December 20, 2012

Once Again

Don Shifrin MD, FAAP

In a week where we saw tragedy followed by the automatic parsing of rhetoric by almost everyone in the viewing public, a James Baldwin quotation comes to mind. "Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced."

OK, first let’s chat about we are not facing. After Aurora came the liberal, centrist, and conservative commentaries about whether more deaths should or even could be attributed to the availability of guns. With 30,000 firearm deaths a year in the US (half suicides), is it not common sense to ask ourselves why we are not facing this? Each new episode brings us back to this déjà vu discussion: how could another Columbine, Virginia Tech, and now Aurora be prevented? Debate points include outlawing purchases of higher capacity magazine clips, renewing assault weapons bans, better background checks, limiting assault weapon ammunition purchases, taxing hollow point bullets, flagging new orders for multiple assault weapons, yada yada yada.

OK, here’s where any logic goes off the rails: background checks for gun purchases in Colorado spiked 41 per cent in the four days following Aurora. After the Gabby Giffords’ shooting, gun sales in Arizona spiked 60 per cent for "self-protection" handguns and military style weapons. As Dave Workman, editor of stated, "distance does not matter when people are concerned about personal protection."

Validating Mr. Workman, several media sources reported that, once again, gun owners are convinced that if they were there - and armed - Mr. Holmes would have been stopped before his rampage became more deadly. With all that smoke and chaos I can only shudder at the collateral damage that would have ensued.

I, perhaps I alone, am mystified as to how this latest round of gun purchases, and the media attention focusing on gun violence, is being translated in the minds of our children and teens.

Media researchers have tried for years to have the public accept that viewing media violence will engender three responses:

- violence is an acceptable and even necessary solution.

- viewed violence produces desensitization to actual real life violence.
and proven by the spike in gun sales

- viewed violence produces the belief that we live in a mean and dangerous world.

F Scott Fitzgerald was quoted stating that the test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. So Americans, can you ‘intelligently’ explain to your children that you apparently abhor violence, but then tolerate it by not creating societal or legal barriers?

It is commonly accepted that you will violate your first amendment's right to free speech by yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. So why is it legally acceptable for the second amendment to prohibit you from purchasing fully automatic weapons, but still allow you to amass an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons and ammunition that could create even more
carnage than your voice?

OK, TV networks, cable, print media, radio, and maybe even schools.  I am putting you on notice. Other than the usual volley of op-eds, who wants to take a crack at explaining that our nation’s children?