Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26, 2012

There was yet another shooting on Christmas Eve; the victims this time were firefighters responding to a fire set by the killer. The Newtown killings ten days earlier had prompted serious debate, and this additional incident — and no doubt more to come — may create the bare possibility of useful action on gun control. I set out my thoughts on that subject on June 14 and December 15; I won’t repeat them here, but will address a different point.
The NRA and its surrogates are in panic mode, as evidenced by a speech by NRA VP Wayne La Pierre at a "press conference" on December 21. Arming everyone, or at least someone in every school, is the only solution, according to him; certainly easy access to guns doesn’t pose a danger. Because guns can’t be a cause of so many deaths by shooting, the NRA must look elsewhere, and has decided that we are corrupted by the depiction of violence in movies and video games. That theory has been mocked on the left; below is an excerpt from an article on Think Progress captioned "The 10 Craziest Statements from the NRA Press Conference." (I’ve presented the statements in the order spoken by a Pierre; the article rearranged them, as shown by the paragraph numbers).
(2) There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people (9) through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one [projected on screens]: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it?
(7) We have blood soaked films out there like ‘American Psycho’ and ‘Natural Born Killers’ that are aired like propaganda loops on Splatterdays, and every single day. A thousand music videos — and you all know this — portray life as a joke, and they portray murder as a way of life.
(10) Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?
(8) In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty right into our homes every minute, every day, every hour of every single year 90
Those are not crazy comments. True, they are part of an attempt to divert attention from the role of guns in murder, but regardless of the source, they raise an issue which needs to be considered. I can’t offer any comments on music videos, having virtually no exposure to them. The same is true as to direct experience of violent movies and games. However, I see ads on television for video games and movies, and trailers for films in theaters, and they do indeed seem to feature gobs of violence, gratuitous violence. Experts seem to differ on the effect, and we are told that there is no direct evidence of increased violence due to these influences. At the risk of sounding anti-intellectual, I recommend using a little common sense: being awash in violent entertainment can’t be a good thing; a violence-is-fun culture is more likely to produce violence than a more peaceful one. One response will be that most people are not driven to violence by entertainment. That misses the point: mass and/or random killings are not the work of the well-adjusted.
Neither gun control nor restriction of violent images would be easy; both raise Constitutional issues, as that document currently is interpreted. The former would be less difficult, both because there is more room left by the Court’s view of the Second Amendment than of the First , and because it would be politically less difficult, especially if limited to such measures as outlawing assault weapons and rapid-fire clips.

90. The article is at: quotes-from-the-nra-press-conference/ . Here’s a video of the press conference: 100000001969743/nra-calls-for-armed-guards-in-schools.html #100000001969743 .

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 15, 2012

On December 11, a gunman killed two, wounded one and then killed himself in a mall in Clackamas, Oregon. The Seattle Times responded with an editorial captioned "Put the Oregon mall shooting in perspective." Its perspective is that we shouldn’t be upset: shopping malls rarely are the venue for deadly gunfire and only a small fraction of the people at the Clackamas mall were killed; the shooting "is not . . . a reason to be intimidated."
The Times seemed to deplore the media attention to the event: "A shooting is news. It should also be news that the rate of murder in America has fallen wonderfully in the past 20 years. . . . And while random murders in public places get big attention, few murders are random. Retail districts full of holiday shoppers are some of the safest places there are."
One of the perspectives the Times might have noted is that the country is awash in firearms. By one standard, beloved of Fox News, it would have been bad taste to mention that during a period of mourning, but talking about gun control couldn’t have been less sensitive than the Times’ advice to get out and shop. If we were having an ongoing dialogue about gun control, suspension of the discussion for a period after a shooting spree might be appropriate. However, we aren’t having that debate, and the only time anyone focuses on the problem is in the aftermath of killing. Almost as if to mock the Times ’ complacency, on Friday a gunman entered the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and killed 26 students and teachers before committing suicide.

The paper addressed the Sandy Hook massacre this morning with a brief editorial comment notable for its evasiveness. "Once past the initial shock and grief that comes with deadly rampages in a single week, the public will demand a sober conversation about violence against innocents." Should that conversation include proposals for gun control? Well, no. The Times mentioned the Clackamas and Sandy Hook shootings, but added a reference to an attack by "a knife-wielding man" in China. "Reality will hopefully trump old rhetoric about violence and weapons," we were told, the message apparently being that taking away guns won’t eliminate violence. Of course it won’t, but it surely will reduce the number of dead. (The editorial neglected to mention that there were no fatalities in the China incident).
The Times managed to find the common element in the incidents to be that "they took place in innocuous settings — shopping malls, schools — with innocent victims," which doesn’t suggest any plan of action. Accordingly, the editorial’s conclusion — "Saying and doing nothing is not an option in the face of so many funerals and grieving families" — is devoid of content, and ludicrous given its refusal to mention guns.
Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day