James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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The cowards among us: killers, legislators and the NRA

Posted by James McPherson on December 15, 2012

A question for parents: How many of you have toy guns or “first-person-shooter” video games nicely wrapped under your Christmas trees as you get ready to celebrate the birth of Christ?

Here in America, of course, that’s just the batcrap-crazy norm, as we go from one supposedly shocking mass killing to another and another and another. Maybe this year the deaths will hit triple digits. And unless you’re related to them, or it involves a member of Congress, you probably won’t remember any of their name  by New Year’s Day.

“They packed the pews to remember, mourn and pray,” wrote CNN’s Dana Ford. “What else can you do?”

What, indeed? Surely we can’t have a serious discussion about gun control, or get members of Congress to stand up to the National Rifle Association for even common-sense legislation. After all, some folks think it outrageous that “government” keeps us from easily owning automatic weapons, machine guns and hand grenades.

We also can’t adequately fund education or mental health care, especially at the risk of raising taxes or cutting military funding. We can’t rationally discuss what it is about US that makes mass murder now commonplace. To do that would be both too scary and too political.

Despite the fact that most Americans, including most members of the NRA, favor some gun laws, we apparently can’t have any millionaires or billionaires stepping up to found an organization with lobbying influence to combat the NRA. No reason they should, since they live behind gates and their kids are in private schools. (Ironically, the chidren of workers for the country’s second-biggest gun lobby could actually be among the Newtown, Conn., victims, considering that the National Shooting Sports Foundation–which offers members a newsletter titled “Pull the Trigger,” boasting such articles as “It’s the Indian, not the arrow“– is within walking distance of the school.)

We can’t have gun-totin’ conservatives admitting that Barack Obama doesn’t really want to take away our guns, or that it’s easier to own a gun today and you can carry one in more places than before he took office. Or that conservative “hero” Ronald Reagan actually supported stricter gun laws than we have today, or than have been supported by any so-called liberal president since. After all, one of the many things Obama and Mitt Romney shared duting the recent presidential campaign was cowardice when it came to talking about guns.

Oh, we can do a few things. We can breathlessly watch the news media report the tragedy as quickly as possible, guaranteeing that they’ll get some things wrong in the process–yet again. We can expect the NRA to somehow use this tragedy as an excuse to fundraise while its followers tell us that it’s “wrong” to use a tragedy to discuss the politics of gun control. And we can continue to have nutjobs such as Spokane city councilman Mike Fagan suggest that we arm teachers or administrators.

After all, what could go wrong having stressed, distracted people in charge of too many children also packing heat? Of course they’d have to lock the firearms away, to avoid letting kids get to them. And if the gun and ammo were locked away, it would probably be useless in an emergency situation–especially because anyone looking to wreak havoc would know to shoot the teacher first, because s/he might be armed.

So what can we really do, other than to remember, mourn and pray? Well, after doing that for a few days (and perhaps for a few minutes on every Dec. 14 for the next few years) we could just let things go back to “normal” until the next mass killing. That’s what I’m betting we’ll choose. After all, it probably won’t be in your kid’s school.

Merry Christmas.

13 Responses to “The cowards among us: killers, legislators and the NRA”

  1. jm said

    Passionate, poignant, powerful and persuasive.

    Let’s pray for the families affected by violence, and let’s pray that this nation will act to tighten the regulations on assault weapons.

  2. James McPherson said

    Indeed, Jm. I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season.

  3. melfamy said

    Crazed right-wingers who insist on considering the ‘original intent’ of the Founders when interpreting the Constitution are strangely silent when it is pointed out that the only arms that the founders were aware of were flintlocks and blunderbusses.

  4. James McPherson said

    True, Greg, and thanks for the comment. I visited the RNL for the first time in weeks yesterday and today, just to see how predictable they’d be. No surprises there–GI Joe seems to think we should all be able to own fully automatic weapons, land mines, hand grenades, and maybe even biological and nuclear weapons.

    Of course, he prefers to spit out philosophical generalities, refusing to address specifics–while his little buddy tries to bail him out by spouting the usual insults and gibberish. I guess I haven’t missed anything there.

    I hope this finds you well, and that you and yours have a safe and happy holiday season.

  5. Reuel said

    Ah yes lets call the right wing “Crazed”. Do you know how many on the left support the second amendment? It might surprise you. So with the re-election of the master of Blame politics, we should all take a deep breath and sit down as American’s and agree first and foremost that a “AR” Attack Rifle has no other purpose in life but to end massive amounts of life. Ban them now. Twice as many children are killed in Chicago every year by gangs and I don’t think to many Crazed right-winger live there and I don’t see many of the Left-wingers whom run that town doing anything to reduce that number. Plus the media really don’t seem to think this particular group of children are as important. Placing blame to a political party is not a answer to the problem but has been excepted as a norm. The problems are the break down of the traditional families, movies and reality TV that have cheapen the meaning of life. Video games that have reduced some children from interacting with real people and effect any value or respect of life they would of learned by this interaction. Well while we are talking about “Life”. How many children were aborted last year just for convents? No the left does not hold the moral ground on protecting life.

    Merry Christmas James. May the New Years bring us all to come to the conclusion that neither political party is right.

  6. James McPherson said

    “Do you know how many on the left support the second amendment?”

    No, but I’m one of them. But like most other people (including most NRA members), I don’t think guns should be completely unregulated. And those of us on the left are more likely to support increased funding for education and mental health care. Thanks for the comment.

    “I don’t see many of the Left-wingers whom run that town doing anything to reduce that number.”

    Really? In fact, just yesterday I was wondering what the numbers were–and thinking that the best strategy for those who favor regulation of guns would be to group together the numbers (and perhaps the names) of ALL kids killed by guns in the past year. I’d also point out that Chicago has tried to restrict guns, but the Supreme Court threw out a 28-year-old gun law two years ago, and other courts have tossed parts of the laws they’ve passed since: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-06-19/news/chi-federal-judge-strikes-down-part-of-chicagos-gun-law-20120619_1_gun-ordinance-firearm-ordinance-gun-law

    I agree with you that neither party is entirely to blame–though the NRA and others keep demonizing Obama for “gun control”that he has never even attempted, let alone passed. I also agree that we’ve learned to tune out violence, in part because of entertainment media. I also blame the news media, which tell us about violence without actually showing it to us.

    “May the New Years bring us all to come to the conclusion that neither political party is right.”

    Amen to that. I voted for an independent for president. And Merry Christmas to you and yours–I hope your kids and grandkids are safe and well. We’ll have our grandson here for the first time during the holiday.

  7. [...] « The cowards among us: killers, legislators and the NRA [...]

  8. Reuel said

    Almost all the guns in South Chicago are not even registered and that stupid law that was overturned would not of stopped the gangs from getting weapons. Do you think these gangsters even read the Chicago Tribune? Education budget is already to high and mostly being wasted at the Department of Education in Washington. As I recall even President Bush raised the budget in that Department about 33 percent his first 6 years. Now Mental Heath we can agree that is a issue that has been gravely overlooked. As I also recall it was one of the things I disagreed with about the Reagan Administration and I also recall a lot the mental hospitals were closed because of it.

    My rant was mostly directed at Malfamy and his reluctance to see that both sides have crazed individuals.

    Oh I voted for myself this year for President, they had a spot that said “Other” and that is what I chose then inserted my name.

    Anything that can produce the fire power of a “Attack Rifle” should not be available for personal use. If they really want to target shoot with them, then have them locked up at a target range and let them check them out for use on site only. Restricting gun ownership is just a small part of this and no law is going to govern the ones raised without respect for another humans life. I think I read somewhere that there were 12,000 plus murders last year and the percent that were done with guns was less than 1/3. Human behavior has been the number one problem though out history and the weapons of choice are much more destructive.

  9. jm said

    FOR ALL THE PROFESSED SECOND AMENDMENT EXPERTS, READ THIS:

    So the government cannot ban handguns, but it can ban other weapons—like, say, an assault rifle—or so it appears. The full meaning of the court’s Heller opinion is still up for grabs. But it is clear that the scope of the Second Amendment will be determined as much by politics as by the law.

    The courts will respond to public pressure—as they did by moving to the right on gun control in the last thirty years.

    And if legislators, responding to their constituents, sense a mandate for new restrictions on guns, the courts will find a way to uphold them.

    The battle over gun control is not just one of individual votes in Congress, but of a continuing clash of ideas, backed by political power. In other words, the law of the Second Amendment is not settled; no law, not even the Constitution, ever is.

    READ MORE: LINK: http://arnulfo.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/the-second-amendment/

  10. jm said

    IN ITS EXTRAORDINARY PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE SHOOTINGS, THE NRA CLEARLY JUMPED OVER THE CLIFF!!

    READ MORE: “New York Post, New York Daily News Slam NRA’s Wayne LaPierre,” LINK: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/22/new-york-post-_n_2352203.html

    The New York Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch!

  11. melfamy said

    Reuel, when lefties act crazy, I call the,m on it. Right now, it is those more closely aligned with your viewpoints whom are acting like inmates in Bedlam.
    “We will never stop murder, so why make it illegal?” seems to be the logical extent of your reasoning. Sorry, that doesn’t work on me. Make guns harder to get, and they become more valuable,; people will protect their guns better, there will be fewer on the street, despite your protestations to the contrary.

  12. Let’s pray the god for the families who are affected by violence,try to stop the war. change the world in a peace manner.

  13. [...] (or maybe on-campus rapes will decrease), but I’m no more confident of that than I am that another gun massacre will lead to meaningful firearm [...]

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