Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gun apathy is un-American


     I've noticed people on Facebook complaining about newspapers printing images of yesterday's murder of a Virginia TV reporter and camera man, as if that was the offensive part that demanded action. While I agree that the expression of horror on her face is disturbing, like Edvard Munch's "Scream," we do ourselves, or her family, or her memory, no favors by turning away. Frankly, I think it should be engraved on our currency, because Americans contemplate the reality of gun violence too rarely, not too frequently. It is an example of cowardice in a nation that once prided itself on courage.

     It is distasteful to dip your fingers into the fresh blood of the latest victims of gun violence and try to sketch out a political point.
     These are real people, or were. Alison Parker, 24, a reporter for TV station WDBJ7 in Virginia, and Adam Ward, 27, a cameraman, were gunned down Wednesday morning by a former station employee with "anger issues," apparently, who later shot himself as police closed in.
     But this tragedy was not a random act of nature. They weren't struck by lightning. They were victims of gun violence, which has become an American folk illness, an epidemic we suffer from out of proportion with the rest of the world. The rate of gun violence in the United States is 40 times what it is in Great Britain.
     Distasteful though it might be, this is the only time when Americans even pretend to pay attention. Typically this case would hardly bear notice — only two people killed, not the big death toll needed to spark public interest. But it happened on live TV, and a good video will snag our wandering gaze.
      Why are we so hesitant to contemplate this problem? Maybe because we venerate guns as part of our national identity. Selling guns is big business, and the central narrative offered by the gun industry's champion, the National Rifle Association, is that any sane regulation of guns, even the smallest change to the status quo, say, requiring firearms to come with trigger locks, is a step toward the totalitarian state where guns are seized by our jackbooted overlords.
     It's an extreme argument with no basis in reality. But people embrace it with passion. Because they are terrified of their government, terrified of our society, and arming themselves is a futile effort to allay their fears. Remember, the percentage of Americans who own guns is falling: in 1973, it was 50 percent. Now it's closer to 35 percent. Most households in America don't have a gun. The reason we have so many guns — 310 million — is the average gun owner owns eight guns.
     Why own so many? Because it's hard to get enough of something that doesn't work.
     Calls for action seem naive. Worse slaughters than Wednesday's occurred and nothing happened. If we didn't do anything after 20 children were murdered at Sandy Hook in 2012, the logic goes, we'll never do anything.
     Perhaps. But let's review. We're still the United States of America. We have this terrible problem, one costing the lives of innocent American citizens. We could try to fix it, but we're not. Because we're frozen, stuck. We can't try or even talk about trying.
    How does that stand with you?
    I think what we need is a counter-narrative, a better story, another way to talk about this other than the NRA fairy tale. Something both truth-based and honoring a nation that tackles its problems or used to. Surrendering to gun violence is unpatriotic. The solution that the NRA offers — more guns, everyone should arm up so we could shoot it out — is insane and would make the situation worse. Buying a gun increases the chances that you'll be shot, that your children will be shot. The most common form of gun violence is suicide: when you buy a gun, the person you most imperil, statistically, is yourself. And then your family and friends. And then, way down the chart, criminals.
     So what to do?
     We are a country that defeated Hitler, that sent a man to the moon, that invented the Internet. To say that we can't do anything to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people is the worst kind of defeatism. It's un-American.
     How to start? We are so far from any kind of significant action, we must begin by wondering: Can we do anything about this problem? Can we even talk about it? Or is all hope lost, and our nation doomed to sit passively in the face of this worsening scourge? Because if one thing is clear, even though most Americans don't have guns and most Americans would like specific improvements in gun policy, most Americans also do not change their beliefs on the subject just because there is another shooting. We look up at the crack of gunfire, note the identities of today's victims, sigh, then go about our business unmoved. It is a peasant fatalism, a resignation beneath the spirit of a great country.

50 comments:

  1. The Ghost of Christmas PastAugust 27, 2015 at 6:09 AM

    I am NOT apathetic or fatalistic. I support guns and oppose the current harsh gun laws with their background checks, etc. I actively work against gun control every day, contribute to the Second Amendment Foundation that sues to strike down gun control laws, do volunteer work, post pro-gun stuff on Facebook, and will vote next year against any politician--such as Clinton, Sanders, or Trump, who supports any form of gun control. Gun control must go. Absolute Second Amendment rights for evey human being on earth and the right to have any weapon you want, for self-defense and as a ch3eck against government tyranny. We need a government program to buy guns for the homeless and poor people. But disarm the racist police. You gun control people will keep losing, because for those of us who support more guns NOTHING is more important, and the only way you could ever stop us is by killing us all.

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    1. Misinterpreting the 2nd amendment much, Ghost? (or perhaps it's your new handle)

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    2. Um....OK....I think we'll just step back real quiet and leave the room while they adjust those meds....

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    3. So people being gunned down on live television and classes of elementary school students being slaughtered is just the new normal, something we as a society just need to get used to, just because you interpret the Constitution to say that you can bring your AR-15 into McDonald's during the lunch hour?

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    4. I know you're kidding, but it's so hard to tell, since there are people out there who are just as extreme.

      john

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    5. You really need to go back and attend to your bridge.

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    6. The Ghost of Christmas PastAugust 27, 2015 at 8:49 AM

      To the person above who thought I was kidding, and those commenting on Neil's Facebook that my post was meant sarcastically, sorry guys, I am sincere. I just absolutely disagree with you as do millions of others. Any attempt to take away guns will be resisted with every means necessary and possible.

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    7. "I support guns" sort of says it all. Me, I support people. Give him points for candor.

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    8. The second amendment calls for a well armed militia of citizens to protect the country. I propose that if you want a gun, you are also signed up for combat and when your number is called, you are shipped out with all your weapons of choice. We'll see you when/if you get back.

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    9. I like that idea!

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    10. Mr Ghost: You're a freaking loon. A spittle flecked poster child for sensible gun laws. A crazy with a death wish. A mass consumer of tin foil. I could go on, but the sane people here get the point.

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  2. The statistics you used regarding gun ownership was a nice way to start the day. I thought it was much more than that. I'm also confident those stats came from a source that didn't have an agenda.

    Doug D.

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  3. 35%. That's surprising. So nice that we let a minority rule over us at gunpoint.

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  4. 35%. That's surprising. So nice that we let a minority rule over us at gunpoint.

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  5. 35%. That's surprising. So nice that we let a minority rule over us at gunpoint.

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  6. Many Americans are against guns. But the NRA and the gun owners and manufacturers are too tough a lobby to break. Put the Republicans in that pocket and it's not easy. But they'll go down some day, like Big Tobacco did.

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  7. The cause goes back a bit...
    https://djlane.wordpress.com

    DFL

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  8. What kills me is that Second Amendment absolutists are often the same people who want to "interpret" the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship.

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    1. A Venn diagram would no doubt show considerable overlap with those who cherry-pick Bible verses denouncing one sin while overlooking those that apply to their own.

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    2. The Ghost of Christmas PastAugust 27, 2015 at 6:35 PM

      not all, I support open borders and instant citizenship for all and I am an atheist. But then, I am a left wing pro-gun person.

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  9. What's so frightening to me is the feeling of inevitability, combined with the surrender of helplessness and acceptance. The thought of a "Live Shooting of the Week" video post on social media is no longer considered insane.

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  10. BIg tobacco is funding the tea party (along with the Koch brothers) and ALEC. They havent gone away, they've become more stealth in their operations.

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    1. But I meant as far as not letting cigarettes be advertised or cracking down on the warning label or if they are peddling to youth.

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  11. The Ghost performs the service of a.) clearly articulating the maniacal viewpoint of certain gun owners, and b.) demonstrating the core of the problem in getting gun control legislation passed, which is that the majority who favor sensible measures are no match, politically, for the single-minded passion of the well-armed, though lightly-regulated would-be "militia" members. How many of us who support gun control wake up every day with it as our #1 priority? How many SPEND MONEY promoting our cause, either by bribing... er, supporting candidates or in additional ways?

    Gotta say I'm with those "complaining about newspapers printing images of yesterday's murder" and am VERY disappointed with our host's choice of photo to put atop his blog. I made it through all of yesterday without seeing the videos, which I do not need to see to understand what happened. Then I'm blind-sided by this horrible image today upon arriving at EGD for my daily fix of Neilism. We could be considering this issue just as readily if a nice photo of the victims, that THEY liked, had been selected. To post one that was either choreographed or, worse, taken by the murderer is an affront to her memory and a tip-of-the-hat to his macabre method, as far as I'm concerned. What viewing this photo or the video has to do with "courage" eludes me.

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    1. Good point Jakash, though I think the shock of the photo brings it home like nothing else could.

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    2. Remember what happened after Jet magazine published the photos of Emmitt Till. People need to start seeing more of these shocking images if that will help knock some sense into these Wayne LaPierre wannabes. Michael Moore said after Sandy Hook that the parents should release the photos so the nation could see what happened and jar them into action. Would it work? Possibly. Mamie Till Mobely did it.

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    3. If I thought there was even a remote chance that it might "knock some sense into these Wayne LaPierre wannabes," I might agree. But I don't. They just use any images or incidents to call for MORE guns. I also don't think that Neil's blog readership includes a very high percentage from that demographic, regardless. "People" may need to see more of these images, but I don't, and I don't believe most of the folks reading this do, either. Since nobody seems to agree with me, I could well be wrong!

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    4. The visuals have shown to be very effective in getting the point across with recent gun violence concerning the police. I believe the same should be available to the public concerning random assassinations. I'm disappointed many media outlets refused to show the mindless cruelty of this event. If anything is able to overcome the NRA's power over this issue, it will be the horror of watching the victims' last, desperate cry for life.

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    5. The videos of police misconduct provide evidence of what really happened, often contrary to the accounts provided by the police. Nobody has any doubt about what happened here. The use of video in the cases of the police shootings is not comparable to just gratuitously showing a murder perpetrated by a murderer who WANTED everybody to see just what he had done, IMHO, Wendy. To me, showing this guy's actions is more akin to showing a beheading conducted by ISIS. In both cases, it's disseminating what they disgustingly consider to be propaganda for their cause.

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  12. The 35% figure comes from thin air. No one tracks how many guns are in the U.S. or who owns them. Only a fool would admit to a stranger on the phone that they had a gun in the home. The stranger could be a robber looking for homes to rob weapons from. I no longer live in Chicago but when I did handguns were illegal but I and everyone I knew had them. Do you think they were going to admit that to a stranger?

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  13. If the deranged murderer had run his victims with a car, would you write a column on that too, needing to be outlawed? Child.

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    1. Nonsense. The function of cars is not to kill. Most homicides are committed with guns, not cars.

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    2. Plus, cars themselves, not to mention ownership and operation of them, are very "well-regulated", comparatively. An apples and oranges analogy, but thanks for playing...

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    3. Hey Child, the reason guns exist is to kill things. The same can't be said for cars, knives, chainsaws, or whatever else you want to throw into your silly comparison.

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    4. Child, you are an idiot.

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    5. Nobody said guns should be outlawed. They should be regulated. Just like cars.

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    6. The Ghost of Christmas PastAugust 27, 2015 at 10:31 PM

      Cars are not a constitutional right. Guns (and arms generally, which today should mean all modern military weapons, changing with the times, just as the First Amendment now applies to TV and the Internet, which no one thought of back then) are a constitutional right. Cars could be outlawed, the right to bear arms cannot. No regulations. Free guns and ammo for the poor and homeless, and an end to the Brady law background checks.

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  14. I feel like we are now watching snuff films on the morning news. Unreal. Why I do I feel, though, that there would be more outrage and calls to action if the perpetrator had shown himself shooting a dog, or Cecil the lion? I hope we are not becoming numb to these horrific HUMAN murders.

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  15. Anon at 4:14, you may have a point about lions, dogs, etc.

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  16. I agree with NS's comment that firearms should be regulated. The question becomes "What's the proper amount of regulation?" Obviously there are strong opinions about that.The Second Amendment seems pretty clear that we have the right to "bear arms". We should be able to do that in a responsible manner. The killings are the acts of irrational people, who are not acting responsibly. I don't know how you can stop that. Is the current situation the price we pay for living in the freest country in the world? If we want to be safer, how much are we willing to give up in personal freedom?

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  17. Let's not forget the word militia in the 2nd amendment. It's not about individual free for alls with guns.

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    1. The Ghost of Christmas PastAugust 27, 2015 at 10:33 PM

      Give it a rest, and read recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. It IS about an individual right to bear arms.

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    2. As a "left wing pro-gun person" you seem pretty pleased about a decision that was provided courtesy of a right-wing disregard of precedent with regard to the second amendment, there, Ghost.

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    3. good catch, Jak

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    4. Actually, if you read Justice Scalia's majority opinion in Heller vs.The District of Columbia, he concludes, using a bit of grammatical legerdemain, that the 2nd Amendment does convey a personal right to own a gun but he also concedes that it doesn't deter sensible government regulation concerning the kind of weapons allowed and who can own them.

      Tom Evans

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  18. Yes, the interpretation of a mostly conservative court. Now go haunt some NRA blog or white supremacist blog.

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    1. Don't you have a bunker to go build somewhere?

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  19. I don't support the NRA--they agree to too much gun control. I support Gun Owners of America and the Second Amendment Foundation. And I am not a white supremacist, but was an active suppoirter of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and Black Lives Matter today. You are barking up the wrong tree. I'm a communist not a right winger.

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  20. Ah, a violent Panther then, or so you say. And I'm the tooth fairy.

    I like the slogan I heard "innocent lives matter."

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Thanks for commenting. As soon as I vet your remarks, they'll be posted, assuming they aren't, you know, mean and crazy.