Why Isn’t There More Concern About Mass Shootings?

One of our friends at Huffington Post just did a story lamenting the lack of public concern about mass shootings, specifically referring to an incident in Pennsylvania when another crazie shot his ex-girlfriend and three others at a carwash and then turned the gun on himself. The reporter, Melissa Jeltsen, blamed the seeming acceptance of such violence on a combination of what she calls media, Trump and ‘compassion fatigue.’ She also sources an article in The Trace, which found that the Las Vegas shooting disappeared as an issue of interest to media shortly after it occurred.

mass shooting             The idea that gun violence might become something less than a priority issue in the public domain has been a fear within the gun violence prevention (GVP) community ever since Sh*thead Numero Uno took the oath on January 20, 2018. After all, Trump often validated gun violence during the campaign, bragging that he could ‘shoot someone down in the street’ and still retain the support of his base. I hate to say it, but if he had actually gunned down a black guy, some in his base probably would have cheered.

Trump is no longer a candidate, he’s the President, and in that regard the Huffington piece also contained an interesting quote from our friend Shannon Watts regarding Trump’s stance on gun violence: ““Unlike President Obama, he [Trump] is not going to have a press conference about horrific incidents of gun violence, In fact, he is going to do everything he can to avoid talking about it.”

Shannon’s comment gets to the heart of concerns about the lack of public and media discussion on gun violence because, like it or not, just about every issue which becomes grist for the media mill is provoked and shaped by what is said by the guy at the top. My friends in the GVP community shouldn’t underestimate the extent to which public awareness about gun violence over the last several years was heightened by the response of the Obama Administration to what happened at Sandy Hook. It wasn’t just the multiple press conferences held by the President and his surrogates that filled up media space virtually every day, it was also the attempt to morph this talk into action by dint of a major legislative initiative expanding background checks to secondary sales.

Even though the effort ultimately failed, there would have been no Manchin-Toomey without the White House ginning up support.  Compare post-Newtown media interest in gun violence to what happened after James Holmes walked into a theater in Aurora, CO just six months prior to the massacre at Sandy Hook. The kid killed 12 people and wounded 58 more, Obama gave a very forceful and impassioned speech the day after the event, and that was that. No more Obama gun control, no more Aurora, within a week the media was focused on the civil war in Syria.

I trust that what I am about to say won’t be taken the wrong way because I mean no disrespect or lack of support for the GVP. But maybe the fact that Trump’s silence on shootings tends to mute media interest in gun violence is a good thing. Because what the GVP really needs to do is develop its own voice and its own messaging about guns without depending on the occupant of the Oval Office to help lead the way. I voted for her and I worked for her, but I was never all that comfortable with the idea that Hillary was considered such a friend of the GVP. Remember Obama’s prescient comment about ‘clinging’ to their guns? It was Hillary, not Wayne LaPierre, who led the criticism of Obama for making that remark.

Like every movement for change, the GVP shouldn’t turn its back on allies or friends. But the ultimate responsibility for leading the way towards reducing gun violence lies in what we say and how often we say it. That’s something we shouldn’t forget.

 

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Want To Know Why People Like Guns? Because Adults Need Toys Too.

If there’s one thing that gets the noses of Gun Nation out of joint, it’s when I refer to guns as ‘adult toys.’  It generates a mountain of outraged emails every time: “How dare you call the thing I use to protect myself and my family a toy?”  “I’ll bet you’ve never owned a real gun!”  “It’s people like you who want Americans to believe that we don’t need self-defense tools.”  And so forth, and so on.

But the truth is, the gun industry itself has begun to promote its products in the same way, and if you don’t believe me, just take a look at the NSSF website promoting its first Shooting Sports Fantasy Camp, to be held this week in Las Vegas for 30 lucky campers, a joyous, three-day wonderment which happens to be all sold out.  But don’t worry, you can leave your name on the website and you will be notified when future Fantasy Camps take place.

Here’s what you get for the paltry sum of three grand:  a room at the Aliante Casino-Hotel, transportation from the airport to the hotel, meals, a cocktail reception, a goody-bag filled with all kinds of souvenirs, a video of your camp experience and, most of all, 4 shooting sessions and all the 9mm ammunition you need.  I guess campers have to bring their own guns, although maybe not because the Clark County range also rents guns.

Now here’s the real deal.  The campers will be joined by “six of the top pro shooters in the world,” including the husband and wife Miculek team; Julie Golub, who makes those adorable NSSF videos explaining why gun safety is something the whole family needs to understand; KC Eusebio, who represents an ammunition company, and several more award-winning, competitive shooters.  All of the camp instructors come out of the USPSA environment; those are the ‘practical’ shooting folks who run around and blast away at various targets which simulates the how’s and why’s of defending yourself with a gun. Which is, I guess, why the weekend is called a ‘fantasy’ camp.

Incidentally, I don’t know how much things have improved at the Clark County shooting range, but back in 2014 the County Commissioners reluctantly ponied up 30 grand of taxpayer dollars to do a marketing push because the range had lost money every year since it opened in 2009.   The granddaddy of all these shooting camps is Thunder Ranch, which has gone through several changes in ownership due to the fact that, when all is said and done, it’s just not that easy to find a lot of people who are willing to shlep all the way to Oregon to do exactly the same thing that they can do either at a local shooting club or, if they have enough space, in their own backyard.

I got my first toy gun when I was six years old.  It was a plastic replica of the Colt Single Action Army revolver and I spent hours practicing my fast-draw techniques with this gun, and made sure I was always wearing my Roy Rogers ‘official’ cowboy hat along with my leather holster and belt.  The fact that I was standing in front of an apartment building in the middle of New York City didn’t bother me at all.  For that matter, I may have seen John Wayne pulling out his six-shooter in the middle of the Wild West, but in fact he was standing in the middle of a movie lot not far removed from Sunset and Vine.

Know why these folks are going out to the NSSF Fantasy Camp?  Not because they are worried about the 2nd Amendment, not because they are worried about Hillary grabbing their guns, not because they want to make sure that their gun ‘rights’ make them free.  They are going out there because it’s fun.  And what makes it fun?  Exactly what the NSSF says – it’s a fantasy.  And believe me, if it wasn’t a fantasy that some adults enjoy, the gun business would long ago have disappeared.

 

If You’re A Liberal, It Doesn’t Mean You’re Against Guns.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how the gun-sense gang can build a grass-roots movement to equal the strength and tenacity of the NRA and I always come up short.  After all, the NRA’s been in business for nearly 150 years, they publish two great magazines which you receive as part of your membership, they have local chapters which run monthly social events and, of course, they get media attention at the drop of a hat.  Not that I want to put the NRA out of business; I’d just like to see a level playing field because if there was a group out there whose members numbered the same 4 million that the NRA claims its total membership to be, maybe the NRA would be less inclined to promote some of the totally-false ideas (‘good guys with guns protect us from bad guys with guns’) that are used to make us believe that guns don’t need to be regulated at all.

liberal                But maybe I just found the answer in a little-known organization, The Liberal Gun Club, which I have joined by paying the annual dues of 25 bucks.  Actually, I could have joined by paying 10 bucks, but I opted for the high-falootin’ premium membership, which probably gets me nothing at all.  Except, of course, I can go into the club’s forum, read what all the other gun-owning liberals have to say and, because I’m Mike the Gun Guy, shoot my mouth off until they tell me to shut up.

But I’m not sure they’re going to shut me up because their mission states that they “provide a voice for gun-owning liberals and moderates in the national conversation on gun rights, gun legislation, firearms safety, and shooting sports.”  And if you take a look at some of the comments on their blog, you’ll find that they do tend to depart from the usual NRA cant, even though when it comes to the ownership of guns, they sound a little bit more like the NRA than the ADA.  And the reason I say this is because even though they appear to be concerned about the issues which form the liberal play book – racism, poverty, inequality – they’d rather try to solve these big problems than worry about little things like guns.

It turns out that the Liberal Gun Club has something else in common with the NRA, namely, their intention to hold an annual meeting in October, complete with shooting range visits, a welcoming reception, a headquarters hotel and a few other activities here and there.  They’ve taken a block of rooms at the Aliante Hotel/Casino which is a very nice joint.  I can attest to that because American Airlines once comped a room for me there when they cancelled my flight back from the SHOT show and I had a great time.  But since when do you not have a great time in Vegas, particularly when it’s on the arm?

Even though I’ve been a member of the Liberal Gun Club for less than two hours, I already have an idea that could get the organization from front-page news.  It occurs to me that Democratic Presidential candidates routinely show up at meetings of the NAACP, the United Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.  But what if Bernie and Hillary were invited to appear before a group of gun owners?  I’ll bet you that just sending them the invitation would make news.  Remember when Joe Biden said that his wife kept a shotgun in her house for self-defense?  The Republican noise machine stupidly criticized him for this remark, even though for the first time a national Democrat had endorsed the use of a gun for self-defense.

For all their talk about protecting everyone’s rights, the NRA doesn’t want to share the issue of guns with folks from both sides of the political divide.  Monopolizing guns as a conservative talking-point increases the leverage of the NRA, particularly when Republican Presidential hopefuls dutifully line up at the annual NRA show.  The Liberal Gun Club might consider offering Democratic candidates their own home in which to roost.