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The Real Mass Shooting Questions the Media Never Dares Ask

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Image: Creative Commons.

In recent weeks President Joe Biden has spoken out several times on the issues of guns, and much of what he has said on the issue suggests he really doesn’t understand many of the finer points.

He was wrong to suggest that the Founding Fathers would have supported gun control by barring individuals from owning such weapons like cannons, which they never actually did.

In fact, throughout most of our nation’s history, there weren’t really limits to what someone could legally own.

However, one point where Biden is absolutely correct on the issue of gun violence is that it is a “national embarrassment.”

Even the most ardent supporters of the Second Amendment must feel some sense of shame or mortification when the evening news reports on yet another senseless mass killing.

Gun violence is certainly an issue in the United States, but it is also too easy to blame firearms, of which hundreds of millions are legally owned and are never used in crime.

A Cultural Problem?

Some experts have suggested this is instead a cultural issue, in which our movies, TV shows and of course video games play a role. The suggestion is that we are desensitized to gun violence, and it is easy to understand this point when we see action-packed movies where heroes come back to life and death is never final in video games.

In an op-ed for TheHill.com this week, Lyndon Haviland, DrPH, MPH, a scholar at the CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy, wrote “For there to be a similar shift in how we view guns, we need to understand how gun violence is being normalized today. We need to be outraged, not apathetic, when innocent people are killed by gun violence. We need to bristle at, not be enamored by, guns that are routinely dramatized in action movies, video games, music videos and television shows. The less we venerate gun violence in the imagery we see everyday, the less common and familiar it will become.”

The video game industry has long fought this argument, just as Hollywood has – each has made the case that the rest of the world also sees those same action films and plays the same video games, and yet don’t have the same level of violence. Violence has long been part of entertainment, and it is easy to cast blame on it for the ills of society.

Think of the Children

Comic books, popular music, and games like Dungeons & Dragons were all blamed at various times for society’s moral decay, just as the theater was seen to be the ruin of society in Puritan England.

What is different now is those mass shootings all too often give such notoriety to individuals who may likely feel completely marginalized by society.

Even three and a half years later, law enforcement is unable to determine any motive in what drove Stephen Craig Paddock to commit the worst mass shooting in U.S. history when he opened fire on a concert in Las Vegas in October 2017. One theory is that he may have been angry with MGM Resorts, and wanted to leave them with a “mess to clean up,” as the film Money Machine alleges. But we really don’t know as Paddock was killed and unable to explain why he took such actions.

The question is the same after so many mass shootings, why did they do it? Yet, the answer could be all too obvious; they became infamous even if just for a moment.

Stephen Craig Paddock likely won’t be remembered even if the shooting remains ingrained in our history for eons. But for the days that followed we heard his name, saw his face.

Are other perpetrators of mass shooters looking for their “15 minutes of fame?” Are they desperate to gain notoriety?

If that sounds unlikely, consider Mark David Chapman. He didn’t take part in a mass shooting. Instead he killed one man, John Lennon in December 1980. According to some accounts Chapman killed Lennon because he was “angry and jealous” at the way the former Beatle was living and was seeking “glory” for himself.

Because of our 24/7 news cycle, it is possible for mass killers to get that glory, even if it is fleeting. This could inspire copycats to seek such infamy.

Our Violent World

Our gun violence may be a national embarrassment, but all nations have their own shame whether it is Germany as the architect of the Holocaust, Portugal’s creation of the slave trade, Japan’s rape of Nanking, Mexico’s inability to control the drug cartels, etc.

We need not forget that violence remains very much a worldwide problem.

Even now there are Civil Wars being waged in Yemen, Syria, and Libya as well as other parts of Africa. There have been regular violent clashes in Myanmar and Hong Kong, while those migrant caravans heading to our southern border are the result of unchecked violence between gangs and other crime syndicates throughout too much of Latin America.

An irony is that a lot of the violence around the world is actually reported – albeit briefly – by our mainstream news, but the gang problems and inner-city violence that remains an issue throughout the United States is clearly under-reported. The violence in Chicago should be seen by President Biden as much of a national embarrassment as any mass killing.

The bigger issue still is that mass shootings sadly lead the news in ways that the civil wars in Syria or the crime in Chicago simply don’t. Families mourn in both places as they plan funerals, but the news cycle has tired of those events.

Instead, news producers jump to cover each new mass shootings, because it is new and fresh. Evening news anchors jump on a plane and head out the cities where the events occurred to make it somehow seem more personal by their being on the scene.

Dr. Haviland may be right that gun violence is being normalized today, but gun control won’t solve the problem. Nor will banning movies or video games.

Instead, a solution could be to name the victims and honor their memory, while erasing the shooters from history entirely.

Mark David Chapman doesn’t deserve to be anywhere nearly as famous as John Lennon. Nor did Stephen Craig Paddock deserve a minute of notoriety. The media already stands by whistleblowers and keeps sources confidential, so maybe we shouldn’t make these shooters infamous. We should forget them completely because it could be a way to keep the next potential shooter from seeking fame.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Peter Suciu
Written By

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Steven Shiflett

    April 24, 2021 at 8:42 am

    Yes, if legislation were passed requiring mass shooter names to be assigned like the names of hurricanes, that would be helpful. Names like Dumb Ass, Donkey, Fence Post, Block Head, etc.

    • Avatar

      Guairdean

      April 24, 2021 at 10:57 am

      I prefer to refer to the shooters as simply “The cowardly micro-penised killer.” Take away the fame and you take away the incentive.

    • Avatar

      Jason

      April 24, 2021 at 2:51 pm

      Actually, were quite low on murders and mass shootings.
      https://youtu.be/pELwCqz2JfE

    • Avatar

      frazier stall

      April 26, 2021 at 9:30 am

      Would your suggestion be any good to killers like Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson who were 11 years old and 13 years old (respectively) when they went on a shooting spree in 1998 and killed 5 people.

  2. Avatar

    Realist

    April 25, 2021 at 1:01 am

    The ELEPHANT in the room that nobody wants to talk about is BLACK VIOLENCE and MAYHEM. Young black males , a mere 5% of the US population, nevertheless commit OVER 55% of all the MURDERS and OVER 65% of all the VIOLENT crimes in the USA according to published FBO crime statistics.

    • Avatar

      Mario DeLosa

      April 30, 2021 at 8:27 am

      Wow! That gets you the Oscar for most racist comment.

  3. Avatar

    Joe Sloan

    April 25, 2021 at 9:06 am

    All human actions take root in the heart. Only God, through faith in Jesus, can change it.

  4. Avatar

    C. Wheat

    April 26, 2021 at 9:21 pm

    “Even the most ardent supporters of the Second Amendment must feel some sense of shame or mortification when the evening news reports on yet another senseless mass killing.”

    I feel no shame when someone else takes an extreme action…I can’t own their decisions. But I do get angry at the media and a certain political party that keep making people feel constantly scared of each other, when statistically these mass shootings are uncommon. They seem bigger because of the incessant coverage they get…and part of that we own, whenever we tune in to the latest helpings of fear porn dished up by the media.

    BTW, this same party wants Americans to believe they have the answers to gun violence (among other things), yet the cities entrusted to their care are weekly carnage and destruction shows, claiming far more lives than mass shootings annually when looked at on a national scale. So if there’s shame to be felt it should land squarely on the shoulders of politicians who encourage societal breakdown for their own gain, and on the media who salivates at the opportunity to sensationalize the violence to promote their radical agenda.

    Neither of these two groups provide a meaningful answer to any problem America faces.

  5. Avatar

    Mario De Losa

    April 30, 2021 at 8:37 am

    While the issue of gun violence requires a holistic approach, I must disagree with Mr. Suciu’s opening statement that the Founding Fathers would not have placed limits on gun ownership. That statement literally ignores the word “regulated” in the amendments preamble. To put it the current debacle into perspective I must quote the late SCOTUS justice Warren Burger, who was no liberal.

    The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American People by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies – the militia – would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires. – Warren Burger, Conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice

    Lastly, I will point out that Antonin Scalia himself opined that the Second did not imply unfettered access to gun ownership simply because any right has limits. If you don’t believe me, try voting without registering first.

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