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.
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
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.