The War on Words: Gun Control and Shootings

This is the sixth post in a series of however many I feel like blog posts on the misuse and abuse of language with regard to controversial topics.  For some context, it might be helpful to read the posts in order starting with the first one.  The second one, third one, fourth one and fifth one may also be of interest.  Perhaps there will be a seventh entry in the series, because [insert deity, non-anthropomorphic abstraction, or prophet of choice] knows that we have enough misused language to examine.

The War on Words continues over the hills and through the woods as rifle reports sound and the furry victims of shootings fall to the ground dead or dying.  It rages in the big cities and border towns where drug trafficking and crushing poverty lead people into desperate times and toward desperate measures that often leave bullet holes in their fellow man.  It sometimes sneaks into the suburbs with fearful parents who have no idea how to secure their adult security blankets and on occasion ends for a moment in tragic accidents when the children they were trying to protect find a deadly weapon that looks like a toy.  It quietly ignores the real wars raging across the face of our little planet so long as it can be avoided.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been treated to the mind-boggling inanity of a debate over gun control prompted by many folks who seem to enjoy using a tragedy to push their favored policy without even understanding the situation and perpetuated by many folks who oppose that policy change without even knowing what it might entail.

 It didn’t take long before the straw men were burning and red herrings were being tossed around.  The few sensible conversations on the topic were quickly drowned out by a tidal wave of self-righteous outrage on the part of those advocating for stricter gun control laws and the indignant retorts of those who like their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms just the way it is, thank you very much.  The discussion of the mass murder at the elementary school went from laudable human empathy to a rancorous policy discussion at the speed of rumor, the only known substance proven to routinely exceed the speed of light.  The few voices mentioning that we should have the policy discussion only after we had calmed down and suggesting that we should not be so quick to pick out a scapegoat to sacrifice to the gods of authoritarianism were quickly shouted down by those shooting off at the mouth and firing only blanks at each other.

I was amused to note that many of those who seem greatly concerned by the shootings at an elementary school did not bother even taking aim at other atrocities committed in their own names.  Maybe those who suffer from myopic vision ought not to be allowed to make broad policy suggestions.  And let’s face it, the shooting isn’t what bothers most of us so much as the murder.  Calling it a shooting (while certainly accurate) understates the real tragedy of the deaths of children and teachers and skirts the real cause of our fear and pain.  I’m sure most of the folks who are so deeply outraged by the event will agree that it was the wanton killing that really bothered them much more than the methods even while they seek to redirect their emotional turmoil and turn their internal firing squad against those who disagree with them on matters of policy.  Maybe we need to just take away their microphones if they’re emotionally unhinged.  After all, the right to free speech need not be interpreted so broadly as to allow people to use their voices irresponsibly while mentally unstable.  Speaking of mental instability…

 The wildly and hilariously varying definitions of gun control being bandied about were a linguistic spectacle taking place in public discourse akin to the clowns in a circus playing at being gymnasts and genuinely believing that they were champions at it.  For some, gun control apparently means banning automatic weapons for most people, which as I recall is already in effect.  For others, it means banning semi-automatic weapons, a proposal I can only assume comes from those traditionalists who feel that muzzle-loaders are the best sort of gun to have and that we should really get back to the good old days when each round had to be loaded individually.  For a few others, it meant that the government was coming to take all their guns and they really ought to go out and buy more of them, a perspective which I’m sure was greeted with applause by gun manufacturers and retailers.  For yet more, it meant bringing back the good old Assault Weapons Ban, a piece of legislation that even one of my friends who happens to be a longtime Democrat in favor of stricter gun control measures admitted was woefully ineffective and did not accomplish what he would have liked it to accomplish.

As long as we use the phrase “gun control” to mean a bunch of things that either don’t make sense or don’t work very well, the debate over which gun control policies we should enact goes nowhere fast, gun violence will continue to be a far more common problem than it should be, and policy measures which would really prevent gun violence will remain out of reach.  Even worse, the anguish in the human heart, the callous disregard for the lives of others, and the desperation of poverty that are far greater contributors to gun violence will go untreated as we shoot an already mostly dead scapegoat to feel better about ourselves.

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27 Responses to The War on Words: Gun Control and Shootings

  1. First post P.  Gun control is being able to hit your target.

  2. Knife violence is so much more preferable than gun violence.  I think it’s that we like all the gore.  Not al gore, tho.

  3. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @soccerdadforlife – You’re right.  Knives are clearly better.  Just ask anyone who has died from knife wounds.  And I don’t see why we shouldn’t go back to spears.  They weren’t so bad.  But maybe not the atlatl.  It should probably be regulated.

  4. @Nous_Apeiron – And if we’re going to register guns, which is a surrogate for swords, we need to also register pens because the pen is mightier than the sword.  The pen, of course, is a surrogate for the media.

  5. Erika_Steele says:

    knives? spears? maybe going back to sticks and stones would be best.

  6. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @soccerdadforlife – On a serious note, aren’t all the media outlets already essentially required to register their business with the government, given the permits and tax information required?@Erika_Steele – Good point.  I enjoy stick fighting (aka ascrima), but I think rocks are probably too dangerous.  They’re too easy to throw and cause too much damage.

  7. quest4god says:

    Those who want a dead body (or many) will find some way, with or without conventional weapons.   Strangulation is pretty quick and not gory…or suffocation, how about that for a quiet method.   Then there are many poisons, injected or ingested….or arranging for an “accident.”    They say there is no such thing as the “perfect murder” meaning that clues are impossible to prevent entirely.    None of these things are sensational or loud, but they do leave people dead…..There oughta be a law!!

  8. @Nous_Apeiron – They don’t have to register their employees or the employees’ addresses, SSN’s, or conduct background checks on the employees.  I think we ought to push that back against the media.  Might make them think twice about doing it to us.

  9. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @quest4god@revelife – I don’t think the issue for most gun control advocates who are reasonable is that guns are sensational or loud.  What has typically been expressed to me is how incredibly easy guns are to kill with and how many people one can kill with them within a given time frame.  And that’s a fair point.  I’m trained to kill with a variety of weapons, including my body, sticks, knives, swords, spears,etc.  But even in light of that, I would certainly be able to kill folks more easily and quickly and in larger numbers with a well-equipped AR-15.  That’s why we have the NFA legislation in place to limit access to military hardware for civilian use, because the federal government thought it was justified (and the courts agreed) in restricting access to those weapons based on their danger in the wrong hands.The tough part about it is that some weapons are in a sort of gray area between Title II weapons and the sort of thing you would really need for home defense, personal defense, or most kinds of hunting.  The Federal AWB tried to clear up that gray area, but accomplished very little.  Some prefer to err on the side of allowing folks the freedom to have such weapons and some would prefer not to.  And given the results from the AWB, it looks like a ban on them made very little difference either way, so I’m generally not fussed about having the law extended.

  10. Gasoline is about the most effective and easily obtainable killing instrument available. I find it astounding nobody seems to make a connection between the violence on tv, media, and video games and the worldwide increase in violence. “Stimulus – response, stimulus – response”

  11. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @Billy_Austin714 – The glorification of violence is certainly an issue, yes.  I don’t agree with behaviorists like Skinner whole hog, but they’ve got a point.

  12. Bels_Kaylar says:

    @Nous_Apeiron – @Billy_Austin714 – over in my neck of the woods, here, the connections were made between fps games (first person shooter). over on f.b., i posted a Morgan Freeman quote, re the media reaction to the tragedy. he was saying that if we would stop making them (the murderer) famous, it would stop, or slow down this ‘epidemic’. which i think Nous said, earlier, yes? free speech need not be given to every unstable individual. it’s true, this is going to take a many-pronged approach, as we used to say in my non-profit org. 

  13. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @Bels_Kaylar – Reducing gun violence really will take a many-pronged approach.  What are some prongs you think would work?You’re probably aware, but just to be clear, I was being satirical with my point about free speech, by the way.  I have no problem with allowing everyone free speech.  I just have a problem with folks not recognizing that their liberty to express themselves comes with a corresponding responsibility to do so in such a way that it benefits them and their society rather than being unhealthy and destructive.

  14. @Bels_Kaylar – Nous has written another very good piece. Only a handful “get it.”I borrowed the “stimulus response” from ret Lt.Col. Dave Grossman’s article “Teaching Kids to Kill,” about the effects of violence in media on our youth. It is online at his website killology.org along with notes to keep our schools safe and other writings dealing with the psychology of killing. I find his works very interesting to read.”It isn’t about guns. It is about control.” And that has been policy for over one hundred years. The first two chapters of Gatto’s book “The Underground History of American Education” are on my weblog. He explains how our schools have managed to spew forth several generations of increasingly functionly illiterate peoples.

  15. GaijinWords says:

    Every gun has a control. It’s called the trigger!

  16. Bels_Kaylar says:

    @Nous_Apeiron – heh. being the so-called pollyana type, no, i did not ‘get’ that you were being satirical, re free speech. as you might have picked up, i am beginning to question free speech, at least for the media, at least at this stage of our development. but, maybe i should question my questioning 😉  i know i did admire Gerry Spence, for defending someone (neo-nazi) that i suspect he really did not agree with. i love our rights, our democracy, but it’s broken, or we did not defend it, as a people. we became sheep consumers. and the wolf comes from within.  i don’t know, professor nous. thee and me have already agreed about education being important, but not specifics. (i will think/talk more about this, though, as far as other prongs)does the oligarchy need to fall, for us to wake up? or were those 20 innocent kids enough? 

  17. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @Bels_Kaylar – I think that if 9/11 and the war in Iraq wasn’t enough to wake folks up, 20 innocent kids won’t do it either.  In attempting to feed us a never-ending stream of heart-wrenching  tragedy and superficial entertainment, our media outlets have somewhat successfully caused us to be desensitized to injustice and paralyzed by our easy pleasures.  We stay soft and fat while a world which desperately needs our strength watches us destroy it.I think you’re right that we didn’t defend our liberty, and specifically I think we failed to safeguard our liberty when we grew increasingly content to let others shoulder our responsibility, to let others bear the burden of leadership and staying informed while we enjoy the comforts of this land rich in natural resources.  We the people have failed to govern ourselves to a large extent.The oligarchy will fall and rise again, as oligarchy always does.  The only questions are when it will happen and what kind of oligarchy it will be.

  18. Kellsbella says:

    I very much enjoyed your post. I hope you had a very happy Christmas and a merry New Year! Everyone has touched upon the different tentacles of progressivism, whether they know it or not. American society is showing the signs of a pre-WWII Germany. Question is, who will be the loser, er, scapegoat? For those who don’t believe, I can tell you we have been fed an IV of poison. Our freedom is becoming an illusion. No one seems to see. Oh, sorry! Gotta go now Nous! My show American Idol is on! (That one singer is performing my favourite: Panem et Circenses! I don’t know what the hello he’s singing, but I like it!)

  19. grim_truth says:

    The “how” of killings are irrelevant, for the most part.  If someone wants to kill, they will.  If it’s one, they will use a knife or some other instrument.  If it’s many, they will use bombs, gases, etc to kill.  Almost anything can be used to kill someone.  We can’t ban everything.  Cars kill more people than guns do.  Yet the silence on that is deafening.Until we look at the “why,” all talk is for nothing. 

  20. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @Kellsbella – Thanks!  I’m glad you enjoyed it.  I’m pretty sure that’s Latin for “Bread and Circuses” and a very appropriate song to mention in a post about our freedom becoming an illusion.@grim_truth – Indeed.  I think the reason for our failure to effectively reduce gun violence has much to do with our failure to correctly identify all of the factors that help increase it and direct our efforts towards the ones that have the greatest impact.

  21. Kellsbella says:

    @grim_truth – Baby, the grim truth is that people kill people. Period.@Nous_Apeiron – You know I was being satirical as I’ve never seen that show. It does seem to be quite popular, though, right? Just out of curiosity did you know that the show Starship Troopers was a book? I did not and got handily put in my place this morning…..

  22. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @Kellsbella – I don’t watch the the show either.  I have no clue what songs they use, so picking up on the satire part was a fail for me.As for Starship Troopers, I picked it up at the library and read it when I was about 13 or 14 years old, which is a mind-boggling 14 or 15 years ago for me.  I know there was a movie made of it, but I can’t remember if I saw it or not.

  23. Kellsbella says:

    @Nous_Apeiron – Dang! I’ve been spanked again! How very cruel. I think you boys enjoy it, actually….

  24. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @Kellsbella – I enjoy whatever makes the ladies happy.  

  25. galadrial says:

    My own two cents.I’ve fired a sniper rifle.My target was first, an empty coffee can.It made a nice neat hole.Then the target was filled with water…sort of like the same resistance the human body would have,Same round…it tore it APART. It was no longer recognizable as a coffee can…just a twisted strip of metal.It made an interesting object lesson..one I never forgot.I am torn on this issue honestly.I think anyone who argues that knives are as dangerous are  fooling themselves. The same week as the Sandy Hook invasion, someone in China ALSO attacked a schoolroom full of kids. The difference is all his victims SURVIVED. Not so the kids at Sandy Hook, I did a blog today about the laws in my new state, with reference to drunk driving. A case is making headlines because a man who has already served time for his crime is now facing a second term…because his victim died after seven years in a coma. He wasn’t charged with vehicular homicide the first time…just drunk driving. But I see an interesting parallel. In the article about it, they said he WALKS everywhere. He is not allowed to drive. In most states cars are more thoroughly regulated than guns are. I must pass a driving test to prove I can safely handle one. I must register it EVERY YEAR without fail, and insure it. I must maintain it, and even undergo vision checks each year to continue to drive. If I get epilepsy, I am not allowed to drive in certain states. And the primary use for a car is NOT killing people. Why are guns immune to the same level of regulation, when their ONLY purpose is to kill or maim?

  26. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @galadrial – The short answer to that is that the 2nd Amendent covers firearms, but that there is no equivalent legal protection for motorized vehicles.To address that hurdle to what you’re suggesting (I’m guessing a comprehensive federal gun control act), the 2nd Amendment would probably have to be repealed or the Supreme Court would have to manufacture jurisprudence to allow more regulation to in essence ignore the 2nd Amendment, which they may or may not do at some point.  I actually wouldn’t mind treating firearms more like we treat cars in terms of the required training, licensing, and registration of any car that is going to be driven on public roads.  In much that same way, we could require anyone who carries a firearm in public to have a permit, which many states already do.  We could restrict a person’s ability to acquire firearms based on previous malfeasance with them, which some states already do, though getting around those policies is usually really easy.  A lot of the suggestions of the Brady Campaign were adopted in certain states, including Connecticut, interestingly enough.Your point about how we treat cars is a good one.  One of my co-workers, a grad student in criminology, mentioned to me that all the research she had reviewed indicated that the only gun control legislation that seemed to have any significant impact on gun crime is registration.Of course, if we really want to take a bite out of gun crime, then legalizing and regulating certain drugs would help reduce it significantly.  Addressing income inequalities would help as well.  Reducing the glorification of violence in our culture would even help a bit over the long term.

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