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Question for Gun-Rights Fanatics: Have You No Sense of Decency?


I'm still brooding over the Connecticut massacre. Here are some points I'd like to add to those I raised in my column on Friday:

One respondent to my previous post chided me for my inflammatory language. Yes, my response was emotional, because I literally get sick thinking about what the hard-core gun-rights folks—and their appeasers--have done to this country. Also, reason and logic aren't exactly prevailing. Perhaps we need more emotion, outrage, like that dramatic moment in 1954 when lawyer Joseph Welch stood up to the anti-communist bully Senator Joseph McCarthy, asking, "Have you no sense of decency?" That was the beginning of the end of McCarthyism.

I'm appalled by the recklessness and shallowness of the arguments of some opponents of gun control. Many eagerly seized on the fact that on Friday, a man in China stabbed 22 elementary school children. Should we outlaw kitchen knives? a clever commenter on my blog asked. Crappy comparison. None of the Chinese children died, according to The New York Times. All countries have deranged, violent people, but not all countries make it so easy for madmen to obtain weapons designed for mass murder.

Gun-lovers argue we need more people packing guns, not fewer. That's almost as stupid as arguing that the world would be safer if more nations possess nuclear weapons. Two recent shootings in Florida show what can happen when armed civilians roam the streets. The first took place last February, when George Zimmerman, a self-styled neighborhood watchdog, shot to death Trayvon Martin, a teenager who lived in the neighborhood. Last month 46-year-old Michael Dunn asked four teenagers in a car to turn down their music. After a heated exchange, Dunn fired eight shots into the car, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn has been charged with second-degree murder, according to The New York Times. More guns will surely mean more lethal accidents, suicides, homicides and vigilante attacks.

Okay, now I'm really going to go off the rails. The potential connection between violent entertainment and real violence keeps nagging at me. I love violent flicks, like the latest James Bond and Batman blockbusters, and I'm a staunch believer in free speech. My son grew up playing first-person shooter games, and he's a kind, considerate young man. Also, the surge in consumption of violent games over the past few decades has not been matched by a corresponding surge in gun violence. In fact, violent crime rates in the U.S. have fallen since the early 1990s. I nonetheless worry about the corrosive moral effects of violent entertainment on young people.

I'm even more worried about the potential link between our country's hawkish actions overseas and mass shootings here in the homeland. President Barack Obama has signed off on drone attacks that often result in the killing of civilians, including children. There is a cognitive dissonance between our leaders' condemnation of school shootings here and their violent actions beyond our borders.

What I'm trying to say, I suppose, is that I see the Connecticut massacre and similar outbursts of violence as symptoms of a profound American sickness, a pathological infatuation with violence, which is also manifested in our militarism and atavistic adherence to the death penalty. All these forms of violence--whether carried out by crazed individuals or by our own government--violate basic human decency. When will we say, Enough!

Postscript: For good info on gun control, see these pieces by Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, Ezra Klein of The Washington Post, and Mark Follman of Mother Jones. (I found this final source on the link-laden Facebook page of Scientific American's Bora Zivkovik.)


The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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