Reflections on the Limited Media Debate about Guns and Gun Control in the US
Editor’s Note: There has been a great deal of media attention given to gun violence and the debate about gun control, but as this article makes clear, the debate is narrow and limited.
In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary the political dialog has been dominated by the issue of gun control for nearly two months. Extreme solutions have been proposed on “both sides of isle”, and the public is expected to endorse one side or the other on this admittedly complex and contentious issue.
Since the uproar began I’ve spoken with educators, gun enthusiasts, right wing ideologs, anarchists, moderates, and youth. These conversations have taken place during record breaking consumer purchases of guns and ammo (apparently even the warehouses are sold out). Our conversations focused primarily on two questions: How does the mass murder at Sandy Hook relate to gun control, and what is an effective response given our current circumstances? The answers I received have not been articulated in any of the media outlets, with the exception of the right wing ideologs, who seemed to be parroting the right wing media almost verbatim. I will present the noteworthy and exceptional examples I encountered.
To begin, most folks I spoke with did not make the connection between Sandy Hook and gun control nearly as quickly or clearly as the capitalist media or politicians had been telling them to. Indeed, a majority felt that if the issues were related at all, the connection was loose. No one felt that gun control laws would alone solve the issue of spontaneous shootings and massacres, but that reforms surrounding arms would have to come alongside social and cultural changes as well. This reaction gave credence to the Republican assertion that Democrats have been exploiting the tragedy to forward their own agenda. However, implying such begs the question: what agenda, exactly? The right wing has been quick to accuse Obama of attempting to disarm them for his own nefarious (and inevitably, socialist) ends. Second Amendment quotes and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags have been simultaneously brandished with the moral fortitude of a population one would think has been long oppressed by a regime quick to annihilate any dissent.
The “Second Amendment Defense” falls short, however, with the fact that activists (right or left) do not arm themselves against the authorities in the United States. The argument is nullified by its lack of manifestation in the real world. So while Tea Partiers thought it was bold to protest with rifles in tow for a while, the fact the protestors rarely got up from their plastic lawn chairs left those in power feeling decisively calm and unthreatened. While examples of armed struggles against the state certainly exist around the world, this level of resistance rarely occurs in the U.S., and those fighting for “gun rights” don’t seem very eager to begin that dialog, either. After all, activists don’t even need to be armed to be charged with terrorism any longer, “economic disruption” is violent enough for the establishment nowadays.
One gun and hunting enthusiastic provided a perspective on the nature of the reforms being proposed that highlights our representatives’ general ineptitude in handling this issue.
They’ve got the thing all wrong, especially this assault rifle ban they’re talking about. It’s not going to do anything… I have a 7mm BAR downstairs (a hunting rifle). Now, it’s the same as any of those assault rifles on the inside, the guts of the gun are the same. Same amount of power, rate of fire, all that, it just doesn’t look like an assault rifle on the outside. But this type of gun is not going to be affected by the (proposed) ban. Tell me how that makes sense.
I couldn’t. I thought maybe the difference was in the intention of the weapon when it was produced, that hunting rifles aren’t intended to kill people, so that somehow makes them less dangerous. Then I remembered that nearly all the most popular hunting calibers used today were created for snipers in World War II.
The hunter I spoke with (who keeps multiple guns in his vehicle year round) did reject the NRA’s suggestion to arm all teachers for the protection of students, citing it as “unnecessary”. In fact no one I spoke to thought this was a viable or constructive solution.
The most poignant of all my conversations was with the youth, teens ranging from 13-17 in small groups discussing violence in their communities. While none of them or their relatives have been the subject of national headlines recently, nearly all of them have experienced gun violence in their lives, at least peripherally.
The kids felt like conflict resolution and coping skills were the problem, that people lack the skills or resources to resolve their issues in a healthy way or without violence. Some of the youth told stories of friends who had either perpetrated or been the victim of an impulsive act of violence over some seemingly insignificant “beef”. They’re suggestions ranged from tighter security in schools to more parent and community involvement.
When asked whether or not more guns in their communities would make them more or less safe, their answers were unanimous: less. While some believed that they personally needed a gun for protection, it was never argued that this was a solution to violence. Additionally, they all felt like arming teachers would affect their education in a negative way, not positive. None of the youth were compelled by arguments putting economic growth in front of “common sense” gun control reforms, such as closing existing loopholes in the background check system.
My conversations exposed what most Americans already know, that the elite policy makers and their mouth piece (the capitalist press) are vastly out of touch with not only the needs of the people, but also the relationship between the society and social policy. This absurdity is even more exposed when one takes the time to compare the “mainstream” response to the death of 20 children at Sandy Hook to the response to the approximately 176 children killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan alone, (nearly 9 times more). Ironically, Washington politicians have complete control over the latter example, which is funded entirely by US tax dollars, while spontaneous shootings are not only far less deadly, but also random in nature.
The tragedy at Sandy Hook has been used by the power elite as another distraction from issues which truly effect US residents, while the corporate media and lobbying groups have handled the issue equally poorly, creating a false dichotomy between “banning all guns” and “arming every citizen”, as if either of these are appropriate responses to what occurred on December 14th. Americans are well advised to see these pseudo debates for the charades they really are and keep focused on issues that actually contribute to their own freedom.