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GRCC symposium on gun violence addresses anger in men


Caroline MacGregor
February 12, 2013 | WGVU   Last night’s session on gun violence opened with a look at the profile of a killer, factors that contribute to aggression in males, cultural stereotypes, movies and video games, mental health, and media. The well attended event included a large number of GRCC students and members of the public.

The night didn’t focus much on guns - rather on the psychology behind violence in males who make up the highest percentage of perpetrators of inner city violence and mass killings. Dr. Frank Connor, head of GRCC’s psychology department, claims the biggest cause of gun violence is repressed emotion in men displayed as anger.

"If you don't belong then you become anxious, you have an emotional state, well, for men the only privileged emotion is anger and if I separate you from the herd you become angry because you can't become sad."

Add to that anger a feeling of insignificance or not belonging and the anger grows into seething resentment. Triggers in three quarters of all violent shootings include a loss of status, loss of a significant relationship, a personal failure or being jilted by a girlfriend.

"I have been harmed and now that I've been harmed I have the right to go out and destroy everything that harmed me. So if you are a young man who probably has some mental health issues and you become marginalized from the group, you don't have good social skills you have a society of retribution and you see this modeling of aggressive behavior - it's fairly predictable this can happen."

Dr. Connor ‘s says men are constantly trying to find their place in a hierarchy and battle their way to the top of that hierarchy which means belonging.  It’s fortunately a rare event that someone fits the profile of a mass murderer which includes long term anti -social traits, being pathologically shy or socially isolated.  Kristyn Runnels is a student at GRCC who agrees with the assertion that males in society are not able to properly express emotion.

“It totally depends on how you are raised, what your are around at home, more so than school. Iff you are taught to be sensitive and to look out for others, to be a good brother or helper to your mom or dad, that's definitely different than if you are alone and not talked to.”

Zachary Van Gilst wants to be a counselor and agrees males are less able to deal with anger. He says growing up with a single mom who expressd a range of emotions other than just his dad’s anger helped him use those emotions in his own life and change the life of a friend who was once shy and isolated.

"He was one of those people who - the more I got to know him and how people treated him how he was shy and not talking to a lot of people, I think I helped him because now he's talking to my friends and has opened up a lot."

Key to overcoming the problem, Dr Connor says, is inclusion, accepting emotion other than anger in men and using schools as a first line of defense to determine problems if the family unit is not doing the job.

Tonight, the current debate on the Second Amendment will be considered in a panel discussion.  On Wednesday, an expert in criminal justice will look at prevention, law enforcement and how to deal with perpetrators of violent acts after the event. The symposium takes place in Room 108 on GRCC’s DeVos campus on Bostwick NE in GR.

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