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Archive for December, 2012

The Life You Save May Be Your Own Child’s

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

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We see the efforts needed to reduce the slaughter of innocents (of all ages) as comprising three elements: gun control; expanded psychological services; and pressure on Hollywood and video game makers to dial down the ultraviolence.

Not only do the citizens of the United States have an obligation to call at least one elected official to press for reform of gun laws—the more restrictions the better, in our view—but we also have to push representatives to allocate much more generous funding for counseling and psychological services in schools, especially to troubled teenagers, as well as to veterans.

American gun owners possess one-third of all the guns on the planet.

Dave Cullen, author of a book on the Columbine, Colorado, school killing spree of 1999, appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show Friday night and outlined three psychological profiles that cover most of the shooters in mass killings such as Friday’s in Connecticut. Two studies by the FBI and by the Secret Service with the U.S. Department of Education find that there is no single profile; rather, three basic types are (1) individuals so insane they don’t realize what they are doing, as in the Virginia Tech shooting; (2) psychopaths who are rational but lack empathy; and (3) the most common of the profiles, the clinically depressed, including some 6 percent of adolescents. Gun control is not enough: psychological counseling must play a larger part. Conservatives, elected or otherwise, who rail against “Obamacare” are not helping the children—not being pro-life, if you like—because among the provisions of Affordable Care Act are programs to expand psychological counseling services.

And Hollywood! Go to any local cinema, and if not the film you’re going to see, then in the previews you’ll see enough gunfire and explosions to simulate the “shock and awe” of the opening days of the Iraq War. These “big guns” are primarily aimed at men, of course. We don’t see the attraction, but many males of the species—most of whom have never served in the military or gone to war—seem to derive an almost sexual thrill from the gunfire and explosions. Hollywood executives, producers, agents, actors—dial it down. If citizen activists want to give liberal, activist actors such as Brad Pitt or George Clooney a good, life-affirming cause to champion, one that is closer to home and where they’ll likely have considerable influence, press them to reject films that glorify shooting, torture, and general mayhem. The Aurora, Colorado, massacre (July 20, 2012) on the opening night of The Dark Knight Rises appeared to us depressingly unsurprising, given the violence enacted in that entertainment. Twelve killed, 58 injured.

Studies disagree on whether the graphic ultraviolence in video games causes their “players” to go ballistic and kill people, but we’re convinced that these “games” (Resident Evil; Left 4 Dead; Grand Theft Auto, ad nauseam) at least contribute to a culture of glorifying violence and, at the very least, not exactly encouraging reconciliation and diplomacy.

Once again proving herself one of the true adults in Congress, California senator Dianne Feinstein has announced on Meet the Press that she will introduce a bill (with a counterpart in the House) to ban assault weapons. Senator Feinstein has some experience with the damage guns can do: In 1978, when she was president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, she was the first to discover the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk, and it was Ms. Feinstein who made the first public announcement of the killings. Please phone your support by calling Senator Feinstein’s office (202-224-3841), the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (202-224-3542; e-mail <senator_reid@reid.senate.gov>), and the White House (202-456-1111 ). Click here for more on positive signs for Feinstein’s bill.

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Think of the children most precious to you—your own daughter, a nephew, a neighbor’s or church friend’s cute twins—and then imagine Wayne LaPierre, CEO, executive vice president and chief political strategist of the National Rifle Association, or conservative members of Congress telling you that their lives are worth less than Americans’ second Amendment liberties. NRA president David A. Keene wrote after President Obama’s reelection, “We have to be prepared to fight him on each front, rally friendly elected officials, persuade those in the middle and let all of them know that gun owners will not stand idly by as our constitutional rights are stripped from us.” What would you tell them? Package that indignation and aim it constructively at your mayor, the president, and members of Congress who will listen and act.

There is a long and outrageous history of Republican opposition to any gun control measures, even after massacres. Unfortunately, Democrats have not been much more helpful, at least not in substantial, concentrated numbers. “Pro-life” conservatives love to say “protect life,” “protect the innocents,” but their concern often seems limited to one issue only, which makes us suspect their true intentions. Rep. Barney Frank used to say that for Republicans, life begins at conception and ends at birth. Now is a chance for Republicans to prove him wrong, if they can, if they will.

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Further Reading

A Guide to Mass Shootings in America (Mother Jones)

A 30-year timeline of mass shootings, with photos of the killers (Mother Jones)

A Morally Serious Videogame about Guns and Violence (Political Animal @ Washington Monthly)

Facts Behind the Tragedies (Political Animal @ Washington Monthly)

New York Times coverage of the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre

Nicholas Kristof (NYT): Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?

Mass Shootings: Maybe What We Need Is a Better Mental-Health Policy (Mother Jones)