The National Rifle Association is breaking its silence after the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, promising a full news conference on Friday and “meaningful contributions to help make sure [something like Sandy Hook] never happens again.’’ The group has received a lot of public criticism for their staunch position on 2nd Amendment rights, but a former NRA political director is claiming that we might hear the same old speeches from the group. “When the emotions come down, I’m sure you’ll hear the NRA address this issue. It’ll be in January when legislation is introduced. They’ll testify at hearings. You’ll hear the same kind of arguments that I’d come up with,” said Richard Feldman, who worked on behalf of the group in the 1980s and remains an advocate for their cause.
We’ve already gotten a hint of what one of those arguments will be: that it’s violent movies, not access to firearms that are doing the real damage.
“If we’re going to have a conversation, then let’s have a comprehensive conversation,” an industry insider told Fox News. “If we’re going to talk about the Second Amendment, then let’s also talk about the First Amendment, and Hollywood, and the video games that teach young kids how to shoot heads. If you really want to stop incidents like this, passing one more law is not going to do a damn thing.”
You know what? Even as irritating as a return to an empty scapegoat is, we really should have a comprehensive conversation. Nothing should be off the table when it comes to figuring out the solution to this complex and horrifying problem. But instead of finding proof that it’s movies and video games doing the demonstrable harm, we’re more likely to find 10-country studies that show no link between violence and gaming; the success of Australia’s weapons ban following a 1996 mass shooting despite the country celebrating violent/action-based movies like we do; and more information that (shockingly) links higher gun ownership to higher rates of gun violence.
So, yes, let’s have that conversation. Let’s talk openly about what limitations should be placed where, take the facts into serious consideration, and find a solution. Through that process, the NRA’s finger-pointing at the First Amendment should fade as more information comes to light. And at any rate ‐ if there are already limits on free speech, why can’t there be limits on what kind of guns you can own? Do we, as a public, really care more about protecting people from shouting “Fire!” in a crowded place than about protecting people from someone who will open fire in a crowded place? Would we rather curb adults’ access to The Raid or to weapons that can kill dozens of people in the span of a few minutes?
Yesterday, long-time movie expert and author Vern tweeted, “I sense another round of ‘Defend Yourself For Loving Violent Movies Your Whole Life’ coming on,” and he’s probably right, but it can be a good thing. Airing grievances and systematically culling reasonable concerns when looking for answers is a standard we’ve come to expect in the scientific age. Freedom of Speech shouldn’t be taboo for the same reasons that the Second shouldn’t be ‐ the difference being that violent movies are even one more step removed from the tired “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People” refrain. Naturally, if the conversation covers Free Speech, that can’t distract from Second Amendment advocates needing to discuss and adequately defend why those rights shouldn’t be partially curbed for the greater safety of the populace. The answer to the tough questions cannot be, “Don’t look at us, look at Hollywood.”
This is a complicated, intractable issue that won’t give up answers easily, so hopefully we here more about real solutions on Friday and not more talk about how violent Reservoir Dogs is. And after the NRA weighs in, whether they deflect or act humane, let’s continue to have it out in the public sphere until meaningful action can be taken.