The infant discussion of America's gun-craziness needs to expand to "America's Culture of Violence," suggests Nicholas Thompson
"[T]he slaughter in Newtown, the worst single event in this country in eleven years and three months, should lead to a moment of deep reflection. It's time to talk about guns; but it's also time to talk about a lot more."
-- Nicholas Thompson, in a newyorker.com blogpost,
"America's Culture of Violence"
"America's Culture of Violence"
I don't know how far it will go or how long it will last, but the events in Newtown have for sure opened the discussion the country has been working so strenuously to avoid.
One interesting point Rachel Maddow made last night a graphic earlier in the show got the number wrong is that something like 74 percent of NRA members favor background checks for gun purchasers. (The graphic had reported the number as something like 59 percent.) Obviously I don't have all the specifics, but the number is encouraging, and suggests that American gun owners may not be as (literally) gun-crazy as we assume from the general absence of discussion of even the most basic responsibilities of gun ownership.
We know, however, that the NRA is one of the most powerful and feared lobbies in the country, and its case it's pretty clear that "most powerful" and "most feared" are essentially the same thing. It looks at least to me that the overriding reason we have gotten farther and farther from any serious discussion of gun ownership is politicians' and society leaders' terror -- the word doesn't seem too stroong -- of the wrath of the NRA, based on as much empirical evidence as they seem to need. (We're not talking about notoriously courageous types to begin with. Nevertheless they have seen enough evidence of the NRA's power to end political careers to draw the appropriate conclusion.)
It's clearly true that the NRA wouldn't have thais kind of power if it couldn't rally enough support from its members with its by-now-routine its repellent campaigns of lies and smears against any citizen who deviates from its party line on guns and "freedom." (I was struck by the report of a colleague who posts regularly on LGBT issues on a major mainstream website, and so is accustomed to a certain amount of hateful commenting, that he's never seen anything like the volume and vitriol of the response he got when he posted once on the subject of America's love for guns. It really threw a scare into him.) Still, it's encouraging to think that many NRA members, possibly even the overwhelming majority of them, are smarter and more principled than their gunmasters believe.
One thing that's important to remember is that the NRA honchos aren't exactly persons of "principle," unless you count as principle an unswerving devotion to the in incredibly rich and powerful industry that really lies behind them. We can't ever forget just how big a business the U.S. arms industry is. It doesn't hurt its interests to have the country saturated in gun craziness. This is a point I kept coming back to while reading this short but powerful post by The New Yorker's Nicholas Thompson. (Note that there are a lot of links in the post which you'll find onsite.)
At the risk of belaboring the obvious, I note that the cartoon I've put at the top of this post was drawn by a Croatian for an Austrian newspaper.
December 15, 2012
A troubled young man in Connecticut lays his hands on the kinds of guns that no civilian should ever have and does something that no civilization should ever see. The obvious way to prevent the next such massacre is gun control. And, yes, we need it now. Voters need to be loud, politicians need to be brave, and the gun lobby needs to be defeated. Perhaps Barack Obama, no longer up for election, will no longer be chicken. Perhaps the ever-more-obvious data will be persuasive—yes, more gun control correlates with less violence, state-by-state and country-by-country.
But American violence doesn't just come from the assault weapons we buy and the gun shows we frequent. It's much deeper than that. This is also the country that supplies three-quarters of the world's arms trade. These are weapons sales authorized by our government and by a Democratic President. International weapon sales by America between 2010 and 2011 tripled. The same Democratic President continues a policy of targeted (often poorly) assassinations in Pakistan.
This country also supplies most of the world's violent entertainment. America leads the world in massacres in life, and in film too. Read I.M.F.D.B. for a harrowing catalogue. The most popular movie this week, "Skyfall," is a load of fun; but every emotional climax involves a shooting, sometimes with small guns sometimes with large ones. Firearms have long been identified with masculinity in popular culture. Ever more they are identified with femininity, too. The most popular video game this week is "Halo 4;" the most popular novel is Tom Clancy's "Threat Vector;" the second- and third-best-selling works of nonfiction are "Killing Kennedy" and "Killing Lincoln," respectively. Every author, and every creator, should have the right to make what they want. We need to change the way we think about the Second Amendment, not the First. Still, every civilian has a right to choose what to see and what to buy.
Violence is sometimes essential to art, and often to foreign policy, too. But the slaughter in Newtown, the worst single event in this country in eleven years and three months, should lead to a moment of deep reflection. It's time to talk about guns; but it's also time to talk about a lot more.