptionalism, and the education system were just some of the topics debated in relation to gun violence in today’s society. There’s no way I could begin to summarize everything that was brought up.

But by the end of the conversation, a common thread began to stand out. The creative flow began to push people to discuss the need for a more unified voice in order to affect change.

Artist and panelist James Pate said, “We have this attitude that it’s always all about us. And if what’s affecting you isn’t affecting me then it’s not important to me… We need an academia that promotes the world, not just the country we live in.”

A teacher in the audience built on this by suggesting that instead of taking the time to look at the core issues in our society, too many people are targeting the individual surface issues that affect some and not others. Not only does this method leave some people out in the cold, but it also means that support for issues is fragmented as opposed to unified as everyone takes up their own cause.

Graul Chair in Arts and Languages and panelist Dr. Richard Chenoweth stressed the importance of being active in seeking change, and being active in reaching out to others to achieve that change:

“The only way I know of to change things is to be an agent of change. And if you want change to happen, you have to be an advocate, and to be an advocate, you have to be informed, and to be informed you have to know the facts… and we have to have people who share a vision, because we are not that different. We all have aspirations and desires for our communities, and they’re not that far apart.”

But a big part of creativity, and problem solving, is careful consideration and reaction. So of course a review of this kind of Creative Culture Exchange discussion would be incomplete without sharing my own reaction to the conversation.
So what do I think? I can’t say I have an absolute theory as to why the U.S. has such a high rate of gun violence, but a DECA student in the audience said something that struck me, “I think we need to think about what guns symbolize: power, control.”

So I did some research on gun symbolism, and found that a number of Psychology studies suggest that seeing a gun, knowing a gun is present, or even just hearing the word “gun” tends to cause people to behave more aggressively. The Psychology Today article, "The Weapons Effect,” published on January 18, 2013 by Brad J. Bushman, Ph.D. does a good review of some of these studies. It seems that there is something to be said for recognizing the symbolic power of guns, and what that means for a society that is so saturated with imagery of guns and violence.

But even though I think this might contribute to the problem, I don’t think any one factor on its own can explain the rates of gun violence. There are areas around the world that have more guns, less guns, more violence portrayed in the media, less violence portrayed in the media, more violent histories, less violent histories, and still have less gun violence.

As for how to change the rates of gun crimes, I think panelist and involvement advocate Peter Benkendorf hit the nail on the head:

“Everybody has to see that we’re in this together, and that changing our nature of gun violence and even trying to address the second amendment specifically is going to be a long slow process.”

He pointed to the change in the nature of smoking over time in the U.S. as an example, mentioning that over the past few decades, smoking has gone from commonplace to illegal in most public venues in most states.

He emphasized the slow and steady nature of the process, relating it back to the issue of gun violence:

“It seems like every time there’s a mass shooting, we’re looking for Washington to change things, where it’s really going to take things like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and organizations working at the grassroots to get together, and it’s really going to be a long, slow process to get the changes that we’re looking for.”

While we may not have solved the gun control debate in one hour and a half long sitting, we did continue a much needed discussion about a huge problem we’re facing in today’s society. It’s so important to constantly strive to exercise critical thinking and creativity when approaching real-world problems, and I think this Creative Culture Exchange did a great job reminding us of that.

To learn more about ArtStreet's Creative Culture Exchange series, visit the ArtStreet website or call 937-229-5101.

Lauren Glass is a senior at the University of Dayton, where she is studying journalism. Currently working as a social media assistant for ArtStreet, she enjoys music, writing, and photography.

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