Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Massacre at Virginia Tech And the Necessity for Real National Gun Control Laws

Mass media is telling all Americans and the world about the rampage killing of thirty two students at Virginia Tech by sociopathic student. The statements of university officials, the stories of students who escaped, the anguish and pain of all are being repeated over and over again. Prayers are being offered and the President has just spoken at a convocation.

The "debate over gun control" is being mentioned and there are references to the ease with which guns can be purchased in Virginia, but that is being marginalized as of now in the mass media. And that should be the main question that concerns citizens of the United States, not the failure of "lock down" campus security (a campus is not an airport), whether the young South Korean born student was a "legal immigrant" (he was, having come to and lived in the U.S. since he was eight) or the reasons why committed this act of mass murder, an individual crime against humanity (notes and papers that he left have begun to be analyzed in a speculative way and will be I am sure analyzed ad infinitum in the near future by mass media). The allegation that he took anti-depressant drugs will also no doubt keep the cable networks going for days.

But the ability of anyone in many American states to purchase what are weapons of war--automatic weapons that can fire dozens of rounds of ammunition rapidly, should be the main question. At the very least, if the old and imperfect "fairness doctrine" in media that the Reagan administration destroyed decades ago so that the people could be enlightened by Rush Limbaugh et al, were still in effect, it might get some play. But the Fairness Doctrine under the FCC is long long gone.

More responsible media is beginning to make some points in the gun control issue. Although this has yet to make the New York Times and the Washington Post, much less CNN (it probably will before this blog piece is published). Editor and Publisher is reporting that the shooter bought both of the guns and the ammunition that he used without any serious check in Virginia gun stores. If you don't have a felony record in Virginia and you have the money, buying a "weapon of mass destruction" like a Glock 19 pistol is quick and convenient. The shooter bought his Glock for less than six hundred dollars. And apparently it took him a very short amount of time, shorter than a normal trip to a Supermarket.

The gun storekeeper whose establishment sold it to him (and I am not criticizing him or any individual who sells guns, but the outrageous lack of regulation that the NRA and right-wing politicians preserve and which makes storekeepers pretty much have to sell to anybody to stay in business) mentioned that only a tiny percentage of the huge number of handguns he has sold but that it still "tears him up" when an incident like this happens.

While the media will continue to filter the story through the society, emphasizing the grief and the morning and asking over and over again "experts" on mass murderers, parental anger, grief counseling, private police action or security to interpret the events, I doubt there will be discussions of the U.S. gun laws as against the laws currently in existence in the rest of the developed world. There will be little comparison even of the differences between states like Virginia for example and New Jersey and New York, where there is more substantial regulation of fire arms, and discussions of comparative violent crime rates between the U.S. and other nations.

Such commentary would bring out the NRA and the legions of animal hunters and defenders of the American frontier for whom the Bill of Rights begins and ends with the right of citizens to bear arms. It would be a violation of their "freedom" and a threat to all of us,they like to say even anyone who believes that civilians with guns constitute a protection against a police state and military dictatorship has no real connection with reality.

The more weapons like Glock 19's, automatic assault rifles, and many other weapons of war are simply taken off the mass market, the more the students of Virginia Tech will get some redress for the horror that they faced. The more a system is put into place that limits weapons ownership to people with both a serious need to own weapons and also monitors those people carefully, the more the dead of Virginia tech will have some positive effect on the society.

Citizens have to renew drivers license, the registration of cars, pay fines for minor traffic and other violations, and in much of the United States they can purchase weapons with greater firepower than those used by soldiers in World War II and commit murder. The more Americans understand, as civilized people do throughout the world that there is now civil or human right to possess firearms with the capacity to kill dozens of people in public places, the more the spirit of the U.S. Bill of Rights and the social purposes of the U.S. Constitution (to establish an orderly republican society that would conform to the ideals the ideals of the revolution will be upheld.

Gun control won't end violent crime and sociopathic violence generally, but it will reduce both. It has throughout the world.

Gun control is not sufficient to address the underlying social problems, the poverty most of all, that produce crime generally and violent crime (sociopathetic violence is I think a different and really more complicated story) but it is necessary in a modern civilized society.

Rituals of mourning, while understandable and perhaps necessary, are no substitute for public policy. When they come from the Bush administration, which has made terms like "weapons of mass destruction" into household words a fetish of "security" and a business of supporting the NRA so that "gun shows" are as commercially popular in some circles as auto shows,they and the mass media make such rituals substitutes for both serious thought and action. As in many other areas of life, the United States has diverged in recent decades from other developed societies in regard to both regulation of the economy for what the Constitution referred to as the General Welfare and social protections for the people. The incredible denial by politicians and organizations of the right of the need to seriously regulate firearms, which goes hand in hand with their support for draconian penal codes and prison as the principal solution to all criminal acts, usually produces little horrors in the poor neighborhoods of the United States, whose innocent people are the most common victims of violent crime.

Here it has produced a very big horror to innocent students at an American University. Progressive people should join in this discussion not let the conservative politicians and the media use rituals of morning and words of comfort to get themselves off the hook

--Norman Markowitz

1 comment:

sneha said...

Sramana Mitra looks at the big picture behind the Virginia Tech Massacre: the US Mental Health Legal System. It is a thought that goes beyond just the heinous act.