It should be obvious by now that something is seriously wrong in America regarding the responsible use of firearms and effective enforcement of our nation’s gun laws. Last week’s gruesome shooting sprees in Newtown, Connecticut and Portland, Oregon, are the latest wake up calls in a long series of gun rampages.
The latest gun massacres have left us shaken, shocked, outraged and bewildered. That’s because we know something is seriously wrong in society when any teenager, 20-something, person with a mental illness, or even an average law abiding adult can gain fast and easy access to military-style assault weapons. The sole purpose of such weapons of warfare are to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
An American Battlefield?
No ordinary civilian needs to possess automatic or semi-automatic weapons…ever!
Moreover, anyone brandishing military weapons should NEVER be able to simply walk into an elementary school and start shooting it up — or a shopping mall, a movie theater, the grocery store, a university campus, a high school, place of worship, or any other public place. Yet that is exactly what is happening everywhere nationwide from inner cities to middle class towns and beyond.
Has 21st century America already become a literal battlefield?
There are reportedly about the same number of guns circulating in America as there are people, over 310 million. And that figure only includes the guns authorities know about and report. The actual number is likely much higher. Further, public opinion over various gun issues appears fluid despite the continuing carnage. Can we ever reach a national consensus on such a contentious issue?
Nevertheless, something must be done to ensure a safer America — if not for us then for our children and grandchildren. However, is government the solution to our growing gun problem, or has government in fact become the problem preventing a solution?
Familiar Pattern of Gun Violence
The pattern of mass gun violence always appears the same as the media-political cycle plays out. First, we receive the tragic breaking news via TV or Twitter:
There’s been another mass gun shooting at XYZ school [or public place] on Main Street USA. Over a dozen innocent people have been killed and wounded, including defenseless women and children who were murdered in cold blood with military style assault weapons.
Then the cable TV news channels and digital media light up providing further saturation coverage. Ditto for the national broadcast news networks and print media. The non-stop news reports carry disturbing banner headlines such as, “National Tragedy in ABCville” or “Mass Murder on Maple Square.” Each new gun massacre receives its own sensational media moniker to boost TV ratings.
(photo credit: The Newtown Bee)
Media Saturation & Political Posturing
The President of the United States and our elected leaders make moving speeches condemning the mass gun violence in the strongest possible terms. They express sympathy for the victims and their families, as well as remorse and regret to the nation. They pledge to take some unspecified action, of course, to halt such murderous shooting sprees in the future — as such brutal and barbaric behavior is clearly uncivilized and un-American.
Tears are shed. Hearts are broken. Flags are flown at half mast. Memorial and funeral services follow, with the news media covering every step like a shark seeking out its prey. The media turn over every rock to scrutinize the lives of the shooters, victims and their respective families — like a national soap opera playing out in real life.
High-fives are exchanged among executives behind closed doors of some network newsrooms and the C-suite for scoring what’s known in media circles as the “Get” — an exclusive live interview on a major TV news or infotainment show. Mr. and Mrs. Smith go live on air to talk in tears about their young daughter who just sufferred an untimely death after several bullets were randomly shot into her head and body by a deranged gunman.
Yet despite all the media coverage and political posturing there has been little substantive progress made, legislative or otherwise, to effectively address the gun epidemic. Some observers chalk it up to political dysfunction and partisan gridlock in Washington and state capitals. Others blame the powerful gun lobby led by the National Rifle Association and its affiliates.
Some say the root cause is the breakdown of the nuclear family structure. Others point the finger at popular culture, led by the entertainment industry, which has allegedly desensitized young people by glorifying gun violence in films, TV, music, the Internet and video games, among other things.
Eventually the aforementioned media cycle ends after wall-to-wall news coverage and potent political pronouncements. Then another sad situation develops. A week or two passes and we, as a nation, collectively mourn and move on. Politicians and the media embrace the next national crisis, regardless of what it may be, and we follow along. The previous crisis is soon dismissed as old news, be it mass gun violence or something else.
Yet the endless epidemic of gun massacres persists. Despite the heavy human loss and deep emotional toll, absolutely no substantive measures are taken by government to find a lasting solution. Therefore, America’s endless love affair with guns — along with the often grim and gruesome consequences — continues unabated.
By now, gun-related mass murders have become so ingrained in our cultural fiber that they have arguably become as American as baseball and apple pie. We all know it’s not a question of “if” but “when” the next shooting spree will take place? Yet perhaps the more pressing questions at hand are these:
Will such senseless civilian mass murder via military-style assault weapons ever come to an end?
Is it even possible for government at all levels to solve the gun epidemic?
Is there in fact any effective solution afterall?
Time will tell. Meanwhile, more innocent lives will be lost as the next Newtown may be your own neighborhood.
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* All views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only.