Often times the rhetoric surrounding an issue becomes the issue itself. Emotional hang-ups and the ever-present argument of deeming something “unconstitutional” can overwhelm the issue at hand, and that can not only hinder solving that problem, it can also blow the problem out of proportion and then lead an effort to fix things that aren’t broken.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, gun control has been at the forefront of national media coverage as the tension in Washington between Democrats, Republicans and the National Rifle Association has come to a head. Every day, statements are made by politicians on both sides of the aisle that the media latches onto. These outlets then misquote them, misrepresent them and repeat their statements out of context. The constant back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats and its subsequent reporting by left and right wing news outlets MSNBC and Fox, respectively, takes the focus off what is really happening and what needs to happen, and puts the spotlight on the petty words surrounding the issue. The more extreme the sound byte, the more viewers they receive. The “news” is practically reality television, and the issues do not get resolved.
The sound bytes coming from NRA and Republican leaders are becoming more and more extreme. After President Barack Obama announced his plan to push gun-control legislation, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh stated, “I think he wants people to snap. I think Obama is challenging everybody’s sanity. Obama [is] literally pushing people to snap, attacking the very sanity of the country.” This sort of rhetoric is not only monstrously accusational and offensive, it is also completely harmful to any strides the president makes in resolving the issue. Those who are influenced by Limbaugh’s foul dribble will always be in opposition to the president, regardless of the action he takes, because of Limbaugh’s personal vendetta against him.
This sort of rhetoric takes the focus off the issue and puts it on the individuals discussing the issue. In this case, that is a dangerous area to focus on.
Solving the gun problem with more guns, which is the NRA’s supposed plan to avoid another Sandy Hook-like incident, basically consists of creating a militant society with a Cold War atmosphere in public places and is simply ridiculous. Constantly being armed and constantly calling the bluff of the criminally insane is no way to structure a society.
Yet the Democrats do not have a solution at all. A simple ban on typical non-assault weapons will not stop these tragedies from happening. An armed society will most definitely not deter gun crimes. Whether or not something is made “illegal” will not deter crime—criminals do not follow the law. A ban on assault weapons is absolutely justified and should be followed up on. Stricter background checks and stricter regulations on keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill are absolutely warranted. But in terms of eradicating events like Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and countless others, signing a bill into law is not going to accomplish anything.
During President Ronald Reagan’s war on the welfare state in the 1980s, he drastically cut the budgets of many programs that were potentially beneficial to society. He cut the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 40 percent. He also cut the budget for mental health treatment. By allowing inner-city environments to grow, where violence is second nature and often seen as necessary to survive, and by refusing to allow would-be mental illness patients to seek treatment, thus often turning them into criminals, Reaganomics backhanded the country by turning its back on legitimate issues that could have easily been avoided. Urban development stopped, and individuals in low-income households were forced to fend for themselves, often moving into dangerous, crime-ridden areas that were essentially shunned by the federal government. And today, gun crimes are highest in inner-city areas.
Mental health issues, a problem that 50 percent of the American population will face at some point in their lives, are expensive to properly treat. The simple fact that, for some, treatment is not an option is absurd. To have an unhealthy population is to have an unhealthy society. And this is a major cause of violent crimes.
So where do we go from here? For starters, we, as an educated public, can look past the ridiculous rhetoric surrounding the issue and focus on the issue itself. Media is a business. The news outlets making stories out of mindless banter is not for the purpose of educating a nation on the goings-on in Washington. It is merely to gain more viewers. Similar to that, the NRA needs to realize that the Constitution is meant to adapt to the times. The Second Amendment calls for the right to form a militia. A citizen’s militia does not mean an armed public. And finally, we as a country need to take care of our citizens. We cannot allow the mentally unstable to engage in unhealthy behavior or have access to dangerous weapons. There must be resources for the mentally ill regardless of personal wealth, income or their insurance policies.
Banning hunting rifles and simple handguns will do nothing. And when the large, for-profit news agencies cut the banter and stop debating what citizens can and cannot buy, then progress will be made. This is not an issue of personal rights and ownership. This is a social issue.
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