Thursday, April 11, 2013
Shots have been fired across the Potomac on gun control this week. The President is barnstorming at political rallies drumming up support for legislation that some 90% of the country claims that it supports. Certain Republicans threatened to filibuster so that the issue doesn’t come up for a vote. One side has dead (white) children gunned down at Christmas. Another side has freedom wielding Americans dedicated to saving the Republic for which it stands. If it wasn't the 21st century you'd think it was a 19th Century Western showdown. Cable television is beside itself in covering the conflict.
Cartoonist Michael Ramirez is often biting, frequently frustrating and usually draws a smile. The cartoon below meets two of the three descriptors. More people die by hands and fists or die by blunt objects than die by military assault rifles or rifles themselves. Volume is the deciding factor on whether there are enough deaths to justify legislative action? If so then a lot of what the Consumer Product Safety Council does could be eliminated! It’s a simplistic argument...but an effective toon.
America is a violent society. The violence manifests itself in our media which is a reflection of society itself. There are distortions, of course. I stopped watching local television news more than twenty years ago because the mantra “if it bleeds it leads” meant that a disproportionate amount of the coverage was (is) crime – and it felt watching the news that my community was totally overrun by crime, when, in fact, quite the opposite was the case.
The same is true in the current gun control ‘debate’. The coverage and the hyperbole from the politicians and cable television personalities makes it appear that this is the single most important issue facing the republic. (Yes, forget about $17 trillion in debt, wars, unemployment…)
The tragedies that gun violence have produced are numerous and numbing. Finding ways to mitigate violence in our society is a noble, important and necessary goal. Passing one piece of watered down legislation that creates a new opportunity for the government to gather information will not actually DO anything in getting the United States near that goal line. It will only result in a lot of people patting themselves on the back. In fact the proposed bill would not outlaw how the Sandy Hook CT shooter got his guns. It feels an awful lot like the TSA making tens of millions of people take off their shoes and belts because one person tried (and failed) to make a bomb out of their sneakers. Or allowing knives on planes when 9/11 was the result of the use of box cutters. There's no real change or impact other than cosmetic.
Mental health professionals, leaders in entertainment, educators, religious representatives, parents and children all need to be in a conversation about the various ways to address violence in American society. It is part of the culture and the people who constitute that culture must be part of any effort to change it. Everything else is just blather.