Jim Sleeper: What We Should Tell the Gun Lobby AND Producers and Editors

Roundup: Media's Take


[Jim Sleeper is a lecturer in political science at Yale University.]
When a credibly hot-under-the-collar Piers Morgan told Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, on his CNN show, "You're an unbelievably stupid man, aren't you?", my first impulse was to gloat that, at last, the gun-lobby had gotten the big smack-down that it and its millions of credulous adherents deserve.
Pratt had been skirting around the fact that countries that restrict gun ownership more tightly than we do are dramatically freer of gun violence.But Morgan's rebuke to him brought a sinuous comeback: "It seems to me you are morally obtuse," Pratt replied. "You seem to prefer being a victim to being able to prevail over the criminal element. I don't know why you want to be the criminal's friend."
"You have absolutely no coherent argument," Morgan sputtered. Realizing that wasn't enough, he convened a more thoughtful discussion the next evening. But the gun lobby's "Arm the teachers, 'cause it's a dangerous world out there" argument -- echoed today by Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association -- has the seemingly coherent, self-enclosing logic of a prison system, which tries to end violence by caging freedom. And the bigger danger it reflects -- and then reinforces -- is the growing, almost gladatorial violence in our public entertainments.
It's a big part of the reason why, even with violent crime actually declining, the gun-lobby has made its dark vision of looming, omnipresent violence so pervasive throughout civil society. The lobby is tapping into swift undercurrents of fear and resentment that entertainment producers are hyping. Both gun profiteers and media moguls should stand accused of generating even more violence and the growing prison response.
Such currents have run through every society in history, of course. But to understand what's accelerating them so menacingly now, we really do need to look beyond the Pratt's Gun Owners of America, the National Rifle Association, and the weapons manufacturers who fund those organizations coolly as part of their investment. The currents of death run under the cover not only of the Second Amendment but also the First. 
The irony is that what the First Amendment's framers considered "freedom of speech" has nothing to do with it. The big untapped debate about the gun crisis involves the growing violence -- gladatorial, sadistic, pointless -- in so much big-studio entertainment, not to mention internet games....

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