• Delainey Smith

America and Guns

In the wake of the Florida mass shooting, National Rifle Association (NRA) spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, gave a speech at the Conservative Political Conference stating, “Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it.” She continued, “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you…”

(Image courtesy of Greens.com)

During an initial breaking news coverage and all of the instances following a mass shooting, the media reports on every aspect. This is lighting a fire and giving these sociopathic gunmen their 15 minutes of fame.

Focusing on the shooter during a school shooting, as well as other mass shootings is a long-lived tradition in the media. During the 1999 Columbine High School shooting the media thrived on extensive coverage of the two assailants. The vast coverage did not only make the two gunmen famous (or rather infamous) but by some, deeply alienated students, it made them heroes.

To this day, over 20 years later the two individuals, who at the time committed the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, have accumulated a cult following known as the Columbiners; manifestos left behind by of other shooters have even mentioned the duo by name.

The media’s extreme focus on shooters are giving them the fame they are seeking. It is also giving others, who have similar thoughts of committing a lethal mass shooting, the confirmation that this route to fame works. This leads to more mass shootings and creating a one-upmanship among perpetrators – Columbine is no longer even on the top ten list of deadliest mass shootings in the United States anymore.

The constant coverage is spawning the idea and almost giving a roadmap on how to execute a shooting to other individuals. According to an ABC News investigation in 2014, at least 17 school shooters and 36 students who threated school attacks, directly cited the Columbine shooting or the two gunmen as motivation. A published study, Contagion in Mass Killings and School Shootings, found that mass killings involving firearms are incented by similar events in the immediate past. This ‘copycat effect’ suggests that a mass shooting increases the likelihood of another mass shooting in a two-week period following the incident.

The media’s ratings should not be worth more than the prevention of another individual feeling empowered by the actions of troubled or sadistic gunman.

Another fault of the media in times of shootings is the bias shown in the reporting.

As a college journalist, we are taught to never give in to bias when reporting news; however, that rule seems to fly out the window the minute one enters the professional world.

This was shown prevalent after the recent Florida shooting. Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group that works to prevent gun violence, produced a statistic about school shootings. The organization tweeted, “This, is the 18th school shooting in the U.S. in 2018.”

This is a completely devastating statistic. It is also wrong.

Everytown is bending statistics to help induce fear into citizens. The 18 shootings are not simply school shootings; Everytown inflates the total by including incidents of gunfire that are not actual school shootings.

For example, the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal reported, On the afternoon of Jan. 3, a 31-year-old man who had parked outside a Michigan elementary school called police to say he was armed and suicidal. Several hours later, he killed himself. According to The Washington Post’s report, the school has been closed for seven months, there were no teacher or students. Everytown counted this as the year’s first school shooting (after the published report by The Washington Post, Everytown removed the instance).

According to USA Today’s website, in Everytown’s original list, no one was killed or hurt in eight of the shootings and two were suicides.

These figures matter because gun-control activists use them as evidence in their fight for gun bans and stricter background checks and on the opposite end, gun rights groups jump on the faults in the data to undermine the argument, only to present skewed figures of their own.

The real statistic, found by The Washington Post’s analysis of online archives, state and federal enrollment figures and news stories, is that around 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. This is a calculation that does not include dozens of suicides, accidents and after-school assaults.

Honestly, as far as numbers go that one is not that bad however I understand society’s call for change. The issue is, as ideal the idea of world peace is we live in a world with magnitudes of evil; sometimes that evil requires a measurable force, a firearm, to stop it. Banning guns is not only an ignorant thought by many who have never received firearm training or even fired a gun but an impractical measure that will not bring forth a solution.

After mass shootings many Americans plea that the United States should follow in Australia’s footsteps and implement a gun ban. They look at the fact that since Australia introduced a comprehensive gun control regime, after a massacre in Tasmania 22 years ago, there has not been another mass shooting. These individuals like to ignore the fact that according to Franz Csaszar, a professor of criminology at the University of Vienna, Austria, there was a large scale non-compliance with the ban. He brings to light that, In Australia it is estimated that only about 20 percent of all banned self-loading rifles have been given up to the authorities." The Adelaide Advertiser even conceded that police admit they cannot eradicate a black market that is peddling illegal guns – including full automatic weapons - to criminals.

Or the fact that one published study found that although incidents involving firearms decreased, there was no significant decrease in suicides or homicides and overall violent crimes rates continues to increase.

Even the Australian ambassador to the U.S., Joe Hockey—who helped craft the National Firearms Act while serving in Parliament—says that mimicking Australia’s gun laws in America is a naïve thought. According to an interview with CityLab.com Hockey stated, “Australia and the United States are completely different situations, and it goes back to each of our founding’s. America was born from a culture of self-defense. Australia was born from a culture of ‘the government will protect me.’ Australia wasn’t born as a result of a brutal war. We weren’t invaded. We weren’t attacked. We weren’t occupied. That makes an incredible difference, even today.”

There is not a one-size-fits all answer to this problem, which exactly why creating stricter gun laws would not be beneficial to the overall population.

Anyone who has dealt with the federal government knows it does not run on a case by case basis. The rules are black and whiteout a hint of grey. Creating stricter gun-restrictions is going to do very little to enact any actual change.

After mass shootings, many blame the stability or mental health of the shooter. However, The New York Time reported, that in an analysis of 235 mass killings only 22 percent of the perpetrators could be considered mentally ill.

Creating stricter gun laws may stop the sociopathic, mentally ill individual from committing a mass murder or they will thoroughly plan out the attack and purchase a gun illegally on the black market anyways (of course shooters by guns legally now because it’s easier – when you go to Colorado you don’t buy marijuana from a dealer you buy it from a dispensary). However, it will stop the rape victim with PTSD who sought counseling, from receiving a gun for protection; it will stop someone with a controlled anxiety disorder from purchasing a gun for legal hunting; it will stop the 18-year-old living on their own from having a means for protection.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5 percent—experiences mental illness.

In a case by case basis, yes some mentally ill individuals should not have a gun but labeling all individuals with a mental illness as unfit to own a gun is doing more harm than good, considering the American Psychiatric Association published that people with serious mental illness represent just one percent of all gun homicides each year.

In the end, I believe everyone wants the same thing, less civilians dying; no one is sitting at the end of the seat watching the news coverage hoping for the body count to rise.

However, I believe that people need to stop waiting for the federal government to make changes and start making changes in their own communities. Our society is wrapped into the idea that in order for change it has to be through federal legislation, rather than initiating proactive change locally.

An attorney, Shane Romines offered $20,000 to buy metal detectors for each school in his area as well as $5,000 to go towards Tasers, firearms and training. Within three days with the help of other community leaders a total of $75,000 was raised.

After the Sandy Hook school shooting, Joe Eaton, a member of Buckeye Firearms Association, a gun-owners' group in Ohio, implemented a program that trains teachers to respond to mass shootings.

Eaton accepts that it is sad that teachers need to carry guns, however, he believes it is the best option to save lives.

For instance, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was reported to police at 9.35am. Officers arrived less than four minutes later; within a minute, they heard the gunman shoot himself. He had already killed 20 children and six adults inside the school.

Eaton stated, "If schools' only solution is to rely on outside help, it will never get any better than we saw at Sandy Hook," says Joe Eaton.

Eaton shared, "When they started their teaching career, they never would have imagined carrying firearms to protect kids - or having their schools ask them to." He continued, "But I bet if you ask every airline pilot, they would have answered the same way until 9/11 happened [some pilots in the US carry guns]. Sandy Hook was the teachers' 9/11."

Individual communities and municipalities need to find the solution that works for them. Whether that is fundraising the money or raising taxes to install metal detectors, staffed guards or firearm training for teachers, requiring parents to purchase see-through book bags for students, like in many inner-city public schools or banning guns at a local level.

If your community wants to ban guns, then ban guns. If your community wants to hire private protection for areas that civilians, then do it. If your community wants to give and train teachers to use guns, then do it. Stop waiting for the federal government to make the change. If you, the people, value the safety of civilians, especially children then you will do whatever you have to do to ensure it. If you truly care about the safety and well-being of innocent individuals.

The perfect solution does not always work for the majority.

Local governments should address what works in a case by case basis rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.

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