Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre: Another Tragedy Fostered by Big Guns (the NRA) and Big Media

Today, I'm writing to express my outrage at the horrendous campus murder spree at Virginia Tech. A recordbreaking and pointless tragedy has occurred because many Americans and American politicians can't tell the difference between hunting rifles and hand-held semi-automatic assault weapons, and because Big Media supports this ignorance by consistently down-playing the terrible effect that the general availibility of such weapons has on our society.

Big Media's intensive coverage of the aftermath of this national tragedy and the stories of personal sacrifice has been excellent in most respects, and for that, I thank them all. Many reports are even asking the almost inevitable question, "Will this be the shocking event that puts serious gun control on the table?" They may even report on polls that show a majority of Americans support gun control.

Then, however, they explain how politically unlikely enacting gun control legislation is. How strong the National Rifle Association's fundraising and voting bloc is, and how, historically, public demand for gun control peters out once any tragedy has passed. So, it seems unlikely the current public outcry for gun control will be sustained.

Some would call this "covering the political realities of the gun control issue." I call it "managing expectations downward," a self-fulfilling prophecy that tells people who want to press for gun control that they are tilting at windmills. By handling stories this way, Big Media are literally doing public relations work for the NRA!

Do you ever wonder why there is very little sustained coverage of how guns impact our society and why there is virtually no public discussion of the 30 plus deaths caused by guns in America daily? Why they seldom cover the efforts of the growing movement of non-profit organizations that are lobbying for change? Why they don't tell us that we lead the world in gun killings by orders of magnitude more than than country number two, and the rest of the developed world views this aspect of our society with alarm. Why? Blame the NRA.

No big news organization, political party, or individual politician wants to attack the NRA's position because the NRA will unleash it's reknowned political pressure machine on them. NRA members will flood their switchboards protesting the "unfair" coverage. NRA leadership will start calling members of the sitting administration, members of Congress, and leaders and board members of other Big Media companies to harangue them. Ad campaigns of the "from my cold, dead hands" variety will start appearing everywhere.

Attempting to hide the fact that they are constantly caving in to NRA pressure tactics, Big Media news operations give us excuses. They say most of these deaths don't get reported because they aren't "good copy." They're just anonymous dead people. Well, I'm convinced that many of these men, women, and children might not have died if guns had not been so readily at hand, and easily available to unstable people and criminals.

I'm not against guns per se. I've handled many weapons and I'm a good shot. Though I haven't hunted in many years, I respect hunting and understand the passing on of traditions. However, there's a vast difference between owning rifles for hunting and allowing large numbers of non-hunters to own high-powered assault weapons and hand guns that are designed specifically and only for killing people. The NRA continues to scream that the loss of the freedom to own any gun will be a catastrophic loss of a basic constitutional right. I can't believe that is what the framers of the Constitution had in mind.

I think that many hunters and conservatives can see this is true, but they're afraid to break ranks with their neighbors and buddies at the hunt club, who pay their NRA dues, compare high-powered weaponry, and talk confrontational patriotic bullshit over their beers.

I'm sure there are plenty of reasonable people who say to themselves what most know is true, "Hell. A lever action 30.30 or a 5 shot 30.06 semi-auto is more than enough firepower for hunting, or protecting yourself from, the biggest game in the continental USA."

How do we reach and empower these rational people? How do we convince them that society's need to control the availability of human-killing weapons most appropriate to terrorism or the military is legitimate, and isn't also a backdoor attempt to take away their hunting guns and a traditional way of life they value? I wish I knew the answer to that one.

In sorrow,

/Dick

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