Posted: December 18, 2012 in Current Events, Environment, Philosophical Debris, politics
Tags: ,

After the Newtown tragedy talk about violence in American society has been rekindled.  The obvious starting point, understandably, was gun control.  Let me make it clear that I am in favour of reasonable gun control, -probably favoring more restriction than we have here in Canada, and it’s pretty restrictive here in spite of the discontinued gun registry.

However the discussion around gun control is full of misinformation and twisted statistics.  –And it’s bleeding into other topics as well, like video games.  A preoccupation with gun control is blinding people to the more important and powerful causes, because looking at those would be too difficult or radical for society.

The current objective of the gun control lobby is to reinstate the “Assault Weapon” ban in the States.  That and more strict control of hand guns.

According to Wikipedia,

Assault weapon (semi-automatic) refers primarily (but not exclusively) to firearms that possess the cosmetic features of an assault rifle (which are fully-automatic). Actually possessing the operational features, such as ‘full-auto’, is not required for classification as an assault weapon; merely the possession of cosmetic features is enough to warrant such classification as an assault weapon. Semi-automatic firearms, when fired, automatically extract the spent cartridge casing and load the next cartridge into the chamber, ready to fire again; they do not fire automatically like a machine gun; rather, only one round is fired with each trigger pull.

In the former U.S. law, the legal term assault weapon included certain specific semi-automatic firearm models by name (e.g., Colt AR-15, TEC-9, non-select-fire AK-47s produced by three manufacturers, and Uzis) and other semi-automatic firearms because they possess a minimum set of cosmetic features from the following list of features:
Semi-automatic rifles able to accept detachable magazines and two or more of the following:


Bayonets, silencers or grenade launchers don’t seem to be an issue (and these things could easily be restricted by legislation), so the primary objectionable characteristics of “assault weapons” is their cosmetic appearance. Also of concern is magazine size, but that is something that is easily legislated, and which won’t really make much difference as one can always buy extra magazines and snapping them in to reload is not very difficult.  The bottom line is that all the fuss is being made around the appearance of these guns, rather than their function.  A regular hunting rifle is still a semi-automatic weapon capable of exactly the same thing as one of these “assault rifles”.  Almost all rifles, shotguns and handguns are semi-automatic.  The term is thrown around on the media like it is some big deal and that it’s something to especially fear.   That’s misdirection and fear mongering, and it is no wonder that the pro gun lobby see that kind of dishonest tactic and fear for their rights.  That there be so much talk about form rather than substance seems to be a little immature.  Some people seem to resent the appearance of these weapons, thinking that this magically transforms the bearer into a killing machine.  No.  The killing machine would be just as effective with a regular hunting rifle. That resentment is about style and reflects a certain attitude preference that is also seen in people disapproving of children playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians with toy gun, paint ball games, laser tag games or countess other things that simulate warfare or other competitive scenarios.

There have always been people willing to blame elements of our culture for violence and moral decay in American society.  In the past they’ve blamed violent video games, TV shows, movies, comic books, rock music and even jazz music.  It’s a complex thing, and it is too easy to blame a culture’s devolution on any one thing.  Access to guns may make it easier for the person who flips out to cause damage, but can you really say the same about access to cosmetically altered guns?  It seems like a red herring.  And the reports in the media are now beginning to bring in the topic of video games.

There is no research that links violent video games with developing a violent attitude.  There are a few studies that show short term effects, but most of them actually show that there is little long term effect.  Short term effect is understandable, like the adrenalin rush you get after watching an action or horror movie.  But a few hours later, it’s gone.

Place blame where it belongs. Poverty in our society accounts for a majority of gun obsession and violence.  Improper care of the mentally ill is also a factor.  Highly confrontational politics causing a culture of blame and judgement is another cause.  And I have to say that I’ve met more than one American who told me that he/she owns a gun because they are a good Christian.  Distrust.  Shallow morality.  Poor education.  A society that devalues life (not because of the games they play but because of the social policies they support and the wars they wage).  Preoccupation with things rather than relationships.

It’s a sick culture and blaming guns is like blaming cars because people haven’t learned how to drive properly or are predisposed to get drunk.  Yes cars are far more necessary than guns, but they are also just as deadly a weapon in the wrong hands, and, in fact, are responsible for more deaths than guns.

Other countries don’t have the same problems.  Kids play gun games in Canada and European countries.  They have as high a market for shooter video games.  But the U.S. stands many floors above these other countries in their violence.  Canada has as many guns per capita as does the U.S., although they are concentrated in fewer rural rather than urban hands.  Yes we have fewer hand guns and far fewer hand gun fatalities.  (Actually most of the ones we have are suicides and accidents.)  I certainly support our hand gun restrictions and think they should be even stronger.  However, that didn’t prevent gang members in Toronto from getting hand guns used in two major shootings last summer. Their hand guns were gotten illegally, and not stolen.  Tighter regulation of hand guns didn’t and wouldn’t have prevented those shootings, because the gun regulation was totally irrelevant to the incident.  If you want to look for the causes, you have to look elsewhere.  Similarly in the U.S., although some gun regulation, like those surrounding hand guns or magazine size, might be a step in the right direction, the journey towards finding a solution to the problem is many, many steps.

Focusing on things like gun control and video games is a good way to get people riled up and divert them from the real issues.




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