American Culture

Time to push back against gun disinformation

One of these days it will be time to start pushing back against the disinformation, propaganda, and lies of the gun lobby.  I don’t know if today is the day, but I hope so.  Twenty little kids and six educators are dead–isn’t that enough?

Here’s the gun lobby argument in a nutshell:  the solution to gun violence is more gun ownership legal in more places so that law abiding citizens can protect themselves from the thugs who can get guns easily and illegally.

Here are some arguments we would dismiss as ridiculous:

“Cigarettes are safe and you should smoke more.”

“Acid rain is not a problem so we should burn more high-sulphur coal.”

“Man-made climate disruption is a myth, so we can burn more fossil fuels.”

Isn’t it time to start exposing the fallacies in the gun argument to make the “more is safer” argument a thing of the past?

After Columbine and other school shootings we’ve heard the argument that teachers should be armed. If you can remember your kindergarten teacher, try picturing her with a sidearm.  Imagine the increased risk posed by a gun around all those little energetic, eager hands.

Today we don’t have to let our imaginations run too wild to see the problem.

The most popular sites in a Google search for gun statistics, aside from Wikipedia (and that’s easy to manipulate as well), are all backed by pro-gun sources.  Since we know that people don’t dig too far for their information, these pieces of propaganda will have a huge impact on the impending conversation.  Some people may continue to be persuaded that we can do nothing to stop the violence.

But we can.

“But we have a constitutional right to own guns.”

Yeah.  Americans used to have a constitutional right to own other people.  Most of us think we got that one right eventually.

I’m not advocating repealing the second amendment.  But it’s time to address meaningful gun access and ownership restrictions.  Fewer guns in the market place means fewer guns available for potential criminals.  Just ask Mexico, whose drug gangs arm themselves from the US because it’s easier.

8 replies »

  1. I would love to have an honest conversation with people about gun legislation. The problem is one side of the argument refuses to educate themselves about guns at all. So rather like the abortion debate where you have people claiming “women can shut that whole thing down” you have people who know nothing about weapons trying to determine what should be banned. They hear scary words like “semi-automatic” and “assault” and flip out. They don’t ask “well what does that mean and how does that get used by the average shooter” or even “does that have a strict definition or is it a marketing term?” So we completely ignore the stuff that gun owners are willing to talk about: stronger education requirements for concealed carry, getting the medical databases to talk to the gun check databases so we have more then a “you check this box” answer to “are you currently under mental treatment”, getting gun safety education into the classroom so kids don’t pick up guns out of curiosity, and homeowner insurance discounts if you have a qualified gun safe.
    Also it would help if Hollywood actually depicted guns in a realistic manner instead of perpetuating the disinformation about how guns work. You want to talk about glorifying gun violence, look at video games trying to be as gory as possible and movies for showing guys that are indestructible as long as they keep shooting. The average gun owner isn’t the one giving this image.

    • Lara: There’s no question that our culture has all kinds of complex dysfunctional pathologies re: guns and violence, and there is also no question that curing these would go a long way toward eliminating stories like the one we saw yesterday. And you know me well enough to know two things: one, I’m a gun owner, and two, I’m ALL in favor of curing the disease instead of merely slapping a band-aid on the symptom.

      However, the solutions I dream of there are of the sort that would require, at a minimum, a generation or two of cultural reengineering. How many more attacks will take how many more innocent lives in the that two generations? Sometimes the answer isn’t either/or, it’s both/and. Education is great. Finding ways to more appropriately depict violence – awesome.

      Changing our laws so that we’re absolute fucking ballbusters about keeping guns out of the hands of the insane: essential.

      Your comment sets out to address the issue in more critical depth, and I appreciate that. But it has the effect of inadvertently serving the interests of the wrong people. These arguments make it easier to hedge and delay, and that isn’t acceptable.

      To put it bluntly, if a madman is shooting at you, it may be because he is ill and in dire need of help. It may be because he isn’t truly responsible for his actions. A humane people will do what they can to help this lost soul. But first, they need to TAKE THE GUN AWAY FROM HIM.

    • So in order to keep my freedom to own a gun, will i need to give up all sorts of other things like the ability to play the video games of my choice or watch certain types of movies? Also, there should be a giant government database that knows everything about me, easily accessible from every sporting goods store.

      Also, i noticed that in your discussion of our culture of violence, you failed to mention us being a nation that’s been almost continuously at war since our inception. A nation where i can’t turn on a sporting event without all sorts of patriotic pomp and circumstance directed at honoring our heroes out there killing whoever thinks about getting in the way of freedom.

  2. Assuming that proponents of gun control are ignorant about guns would be a mistake. Maybe more education about the lethal nature of guns will convince more people that they should be regulated, but that’s rarely what proponents of gun education have in mind. We need to stop having just the conversations that “gun owners are willing to talk about” and start having the hard conversations that we need to have about reducing the flood of weapons.

    Tying gun ownership to mental health in these days of HIPPA and paranoia about Big Brother won’t work. Back when mental illness was viewed as a defect, It would have been easier to identify, label, and control people’s behavior. But not in these days of hyper-mobility and hyper-privacy.

    The last point I can’t address from direct experience as I avoid most movies that glorify violence (except for James Bond, which is probably the least realistic).

  3. Hi, I’m an Australian sports shooter (one of about half a million who own guns in Oz, out of a population of 22m). First my condolences and sincere thoughts for all those affected by the awful Sandy Hook tragedy.

    Australian states have relatively strict, and fairly consistent, gun laws. I agree with their intent and don’t have any difficulty in complying with their letter, but believe some of the associated bureaucracy is over the top and doesn’t contribute to their value or effectiveness. Some aspects however are very good; notably the emphasis on safe/secure storage of firearms.

    Deaths due to firearms in Oz are quite low and have dropped since ‘our’ Port Arthur massacre back in the 90s; although the stats show they were also dropping at a similar rate in the years leading up to it. I suspect that means the factors involved are far more complex than meet the eye and it needs a broad range of ‘treatments’ that should include but not be limited to regulation. More genuine research and less ideology on both sides would help. For example about 4 out of 5 of Oz firearms deaths are suicides (usually by older males), but there is not a lot of discussion of, say, connecting it with the treatment of depression in that demographic.

    Guns cannot be owned for personal defense in Oz (and the idea of doing so would seem very strange to most Australians). I do competitive target shooting and (to a lesser extent) hunt feral animals. Most of the people I shoot with (in two clubs) see their firearms fundamentally as sporting / recreation equipment. However, outside of that circle I would rarely discuss sport shooting at all, as I would automatically be labelled (and perhaps even feared) as a ‘gun nut’ by some.

    While the cultures of the USA and Oz are similar, there are also some critical differences. We don’t have a history of encountering lots of large dangerous predators in our bush, we became a nation without firing a single angry shot, we’ve never had a massive civil war, the Australian Defense Force has never fired on its own citizens (let alone its veterans), and our Second Amendment simply allows the feds to take over the debts of a state if needed. (About the only parallel is our equally shameful treatment of indigenous people.) This gives us an entirely different context and attitude to owning and using firearms, and what would suit Oz for gun control probably wouldn’t suit the USA.

    Fo some time I’ve had an interest in the different approaches to gun control used throughout the world. One thing that strikes me is how most how tend to reflect politics rather than risk management. If people are looking for good models to adapt, could I suggest examining the German gun laws? Though not perfect, they seem to have come the closest so far to working genuinely through the various risks and providing reasonably realistic controls for each.

  4. @ TS: Thanks for being a voice of reason and providing a bit of perspective. I appreciate your awareness of the cultural and historical issues that color American practices. Most Americans no longer “lots of large dangerous predators,” although black bears are moving back into some populated areas and deer (though not dangerous) are frequent visitors to my inner-ring suburban neighborhood. That being said, the American approach to things is often confounding to people, whether they live here are not (health care, transportation, etc.)

    You are spot on about how laws “tend to reflect politics rather than risk management.” Keep you eye on what the outcome (if any) there is to the current spate of talk about assault weapons bans and needing to do something. I fear it won’t be pretty–I just hope it will be productive.

  5. One objection that I often have in regards to an “assault weapons ban” is the absolutely inordinate amount of firearms ignorance that proponents of gun control so often become known for. As a gun owner(a single .22 rifle, nothing over the top) I find myself laughing in disbelief at some of the things said. For instance, the remarks made by Carolyn McCarthy in this video show that she had indeed tried very hard to ban something that she had no clue about.

    Now, I understand that these politicians don’t really have time to become experts in every field they must vote on, but Gun Control is her issue. Both by her admission and by that of her opponents, I would hope someone in her situation would at least have a general idea of what she is legislating on. I become upset at these politicians every time they show their ignorance like Todd Akin and Mrs. McCarthy.

    Why try to ban something if you have no clue what it is? There is no rational thought in these actions. I can get behind “common sense” control when someone who knows something about the subject can discuss it.

  6. Hey Tyler, I can understand your frustration with ignorance. Maybe you should have made the ignorance charge on the Carolyn McCarthy’s page? I get really frustrated by irrelevant and ignorant comments, too.