NOTE: In a recent poll where I asked my readers what type of content they would like to see on this blog, a handful asked for more personal opinion pieces. This is my first in this series.
Sometimes I like Bill Maher. Emphasis on sometimes. He tends to have anger at a time when I need some sort of angry consolation prize. But on a recent show, he and his guests were discussing how America needs to completely redo gun policy and implement tough new controls. But Bill Maher has never really been a fan of gun rights.
It made me realize how far off the liberal, anti-gun agenda is (and I consider myself pretty liberal so this is not a jab).
1. If we truly want to save lives, we should reprioritize media attention.
When you stop and think about it, we are an incredibly safe country. Current estimates claim there are 270-310 million guns in the United States. And, with an ever aging and increasing population, more and more people are owning guns.
Did you know there were 74 school shootings
in this country since records were taken? Mass shootings are still incredibly rare (but the media doesn’t want you to know that). This is an amazing study conducted by the Pew Research Center that shows the gun violence rate in this country is down almost 50% since 1993. That is a HUGE accomplishment! Why are we not hearing about this in the media? Oh wait.
Lets look at some numbers real quick.
According to the FBI, in 2012, there were 8,855 total firearm-related homicides in the US (of which, 61% were suicides). Suicides are important to address, as they may be the most “treatable” form of gun deaths, and they are also the number one type of gun death.
If we look at that number of gun deaths against the population, it is .0028%. So let’s put that into context. Gun deaths in this country equal .0028% of the population. And yet how much time, money, and effort is spent on trying to implement more and more controls and legislation?
I am not saying these deaths are insignificant, but if we truly care about saving lives, our money and resources should be aimed instead at tackling obesity, chronic heart diseases, traffic accidents, poisoning and breast cancer. These represent some of the top causes of deaths.
So why do we not focus on more of these issues in the media? I am not the head of the editorial table, so I really have no idea why we focus on guns over heart disease. I can only guess that it is a side effect of the corporate media machine. A lot of the fundamental change to save lives in this country lies at the feet of corporations. From healthier eating, and video games, to pharmaceuticals and movies, it is easier to scare people away from each other than it is to drive change in a greed-motivated plutocacy.
2. If we want to save lives, we should de-prioritize shootings in the media.
We all know the mediagasm over mass shootings. Channels are taken off the air, anchors are woken up in the middle of the night, and the 24 hour news coverage goes into full swing. It is a pattern we see over and over again when the media machine thinks we really need to know something.
That is a lot of attention up for grabs for the next mentally-questionable, frustrated person out there. If I want to really make a big splash in this country, I now know the playbook and the easy by which I can do that. I can steal a gun in the morning and have the president crying by the 6:00 news. And empowerment comes from the media.
The glorification and over sensationalism gives people that commit these crimes all the power they want. According to an article in the Stranger, “…As of this writing, a Google search for the SPU [Seattle Pacific University] shooter’s name brings up 409,000 hits—52,000 more than for Jon Meis, the 22-year-old student who selflessly subdued the shooter before he could claim more victims.”
So there we have it. The shooter gets so much more focus and media attention than even the guy that stopped him, the hero.
Psychology Today has a fascinating article, even calling the media an “accomplice” in school shootings. They outline the five key things the media does that plays right into future shooters minds:
1. They named the shooter.
2. They described his characteristics.
3. They detailed the crime.
4. They numbered the victims.
5. They ranked him against other “successful” attackers.
So next time you see the overly glorified coverage of a school shooting, thank the news media just as much as you thank the shooter.
3. The culprit lies in many other sources.
Have you watched American TV lately? It seems like every show is about crime. CSI, CSI Miami, Law and Order, First 48, NCIS, Bones, Burn Notice, 24, ad nauseum. Why this obsession over crime and criminals?
I was also looking at a lot of the movies that have been in the theaters lately. They include titles like Bullet to the Head, Kingsman, American Sniper, Invincibles, and many many more.
And of course, we have video games. As a gamer myself I will admit that many games are really violent. Which would not be a problem if parents actually parented. Do you know how many little kids I hear playing games like Battlefield 4, and Call of Duty!? A lot.
In my opinion, when you saturate a culture in police and crime shows, very violent video games that portray shooters as heroes, and video games that provide an immersive, interactive violent experience it is no surprise that we are seeing the events we do. Especially when a possible shooter knows the devastating impact and sensationalism that await at the end of their plight.
4. So do we really need new laws?
No. Limiting magazine counts, pistol grip sizes and styles of guns are all forms of feel-good, knee-jerk legislation that does nothing but pad the egos of weak legislators and their contingency.
We are seeing an increasingly armed population combined with a sharp drop (almost 50%!) of violent gun crime. We do not need additional laws.
What we do need is a prescription that is 1 part actual, better parenting (to keep kids from exposure to violent stimuli), 1 part cultural overhaul that returns more techable media (with shows like Highway to Heaven, Little House on the Prairie) that teach kids lessons and not just glorified police dramas. And finally, we need one part media chill out. The next time we have a shooting incident, report it and move on to the next story.
A lot of people ask my why we should still be able to keep guns. And my answer is simple. The rights afforded to us as Americans are not subject to the opinion of the public majority. They are not something that should be given up on early. And, they are never determined or formed based on need. No, we do not “need” 30 round magazines, or AR-15 rifles. But at the same time, we really do not “need” the right to free speech. We do not “need” religion. We do not “need” the right to be free of illegal searches.
And therein lies the crux of my position. Granting rights based on a perception of need is a dangerous, slippery slope. Granting rights of your fellow countrymen because you simply do not agree with them is equally a dangerous place for a self-governing democracy.
We have enough laws. We need better parenting, a more reasonable media, and we need to stop glorifying shooting and shooters in our entertainment.