Copyright Vladimir Kagan January 20, 2011
What has happened in Tucson has been repeated many times before; I went on Wikepedia and counted 104 shootings in schools since the University of Texas massacre in 1966. Columbine High School 1999, Virginia Tech 2007, Northern Illinois University 2008, are just a few of the more gory ones.
This will not go away with wishful thinking. It is a malignancy less curable than cancer. The love of violence in our daily culture is deeply embedded. The press is finding scapegoats in political rhetoric: but they are not alone! I blame our entertainment industries, which revels in mayhem, blood and gore.
You cannot go to a movie (this week we went to see The King’s Speech…a benign deeply intellectual film but were first bombarded with trailers (Approved for all audiences!) one new violent film after the other: exploding cars, imploding buildings, pyromaniac-effects, blood, gore and guns, guns, guns. (Any wonder that a few deranged people in our society will follow suit?)
Visit Netflix and their inventory of violence is endless. Go to Prime Time TV and each network is vying for more violent entertainment than the other (ratings drop if they don’t.)… Scan the hundreds of Cable stations and select more mayhem. Kid's Video Games are awash in violence. Pick up your local newspaper and see the carnage reported as news…but it also sells papers. TV news broadcasts wallow in the stuff, books feed this craze for violence. Add explicit sex into this mix and you are seeing modern America.
…So I say, why blame political rhetoric? Sarah Palin is just doing what comes naturally in Moose country…. and so are all the other rabble-rousers who screech on both sides of the political spectrum.
We need to reverse this epidemic. It will be tougher than reducing the national debt. Congress has no appetite for attacking the core problem: The proliferation of guns. They hide behind the constitution: The Right To Bear Arms…. It is not a gospel, though Congress treats it as such.
The right to bear arms was fine in 18th Century America as the fledgling country was fighting a revolution: all the citizenry possessed then were muskets and single-shot pistols. However, it is totally out of sync in today’s world of AK-47 attack rifles, semi-automatic pistols and high-speed bullet clips…. Parenthetically, It is more difficult to drive a car legally, (you first must pass a state driving test)… than to acquire guns and bullets. For that, all you need do is go to the nearest gun shop and load up.
Let me give you a few guns statistics I just read:
- There are about 85 guns per 100 people in the United States
The only country that is more armed than America is Yemen!
- About 80 people die from guns every day, and several times as many are injured.
- Handgun sales in Arizona soared by 60 percent the Monday, after the Tucson shooting spree.
An article in the forthcoming American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine by Harvard professor, David Hemenway, quotes a book written a few years ago reframing the gun debate as a public health challenge. It makes clear that:
- A gun in the home makes you more likely to be shot — by accident, by suicide or by homicide.
- The chances that a gun will be used to deter a home invasion are unbelievably remote. Dialing 911 is more effective in reducing injury than brandishing a weapon.
- American children are 11 times more likely to die in a gun accident than in other developed countries, because of the prevalence of guns.
- Suicide rates are higher in states with more guns, simply because there are more guns.
- Most homicides in the home are by family members or acquaintances — not by an intruder — the presence of a gun in the home increases the risk of a gun murder in that home.
Enough?... I think these are reasonable arguments for gun control legislation. But here is our Congressmen’s response to the issue:
- Gun rights advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said Thursday that there was little chance the attack would produce significant new legislation or a change in a national culture that has long been accepting of guns. If anything, they said, lawmakers are less receptive than ever to new gun restrictions.
- As an institution, Congress seems to celebrate gun ownership as much as many communities in Arizona.
- Many members of Congress own firearms, which they carry while riding around in farm trucks in their district or concealed behind a jacket in the streets, among constituents. “I carry a gun because it is a personal preference and for my own personal safety,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, one of several lawmakers who carry a concealed weapon in their districts.
- Democrats who favor more restrictive gun laws say they do not expect new legislation to be passed, especially now that Republicans control of the House and Democrats have lost seats in the Senate. However, Democrats are hardly uniform in supporting tough gun laws as a matter of policy; as a matter of politics, Democrats in Congress have increasingly shied away from the issue.
- Asked about prospects for new gun restrictions, Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, asserted, “I maintain that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens makes communities safer, not less safe.”
- Erich Pratt, the director of communications for Gun Owners of America, says “These politicians need to remember that these rights aren’t given to us by them. They come from God. They are God-given rights.
- “The Pledge to America is our plan,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the House speaker, John A. Boehner, “and our immediate focus is on addressing the top priorities of the American people, creating jobs, cutting spending and reforming the way Congress works.”…(A nice cop-out for responsible legislation!)
This week its business as usual in the gun industry: The Crossroads of the West gun show went on as planned at the Pima County Fairgrounds, 13 miles from the shooting site, another gun show is scheduled for the following weekend. “We had no hesitation about going ahead with the show so soon after the incident,” said Lois Chedsey, secretary to the Arizona Arms Association, a show sponsor. “Gun sales have been up since last Saturday”
An even bigger event in Las Vegas, the Shot Show — which bills itself as the country’s largest exhibition of guns and ammunition — is proceeding next week with a four-day run that fills two floors of convention space.
Here is my formula for a reasonable approach to the problem:
- Tone down the destructive rhetoric in our political discourse.
- Try a more constructive approach to Entertainment.
- Our military seeks intelligence about the enemies we are fighting to better protect the troops: Why can’t our civilian governments pool their knowledge of potential threats by deranged individuals wandering in our streets and schools and put them safely away before they do their damage? In the 60’s we closed thousands of our mental institutions and foisted the inmates into our streets…(they thought drug treatment would take the place of incarceration…it hasn’t). Preemptive action is cheaper than long-term prisons.
- Guns are too deeply entrenched in our social fiber…we can’t eliminate them, but it is our obligation to regulate who owns one. Educate and license an owner before they are qualified to own one: This can help ferret out the unstable.
- If the stated purpose of gun ownership is self-protection or hunting, there are many guns suitable for this purpose: Assault weapons are not the answer. (We have a dear friend, who is a gun advocate. She owns a hand-gun and a rifle. She has taken shooting lessons; she is licensed and she poses no menace to anyone…Neither she, nor Sarah Palin nor the thousands of other law abiding citizens have anything to worry about…. However, anyone possessing a gun should be licensed just like anyone driving a car…. SIMPLE!….(So why are they and the NRA so opposed?)
My friends, we are in for along siege…just duck, when you hear gunshots!