News viewers in this nation and around the globe have witnessed a recent surge in incidents involving gunmen turning their weapons against innocent people. Just a few recent examples include Jared Loughner, Anders Breivik, Robert Bales and George Zimmerman.

Perhaps most notable for college students is One L. Goh, who took the lives of several classmates at Oikos University in California last week. Goh’s actions reignited debates about student safety at universities across the country, including here at George Mason University. A vital question at the core of this issue must be answered: Is the gun or the man who wields it to blame?

Guns themselves cannot be solely blamed, considering they are inanimate objects. Guns are just one of the abundant tools of violence. Before the advent of the firearm, murderous individuals perpetrated wanton killings and destruction using different tools; such as swords.

Even today, as the tribal conflict in Rwanda illustrated, a machete can do as much, if not more, damage as a gun. Even a needle can be used to kill, as was the case in the elimination of North Korean defector Ahn. If somebody intends to do harm, he will inevitably find a means of doing so.

When unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs lead to a chronic sense of injustice and anger, malicious intentions form in people’s minds.

Slowly, those feelings of injustice and dissatisfaction become the basis of ideas, which turn into determination, which is realized as action. Once thoughts, wicked or otherwise, reach the level of determination, then it matters less whether guns are available. The intention to harm is what matters.

Understanding the gunmen’s motivations may be useful for stopping future plots early on. Law enforcement should focus on what leads a person to commit such crimes by analyzing the social, mental or personal causes behind such acts.

For example, robbery and theft cannot be understood without looking at the root causes of the crime, such as poverty or a lack of educational opportunities or employment.

In addition to the consideration of external factors, every gunman ought to undergo thorough psychoanalysis to determine if the grievances stem from a lack of education systems, a failure of mental health care, injustices endemic to the justice system, negligent foreign policy, decadent social norms or absurdity and hatred in the media.

Once causes are identified, then efforts should be made to address them in their initial stages as a first line of defense against future crises.

We, as citizens, should think deeply about the social, political, mental and economic causes of violence. Unfortunately, such introspection is unfeasible because gun-rights proponents and opponents will dominate the debate, and each side will advocate its own myopic, selfish rationales while ignoring the real causes.

Each side will present an anthology of reasons, mostly mistaken, for how they feel about guns and the place of firearms in society. Sadly, the pain and suffering of the innocent become a flimsy pretext for them to propagate their ideas of how the Second Amendment should be interpreted.

We must not think rashly or jump to conclusions because short-sighted policies, such as allowing guns on campus, have the potential to backfire. We need a level-headed approach to find the right solutions.

Of course, every gunman is idiosyncratic and developed under unique circumstances, but there is always a source for his motivation in the outside environment. And if we successfully remove those sources, we will see a concomitant reduction in violence.

We have to look at the gunman and consider if society made him feel exasperated, angry or even insane. We have to ponder what has contributed to the seemingly ubiquitous phenomenon of shootings. It is not the guns; it is the shooters and the environment that are to blame.