Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Face It, Right-wing Gun Nuts, Liberals Love Your Kids More Than You Do

So says Las Vegas Sun Publisher Brian Greenspun, who concludes his Sunday column,
It is well past the time when we must put sanity back into a country that loves its guns. That’s because we should love our children more.
Never one to let a crisis go to waste, Greenspun exploits the massacre in Newtown in pursuit of his favorite pastime – increasing the power and control of government over innocent Americans.

Maybe what our country needs is a debate about gun control (and other issues as well). But Greenspun doesn’t offer a debate. Instead he presents a lecture and insults to those who disagree with him – his portrayal of the debate as a fight between “irrational[ity]” and “common sense” is telling. He engages in a fact-free, emotional, condescending attempt to demonstrate his moral superiority over the knuckle-draggers on the other side.

Contrary to the column, the murderer in Newtown did not have an “automatic” weapon. In fact, none of the mass shootings in the last two decades have involved an automatic weapon.

A real debate would include an evaluation of the success or failure of enacting similar policies to what is proposed. Connecticut already has some of the toughest gun-control laws in the nation, including a ban on the sale or possession of so-called “assault weapons”. Neither the Connecticut ban nor the federal ban that lapsed in 2004 would have covered any of the weapons used in Newtown, nor did either law prevent all mass killings. The mass murders in Oklahoma City and the attacks on 9/11 occurred without the use of guns of any type. The Columbine school massacre happened while the federal “assault weapons” ban was in effect.

These mass murderers choose venues in which they believe everyone else to be unarmed and often turn their guns on themselves when confronted by others who are armed. Instead of preventing mass murders, would tighter gun control laws instead have disarmed Nick Meli, Joel Myrick, James Strand and Jeanne Assam, resulting in even greater numbers of innocent deaths?

The city of Chicago enacted a handgun freeze thirty years ago and has banned assault weapons for two decades. Most of its suburbs have followed suit. Yet gun violence has killed dozens of school-age children in Chicago this year alone.

Ten years after a gun ban in response to a school massacre in England, gun violence had nearly doubled in that country. Contrary to what many gun control proponents would have you believe, gun-related deaths in the United States have been decreasing in recent years even as gun ownership has increased.

After failing to obtain a gun legally, the Newtown killer went to the extreme of murdering his own mother to get the weapons he used for this massacre. It’s hard to imagine any law that could deter someone so hell-bent on committing evil.

Even if new gun laws were successful at stopping highly-publicized mass killings but crime-related deaths overall increased as a result, would that be a price worth paying? A real debate would include that discussion.

A real debate – if we must “do something, regardless of the political consequences” – would also look beyond guns.

What is the role of the media in promoting such evil acts? The news media hardly covered itself in glory reporting this event. In a frenzy that put being first over being right, they pumped out misinformation as fast as stories could be filed or bits tweeted. They blasted the name and photo of the wrong person and hounded children who’d just witnessed life-altering tragedy for interviews.

Beyond the irresponsible coverage does the media share blame for these incidents by glorifying deviance, sensationalizing evil and immortalizing its perpetrators?

How many people recognize the names Cassie Bernall, SteveCurnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matt Kechter, Daniel Mauser, DanielRohrbough, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren Townsend, KyleVelasquez and Dave Sanders? Too many people know them as merely a number, one of 13, while the names of their killers at Columbine High School live on in infamy.

Is the lure of this type of immortality irresistible to some of society’s losers? Would some sort of media restriction or self-restraint help to prevent another slaughter of children?

A real debate would address the effect the media has upon these killers.

Whenever I think about this tragedy I think about the parents and the anguish they’re going through. If the sting were not enough, the holiday season will be filled with constant reminders to the families – seeing presents under the Christmas tree, receiving cards and gifts that were mailed before their child’s death. As a father I can’t imagine having to deal with this loss.

Yet we must be careful to avoid an emotional overreaction that could result in more innocent people getting killed or an erosion of liberty of law-abiding people that has little effect on lawbreakers. There are people who have been waiting for an incident just like this as justification to do what they’ve always wanted to do.

There are a number of complex issues involved in minimizing the ability of evil people to commit evil and every “solution” has its own set of problems, which are magnified when they are enforced with the police power of the state. The people who are convinced they know the answer are the last people we should be listening to.

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