Friday, July 27, 2012

Gun Control: Another View

This comes from Brother Dave:

Jac —
While I have a different view regarding particulars, in general I agree. Having said that, I am not sure the problem of US citizens killing each other, all at once or one by one, would be reduced as much as many would hope should either of our prescriptions be adopted...

There is, I firmly think, such a thing as “national traits” or a “national character.” Those things are, in my view, simply extensions of that which defines a society; its traits and shared beliefs. As such, this country has certain very deeply entrenched, very dysfunctional national traits. Our national immersion in violence has fed on itself for many generations and it does not seem to me that those traits can be up-rooted by more rational training and qualification requirements for firearm ownership (obviously, it would seem, they have effectively mitigated against such requirements be adopted). Such measures would most likely greatly reduce accidental homicide with firearms – a non-trivial accomplishment, to be sure.

It seems to me all but certain that we will not be able to test my assertion as the chance that this event, any more than all the other headline-grabbing, sensationalized similar events in the very recent or even more distant past, will lead to any meaningful and rational changes in firearms ownership requirements.

I responded:

America may not have invented the gun, but we certainly have perfected it and use it more (per capita) than any other developed nation. You may be right about extreme violence, particularly of the gun, being a part of our national identity.

I read an editorial this morning which essentially argued that these violent events can be traced to our greater immersion in our screens (which separates us from our fellow humans), and "shooter games" in particular. As you probably know, some studies demonstrate that our mind makes no distinction between killing a virtual person and an actual person, with the result that we become as desensitized to killing humans as a recruit fresh from boot camp.

Does Pop Culture Inspire Murder? by Owen Glieberman

Brother Dave's response:
While I doubt the assertion that our minds do not make such a distinction, I am persuaded that interactive video games, most importantly that class referred to as “first shooter” games, do play a role in desensitizing the individual to acts of violence as the “victims” return to “life” with the next playing of the game. The game also can instill a reflexive “pulling of the trigger.” I was much influenced in my views on this particular matter by the academic work of a retired US Army Lt. Colonel named David Grossman. He published his academic work in a popularly-accessible book titled On Killing. His research centered on his discovery that, prior to the American War in Viet Nam, the rate at which combat troops actually took part in killing had been quite low. He began to inquiry with WW I where he found rates as low as 5-10%. The “non-killers” might not fire their weapons at all or might fain taking part by firing in the air or the general direction of the enemy. He then traced the incremental change through WW II, the Korea to Viet Nam by which time the rate of participation had increased to 85%. His analysis turned to the training methods employed across those decades and he found the increase in killing participation rates tracked very closely to the increasing use of operant conditioning techniques in military training. The final chapter of the book turns to the role of certain of the techniques used in that training in entertainment, with special concern for the the violent video game. One of his more compelling observations was that while in a military context those trained to kill (over coming the strong, deeply instilled taboo) were under “adult” supervision and that violence directed toward approved targets (no commentary on the morality of that target selection), no such supervision was available for those young folks, many of exactly the same age as the military recruit.

I am going to append the comments of a man I know in Austin, Alan Pogue.... whom I respect tremendously. Alan has been a professional photographer, living in Austin, since his return from Viet Nam where he served as a field medic. Like me, almost as soon as he got back home he signed on with VVAW. Unlike me, ever since he has committed his time, his energies and his considerable talent as a photographer in the fight for social and economic justice and against wars of aggression. He has produced a body of artistic documentation of the lives and trials of others around the world engaged in such struggles to survive, rather than as a matter of moral conviction. With that context, Alan's thoughts on the latest mass shooting:

The shooter picked the best media moment to commit his crime insuring the maximum media coverage. He could simply have placed bombs in the theater and escaped undetected. He wanted public recognition. He picked the most public media moment. He allowed himself to be arrested. He placed himself at the vortex of violence idolatry and he called his shot at public recognition with precision. Our violent culture gave him the recognition he wanted. Our President has a kill list. Romney will have an even more refined eugenics plan. Why should a freelancer pass up his chance at fame? If he were only a Blackwater mercenary nobody would know his name. Now he has a shot at joining Charles Manson ad a household word. All because we worship violence.

Drones kill people every day. If our outrage was real we would be calling for an end to drone murder....

He could have planted a bomb and walked away, never gotten caught, but he didn't want that. He carefully chose the best media moment and dressed for the part, still has his Joker orange hair for court appearances. He stepped into America's love affair with violence and obtained the recognition he craved. The AR15 is far from the crucial element. It jammed anyway. The 12 gauge shotgun loaded with 00 buckshot is the better close quarters weapon and it will never be banned. He was a Ph.D. student in neuroscience. He could have used nerve gas. The whole point for him was to be caught and achieve fame. Now the media is his servant as is the whole culture. When there is a call for a ban on drones let me know. Our president has a "kill list" in his pocket. Where is the outrage? I'm sure Mitt Romney has a eugenics plan for us. The guy in Aurora was channeling the moral tone of the country. Blackwater/Ze/Academi kills more people every day but not in middle class white neighborhoods. Nathan Van Wilkins shot 17 people in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on July 18th. Did anyone notice? Since he didn't manage to kill anyone, used an unexciting weapon (the AP story did not bother to mention the type or brand), and it was at a bar and not opening night for a Batman movie the media didn't care. Not a good production and no body count.

Meanwhile back in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia the Predators drone on. Will Obama and Romney call a halt to them? They are saner than the man in Aurora, right?

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