Sunday, 17 February 2008

Our guns are safe

The National Rifle Association must be holding a champagne celebration in the wake of the Northern Illinois University massacre since the now-familiar campus shoot-‘em-up hasn’t generated a peep about gun control. They can chortle contentedly that no matter how many kids end up slumped in bloody pools over their textbooks, the idea that gun policy might be a teeny bit at fault doesn’t even come up.

We’ll have another round of teary memorial services and camera shots of the teddy bears and heart balloons leaning against makeshift monuments. Vampires masquerading as TV anchors will get eyewitnesses to discuss how ‘terrified’ they were and how often they thought they were going to die, then move on to grieving parents and last year’s bereft families’ search for ‘closure.’

The news articles will focus on the randomness of it all and the impossibility of stopping people from running amok. Or as the lead AP story from Saturday headlined, ‘Shootings stir sense of helplessness.’

That’s all that’s left if you completely abandon the field of public policy to the gun lobbyists as our entire society, including the presidential candidates, now have done.

Of course, we’re not really ‘helpless’ at all but rather complicit in allowing weaponry to proliferate insanely with completely ineffective regulation and not even the kinds of purchaser checks that could have prevented the Illinois psychopath with officially recognized mental illness from making his recent gun buys.

The 27 paragraphs of the AP article include a single reference to this aspect of the issue, a passive-voice assertion that the incident ‘renewed questions about the availability of guns.’ But not one of the many people cited in the story raised one. No one was consulted or quoted about gun control on either side of the debate; the issue merely disappeared as unnewsworthy.

What we read instead is a series of lamentations about helplessness: ‘inevitability,’ ‘resignation’ and lack of ‘panaceas’ to prevent similar crimes with repetitive quotes from students, police and school administrators such as:

‘I don’t think anyone is going to be able to stop them.’

‘There’s no way of really protecting yourself.’

‘It’s unlikely that anyone would ever have the ability to stop an incident like this.’

There is also much talk of fear, insecurity and paranoia, followed by suggestions of more police, more background checks (on students, not gun buyers) and better school lock-down plans. But the idea that college campuses looking like the O.K. Corral might be related to gun policy has faded entirely from the radar. Not even the bereaved relatives muster an angry accusation.


1 comment:

Bonnie said...

Hi Tim! Reading through and enjoying your blogs.

According to a TV news show that I saw soon after the shootings, the reaction was even worse than you describe. The reaction from some student groups was to request permission to carry concealed weapons on campus for self-defense!! Truly insane. It is as if no one ever saw Moore's film Bowling for COlumbine, which made the case for gun control pretty well and was seen widely...

Check out the Viva Rio website on small arms control efforts in Brazil, and connected to regional efforts...