The practice of engineering is, in part, “economic solutions to scientific problems.” Engineers are problem solvers. An engineer working to solve a problem will work hardest at understanding the root cause of the problem.

Agonizing over the symptoms is non-productive. What happened on day one, at the first second, at what place with whom and what? Questions like these help get to the root cause.

So, what has this to do with gun violence? Maybe nothing, but since gun violence is such a big problem maybe we should all be trying to solve it. Here’s my take on the root cause and my ideas on a potential solution.

Up front, here and now, it’s my opinion that inadequate education is the basic root cause of the problem. To me it’s very simple: I have an adequate education; I would never consider using gun violence. I don’t behave for fear of going to jail or hell. Being adequately educated, I’m never desperate for my daily wants.

I’m not bored when there’s no football game to watch. I fully understand that I’m very lucky to have had good parents and I was born in the United States, so I’m not necessarily better than you or an illegal alien from Mexico — just luckier. Possible luck is our only root difference.

So how about some proof? I just finished a book (yes, education makes book reading possible and entertaining) about several countries. The most interesting information regarding the subject of this story came from the country of Finland. In 2013 with a population of 5.5 million, the entire police force of the entire country fired six bullets and killed no one. In 2018 the police fired their weapons only 10 times.

Notables of Finland and USA:

1. Finland’s education index is 0.993; fourth best educated in the world. (Another top 20 survey: Finland No. 1/score 114, USA No. 20/score 47)

2. Fourth most guns per person in the world (slightly less than U.S.).

3. Murder rate 1.14 per 100,000 per year. Houston is 15-plus.

4. Population 5.5 million, Houston is 2 million.

The big deal is not guns (surprise) but education. Educated Fins, with the same number of guns per person as us, don’t kill each other like we do. So, if we can agree on a root cause (our inadequate education compared to non-violent Finland), how about a solution?

By education I don’t mean college for everyone. College is certainly not the only way. What we need is a new mind set. Better to spend money on education at all levels than on prisons.

What can we do? Support higher-quality education for all ages and make all of it affordable to everyone. Volunteer our retirement time to mentor and or teach in local schools. We may be a better source of what the students need than the school can afford to hire. I do it at 79 years young; do it, you’ll love it.

Harvey Cappel lives in Texas City.

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(14) comments

Emile Pope

Finland also has an extensive welfare system available to citizens and non citizens. And universal healthcare. Could that be the reason for their lack of gun violence? Or the fact that their personal tax rate is around 50%. There are many differences between the US and Finland so one cannot pick just one and decide that changing that will solve our problems.

Carlos Ponce

Want to end gun violence? It starts with a traditional family. Politifact reports that most state and Federal prisoners grew up in a single parent or no parent household.

Bailey Jones

I agree with a lot of what you write. One thing that America has that Finland and many other less violent societies don't have is a racially diverse population and the wide spread racial inequality in terms of education, economic opportunity, criminal justice, health care, etc., that comes with centuries of systemic racism - which still needs to be addressed.

I agree that the best solution is education. Our public school system in many communities is a mess, and has been for generations - often due to under-funding and cynical neglect. Beyond requiring more from our schools, we need economic opportunity. Why work hard at school if there is no good paying job waiting at the end? Or if there is no possibility of affording college? I suspect that you, like me, applied yourself in school because you had a plan that included going to college and looking forward to a great job (with a great retirement - remember those?)

Better schools, affordable college (and vocational education) and jobs, jobs, jobs. Creating jobs in the long term means investing in basic scientific research and infrastructure, and promoting affordable college. You're an engineer, so you're aware of the tremendous boon in technological innovation that occurred in the 1960s driven by thousands of GIs who had the opportunity to attend college on the GI Bill after WW2. I've seen estimates of a 10X ROI to the government for that investment. You're aware of the tremendous scientific advances that came from Bell Labs - funded by the monopoly afforded AT&T by the government - essentially a huge government subsidy of basic science. Literally everything we enjoy today, from semiconductors to cell phones, came from that one research lab.

Great schools for EVERY child, affordable higher education for EVERY high school graduate, investment in basic research and infrastructure, and an end to racial and economic inequality - these are the ingredients that create jobs - and jobs create a less violent society.

I commend you on your willingness to mentor - we need more of that.

Gary Miller

Bailey> US public schools are the most expensive in the world but are rated 37th for quality. The real problem with US schools is they are way over funded with little quality required. When our state charter schools are counted we are 27th and with private schools counted we are 21st. The big problem with our public schools is the more they fail the more they are paid.

jimmy winston

Having access to a great education is just a one facet of improving socioeconomic conditions. Fixing gun violence is an extremely complicated issue, which does not have one single solution. We need to start somewhere and education might be the first step.

Jim Forsythe

The number of U.S. children growing up in single-parent families is 35% and 55% of prisoner population are from non-married-parents homes.

Prisoners have experienced high rates of poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, physical abuse, and family members’ incarceration. Only 55% prisoner population is from non-married-parents homes, that’s not a very strong case for an independent effect of family structure.

From the large, national study the Bureau of Justice Statistics does on inmates, which includes family background information, repeated since 1991, you can make a few simple calculations, that 55% of state and federal prisoners did not “live most of the time while growing up” with both parents.

For the last six years, the prevalence of U.S. children growing up in single-parent families has held steady at 35%. This rate translated to more than 24 million kids having just one parent at home.

Poverty is one of the reasons that single parents with children have problems. Just as Harvey said, education helps!

Kids are less likely to experience poverty when they grow up with both parents at home. According to the U.S. Census, the poverty rate for single parents with children in the United States was 37.1 percent. The rate for married couples with children was 6.8 percent. Marriage is one of the greatest weapons against child poverty.

Gary Miller

Jim> I think what you write is exactly why Progressives claim single parent families are just as good as traditional two parent families. The product of single or no parents is likely to be a Democrat voting welfare client. Not good for America but great for Democrats.

Emile Pope

Or a President...

Kelly Naschke

Why is the media not held accountable for its contribution to the desensitization of violence? This includes popular music and video games. The repeated exposure to murder and mayhem seems to be a cultural norm. Couple that with a breakdown of the family and not having positive role models and you have a society in decay.

Bailey Jones

Japan has the most violent movies and video games in the world by far - yet very low violence. There's no correlation there. America has a high rate of violence because we have always tolerated high levels of violence. We are a nation founded in slavery, revolution, civil war, and the genocide of our indigenous population. And, unlike the Japanese, we refuse to come to terms with any of it. Violence is a part of the American soul.

Don Schlessinger

You're wrong!

Mary Gillespie

The current gun violence problem is cultural.

In the 1970's, students brought shotguns with them to high schools in Galveston County. We students were not afraid, because we all knew that the guns were for shooting ducks, not people.

Instead of hard work to achieve goals, too many people now think that stealing and shooting others is the way to get what they want.

Dalton Logan

[thumbup]

Bailey Jones

The violent crime rate, and in particular the murder rate, is actually lower now than in the 70s. High profile mass killings are up, but overall violence and murder is down.

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