Friday, December 28, 2012

The Violence Epidemic

The recent shootings in Newtown, CT and Rochester, NY have created new calls for gun control legislation.  The issue is much more complicated than restricting the sale of assault weapons.  A recent Gallup Poll found that 58% of Americans surveyed now favor tougher laws on the sale of firearms.  In this blog I suggest some solutions to this complex problem.  In my view the solution should be focused on reducing violence and the means to deliver this violence. 

Our society has become more violent over the last quarter of a century and this and other issues have produced the cancer of mass murder. There are many contributors to the spread of this disease: the entertainment media, gun manufacturers and distributors, state and  Federal government, and lobbying organizations.

Quentin Tarantino
Entertainment Media - Movies have become increasingly violent and mindless led by the current master of gore, Quentin Tarantino.  His current contribution to film gore is Django Unchained was called "the most violent movie of the year" by film critic Chris Vognar.   I recently watched Expendables 2, arguably one one of the worse action flicks ever made.  It featured a who's-who of action stars who have profited from the public's taste for blood-drenched entertainment: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jason Stratham, Jean Claude van Damme, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, etc. Other stars have gained their riches from high-body count productions.  These stars have been deathly quiet in their response to the recent murders. The Hollywood Reporter said that "Hollywood's January Violence Spree: Half of Films Show Guns Amid NRA Criticism." I would suggest a new movie rating of  "V" for this category of films and a $2.00 Federal tax on tickets.  The tax revenue could be used for enforcement and victim relief.  Video games have an equivalent rating of A which covers content suitable only for adults ages 18 and up and "prolonged scenes of intense violence." 

Gun Manufacturers - The merchants of death should be a prime target for Federal regulation.  No automatic weapons should be manufactured or imported for the consumer market. The Federal government, by virtue of its military contracts, can "influence" manufacturers to stop producing these weapons. Firms unwilling to conform to "suggestions" will have their contracts cancelled and, in the worse case, have their plants closed.  Hand-slap monetary penalties won't work.  Remington Arms Company tops the list of US manufacturers. The Freedom Group owns several gun makers, including Remington®, Bushmaster® Firearms, DPMS/Panther Arms™, Marlin, H&R, The Parker Gun, Advanced Armament Corp. , Dakota Arms®, and Para™ USA. To that list you can add Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Colt, Browning, Beretta USA, Savage, Mossberg and US Repeating Arms- manufacturer of guns under the Winchester brand. For more on this subject see Arms Industry.

Gun Distributors - Mass merchandisers of firearms should be restricted from selling automatic and semi-automatic weapons.  Companies that fail to adequately perform background checks should have all their weapon and ammunition inventory seized by the ATF.  As with the manufacturers, fines are not effective.  The top three distributors, as reported by Articlesbase are Walmart, Kmart, and Sports Authority.

Congress - An editorial in the December 30, 2012 Dallas Morning News said that "Congress, which let the assault-weapons ban expire in 2004, remains the weak link in gun-control legislation."  The paper said that a new and improved assault-weapons ban is "a common -sense approach to restrict access to the most deadly weaponry, high-calibre magazines and perhaps even high-calibre ammunition that can take dozens of lives in a matter of seconds."  The Editorial also asked Congress to "insist on tough enforcement of laws to hold straw purchasers liable for guns used in crimes."

State and Federal Law Enforcement -  Gaps in law enforcement agency data banks should be closed immediately.  Sellers who fail to perform background checks should have all of their weapons and ammunition seized.  Funding should be increased to insure adequate enforcement of existing laws.

National Rifle Association - The recent response from the NRA indicates an unwillingness to work to address this issue.  Providing armed guards in schools increases the proliferation of guns and in conjunction the manufacture of "defensive" assault weapons and, of course, NRA membership. Calling for immediate action is appropriate, but leaving to Congress and financially-poor school districts to pick up the bill.  The NRA's answer to the funding issue is to use volunteers.  This could result in numerous legal problems for school districts.  Comparing the Secret Service's role of protecting the President to the protecting children is a ridiculous attempt to demean the Office of the President while playing politics with children's lives. If the NRA truly thinks that this is the best plan, they should put their money where their mouth is and help fund it.  A spokesperson from the national Education Association put it best: "It's a school it's not a place where guns should be."   This leaves many other potential targets "unprotected:" churches, day care centers, theaters, museums, health insurance companies, etc.  Do these places need their own guards?  All of these armed sentinels need to be trained to deal with a crazed gunman or gunmen firing automatic weapons at them.  Who will pay for this cost?  The NRA has programs is firearm management.  Again let them provide this training for free. The NRA has hard copy training material, but I couldn't find any on-site training courses.  In fact most of the site seem to be selling hats and shirts. Taken to the extreme, the NRA would have all of us carrying side arms perhaps ushering a return to the lawlessness of the wild west.  The American public need to stop being held hostage by the NRA and its paid mouthpieces in Washington.

Educational Institutions - Instead of arming to the teeth, I suggest educating students in how to deal with conflict.  This program should consist of the following topics: Anger Management, Bullying, Ethnic Sensitivity, and Conflict Resolution.  School districts should have a zero tolerance for acts of violence and bullying.  This code should apply equally to students, parents, faculty, and staff.  Administrators and faculty who violate these rules should be dismissed and subject to criminal charges.  School districts must be more receptive to student and parent complaints and not dismiss them as troublemakers.  Providing a listening, action-taking environment will help curb students and parents who resort to guns to settle their grievances.

Personal Perspectives - I am not against the right to bear arms!  I am against the uncontrolled distribution of automatic weapons.  I am not at all sure that we need more regulations especially those that are impossible to enforce. I do think that gun manufactures, distributors, and the NRA need to be proactive in working with law enforcement agencies to find solutions to this epidemic.  I am not for censorship of the media, but I think we must recognize the role that "blood and guts" movies play in encouraging violence.  We owe it to the past and future victims of gun violence.

I am not so naive as to think that anything will be done in this matter.  The public's interest will move onto other subjects, Congress will cave in to gun lobbyists, and more children will become the victims of greed.

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