I wrote the following essay one year ago yesterday…
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Some thoughts on guns. (It’s not what you think)
I grew up in a home with guns, and I was taught respect for them. That respect was extended from the real ones to the fake one. Those who grew up in a responsible gun home know what those rules are, my job is not to go into them right now. Nevertheless, they are essential.
And so, I had set of snazzy cap guns. I also had a little Daisy single pump BB gun. When we went shooting with my father we would use a .22 mostly. And as we proved our ability to be trusted, and to physically handle larger caliber weapons, we were allowed to do so while under supervision. I’m pretty sure I still have a bruise from the first time I was allowed to shoot a muzzle loader.
When I finally reached the age at which I was allowed to go hunting with my father, I got myself all oranged up, I was handed a 16 gauge shotgun and other essentials, and off we went.
At some point during that day it hit me what I was doing. I was only around 12 years old, I was carrying a powerful weapon and I was trying to kill something. It was an epiphany of sorts for me. I still love venison, but I never went hunting again.
I also didn’t write off guns. I had been brought up around them in such a way that I accepted that they were simply something that was in this world. Just like pencils and shovels. They are simply tools.
I do not like or dislike gun owners, nor do I feel either way about those who dislike guns. Everyone is entitled to their own position and feelings. As long as it’s theirs and theirs alone. But that’s where the problem starts.
What I do not like are organizations like the NRA who hide behind laws, assume a rigid public position, obfuscate the truth, and subtly dictate public opinion.
Here is a prime example: There is a saying the NRA are quite fond of that goes like this: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people!” At its essence this saying is true. The insinuation being that a person bent on killing could just as easily do so with a shovel to the head, or a pencil in the jugular. The intent comes from the individual, the tool is inanimate without the person. People do the killing.
But there’s another saying that the NRA is fond of, and it’s somewhat different. This one says: “Guns save lives!”
Do you see the problem yet?
Guns can’t be credited with saving lives, but absolved of killing people at the same time. They are still just a tool. If someone with a gun saves a life, then that person just saved a life… they just happened to use a gun to do it. They could just have well done it with a can of pepper spray, or a well aimed Moe Howard poke to the eyes.
And so the truth is that people kill people. And it is also true that people save lives.
So what’s the real problem? It’s not the guns. It’s not the mental health system. It’s not the anti-gun movement. It’s not religious nuts. It’s money, and its politics. It’s fear, and it’s organizations like the NRA.
Gun sales skyrocket not by slick marketing campaigns like cars and snack foods do, they rise in relation to national fear. Notice what happens anytime a liberal gets in a seat of power… Rumors begin to circulate that they’re coming for your guns. This kind of campaign works particularly well via social media where it’s easy to hit the “Forward” button without having to check the facts. Look at what happened to gun sales when Barack Obama was elected President, there was an explosion in weapon and ammo sales! And yet, the president never said a word about guns or gun control for years. Yet social media was full of insinuations and rumors that this socialist black Muslim dictator was going to take your guns, your rights, and your freedom.
And the fear rose, as did the gun sales. All the while the Second Amendment remained untouched and unchallenged. And hunters and housewives could still get an AK-47.
If you mix that kind of fear and paranoia with firearms, things begin to get dangerous. And if you add in the lack of respect, education, and basic safety for those same weapons, well then you get a perfect storm for destruction. There’s only one component left for detonation.
The media. The media is the secret ingredient to America’s gun violence.
It’s the media that starts AND causes the chain reaction in a multitude of ways. It’s no secret that they judge a story’s level of importance with the saying “If it bleeds, it leads!” When a mass shooting occurs, it’s the media who race each other to be the first to air a retrospective on the killer: Name, Religion, Family, Upbringing… Make sure to zoom in on a sepia-tone shot of the killer with a look of defiance or hate on his face.
The focus on ratings has so blinded the entire industry that they now have to actually avoid the direct correlation between their “in depth” coverage of the killers and the rising tide of victims.
And so the problem starts with the money and gun sales. It gestates with the lobbying power that the NRA wields. Dripping in cash, they swat at naysayers with a rolled up copy of the Second Amendment. The problem, then gets fed and nurtured with the fiction and lies of social media. Only to emerge, fully formed, in all its complexities, as a single deadly act. Each facet of which is so unique and overwhelming that they alone are capable of producing and sustaining entire conversations, each one distracting the public in a thousand different directions.
All the while we struggle, argue, cry and fight, looking for the circle’s beginning that we’re sure is there somewhere.