As Zimmerman’s killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin so horribly demonstrates, far from making people safer, all too often a gun makes a bad situation much, much worse. Accept for the moment Zimmerman’s own account of the night of February 26, 2012: after he had followed Martin, Martin attacked and got the better of him, and, in fear for his life, he shot Martin in self-defense. Zimmerman says that Martin reached for Zimmerman’s gun. Since no one is claiming Martin set out that evening for anything other than Skittles and an iced tea — certainly not to kill someone he’d never met before — even if we believe Zimmerman’s story, that story tells us that the presence of a gun helped turn a fist fight into a killing. Without the gun, the encounter might never have happened, since Zimmerman would have been a pistol’s-worth less confident about getting out of his car and following Martin.
Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking soundbites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, ‘that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘The Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machinegun?”
The obscure 1995 Leonardo DiCaprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.
The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. Kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”
In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, “The NBC Nightly News” and other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them.
The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.
A Roger Ebert quote that sticks out in my mind
From his review of Gus Van Sant’s Elephant
All I know is that when I’m robbing somebody’s house I make a point of locking myself in the bathroom because when you got to go you got to go and if somebody is in the bathroom in the middle of the night, Occam’s razor says it’s either a robber or Santa Clause, but either way shoot first.
by The White Houseon Flickr.
President Barack Obama shoots clay targets on the range at Camp David, Md., Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
OMG HE’S TAKING OUR GUNS AWAY
Obama, this is one of the lamest things I’ve ever seen. How about instead of doing gross photo-ops to appease gun nuts, you call the NRA what it is (a lobby for gun manufacturers) and start getting tough on banning the weaponry that’s killing 10,000+ people in the United States a year and is being exported to Mexican drug cartels in unprecedented numbers?
Really? You think trying to be an example of healthy, balanced gun ownership is lame? The man isn’t holding an AR, for chrissake. Grow up.
Perfect example of why I’ve unfollowed people like mg. Sorry I’m not sorry. When you leave little to no room for nuance or the normal human experience, everything is black or white, and EVERY GODDAMN THING is about the issues you deem most important and how everyone else doesn’t measure up, you’re just a whiny annoyance on endless loop. Ugh.
Takes one to know one, and I hate when I realize I’ve been that person.
Yay: Obama and guns and that polo shirt. Yay: adult conversation about gun ownership and responsible use. Yay: people who hate criminals and gun deaths and Mexican drug cartels. Yay: people who can hold balanced conversations about complicated and layered issues without forcing everyone who disagrees with them to tune out.
One of the greatest impediments to actually solving the riddle of guns in our society is the pious concern that many people have about the intent of the Second Amendment. It should hardly need to be said that despite its brilliance and utility, the Constitution of the United States was written by men who could not possibly have foreseen every change that would occur in American society in the ensuing centuries. Even if the Second Amendment guaranteed everyone the right to possess whatever weapon he or she desired (it doesn’t), we have since invented weapons that no civilian should be allowed to own. In fact, it can be easily argued that original intent of the Second Amendment had nothing to do with the right of self-defense—which remains the ethical case to be made for owning a firearm. The amendment seems to have been written to allow the states to check the power of the federal government by maintaining their militias. Given the changes that have occurred in our military, and even in our politics, the idea that a few pistols and an AR 15 in every home constitutes a necessary bulwark against totalitarianism is fairly ridiculous. If you believe that the armed forces of the United States might one day come for you—and you think your cache of small arms will suffice to defend you if they do—I’ve got a black helicopter to sell you.
Dude on facebook just got bent that I referred to the story of Daniel in the lion’s den as mythology (after he brought it up). He’s apparently offended that his “faith” was referred to as “mythology.”
Topic: “The Second Amendment and How It May or May Not Be Relevant in 2013”
So now he won’t share his nuanced and “deeper” perspective on gun control.
Sometimes you just have to laugh.
I mean, is there no hope? WTF?
I’m curious about the viability of a federal prohibition on the media giving a name and a face to perpetrators (and alleged perps) of these public gun massacres. At least prior to any criminal charges.
Thinking it might help with two serious accelerants in this continuing chaos… 1. it would alleviate the pornographic media/public lust for (inaccurate) early info, and 2. it could possibly stem the attention craving portion of the motives of these deviants.
Just a thought. Not sure about that whole Freedom Of Press thing. Sticky. But all of this sucks, obviously.