This Does Not Look Like You Care About These Adults

by John Holbo on February 22, 2018

A lot of conservatives are taking a ‘who will think of the children?’ approach to the aftermath of the most recent school shooting. As Erick Erickson writes: “I think putting them on television after a mass murder at their school is not caring about them. It is using them.” True, these kids have first-hand experience with guns that seems to qualify them to speak, but the truth is that they are too close to the issue. For them, this is their identity now. It’s existential. They aren’t prepared to debate policy, and the raw emotions behind their speech – even if they express themselves eloquently and apparently reasonably – are not conducive to level-headed policy debate. No one is allowed to question the authenticity of their experience with guns, so no one is allowed to suggest they are just wrong about policy.

Let it be so. In the aftermath of the next school shooting, no one for whom gun-ownership is a deeply-felt identity issue is allowed on TV. For their own good.

Last year Matthew LaCombe had a good piece at the Monkey Cage.

Over the course of its more-than-100-year history, my research shows, the NRA developed a social identity for gun owners and then mobilized this group into politics by framing government gun regulation as a threat to gun owners’ lifestyles, values and traditions — an affront to gun owners and their very identities.

Who will think of the adults?

For the sake of the moral dignity of the NRA – out of respect for this venerable organization – no spokesperson for the NRA shall be allowed anywhere near a TV camera, in the aftermath of any mass shooting, on the grounds that they will probably be rendered temporarily morally incompetent due to the raw emotionality of the threat the event poses to their very identity. (It would be ok for some NRA members to speak to the media, but only if they can document that, despite being NRA members, they do not deeply identity with gun culture and ownership personally.)

Here’s another example.

One of the things that I think a lot of people miss about what people love about guns, they love the brilliant mechanic ingenuity that goes into them. They are very – you know, they are very complex, beautiful, graceful machines, and that’s how the bump stock came around.

And so, as you point out, the questions will be how broad is this? Because, of course, whoever came up with the bump stock to begin with can easily come up with something else that does the same thing.

Exactly.

It would be easy enough not to allow on TV – after the next shooting – anyone thrilled from their toes to their bump stock by the beauty of guns. Because, obviously, such people will be in an extremely delicate state. They will feel other people are telling them they are wrong – theirs is the love that dare not speak its name. They are going to have lots of special first-hand experience with guns that will seem to make them especially qualified to speak out. (Muzzle velocities. Always muzzle velocities.) But we have to say to them, for their own good: now is not the time for you to undignify yourself, on TV, by saying ‘muzzle velocity’ to a camera with a moist eye.

I trust Erickson, Tucker Carlson, Mollie Hemingway and many other conservative pundits who are worried about the children will also have the humanity to spare a moment of concern for the adults – their fellow conservative pundits in many cases – who have been serially victimized, morally, in this way, every time one of these shootings occurs.

{ 40 comments }

1

casmilus 02.22.18 at 10:07 am

I’m sure none of these conservatives have ever suggested that survivors of terrorist attacks have a special insight in to how counter-terrorism should be conducted or input on the strategies to be used against terrorist groups. I’m sure none of them ever made a comment on the lines of “prayers and vigils are not enough, I want action”, as our own Julia Hartley-Brewer did after one of the incidents in London last year.

Go search through their public pronouncements, bet you’ll find nothing of that sort.

2

Lee A. Arnold 02.22.18 at 11:14 am

It would certainly save the conservative pundits from making all these other emotional & idiotic arguments too. Including the ones that are effectively demolished in their own terms:

That banning semi-automatic “assault weapons” impairs freedom. (LRADs, bearcats, bazookas, fully automatic machine guns cannot be owned by civilians either, and no one is crying about their freedom.)

That an armed teacher or coach will save the day. (Anybody crazy enough to shoot up a school would find it easy to take out the teacher first, with a little bit of planning. The U.S. would be spending billions more in taxes to give every teacher in the U.S. a gun and it wouldn’t make a difference.)

I hope the schoolkids learn that their elders are mentally incompetent, across the board. Vote out every NRA politician, next election and into the future.

3

Mike Furlan 02.22.18 at 2:19 pm

Since Trump has been president he has weakened background checks. Now if you are documented to be mentally ill by the SSA, you can buy a gun. If you have an outstanding warrant for your arrest, you can buy a gun as long as you do not flee across state line.

School shootings are a great distraction, and I truly believe that there are folks who are happy to see us spend time discussing gun control rather than tax policy.

And the greater the general level of fear in the country the more attractive authoritarian politics become. More violence, more Trumps, more Trumps more violence. Throw in a terrorist attack or two (Putin staged his own, maybe he explained how he did it to Trump) and it is Trump as far as the eye can see.

4

painedumonde 02.22.18 at 2:42 pm

Your performance art has been experienced by deaf ears, but Swift would’ve chuckled.

5

Shirley0401 02.22.18 at 3:43 pm

I made the mistake of looking at the Twitter yesterday, and it was a scary place. A lot of the most infuriating tweets started out with something along the lines of “We can’t blame the kids after what they’ve been through, but…” Then they go on to say we can’t ban sales of AR-15 assault rifles because it just isn’t, and the words varied but all were more or less synonymous with “practical.”
Like “there are already too many out there” or “the really bad guys will find them on the black market” or whatever. I even saw one to the effect of “who will think of the gun manufacturers and their lost revenue?”
As I enter my 5th decade on the planet, increasingly little surprises or disappoints me, because my expectations are so low. But this did it. We’ve got kids asking us to think about banning a weapon built for the sole purpose of killing as many people in as short a time as possible, being used for its intended purpose as part of terrorist attacks around the country, and we’re seriously engaging with people whose response is to suggest the kids are only demanding to not be shot by the dozens anymore because they’re still emotional about their classmates’ deaths.
It’s crazy. I can only imagine what ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ the civilized world thinks of us right now.

6

BruceJ 02.22.18 at 3:52 pm

I think what SHOULD be allowed on tv: the videos and photos these kids took during and after the shooting. America needs to see the ugly reality that it’s obeisance to the Great God Firearm demands regular and ever bloodier human sacrifice.

If it makes monsters like Erik Erickson squirm, all the better. Strip away their masks opf genteel ‘conservatism’ and show the world who they are.

7

Art Deco 02.22.18 at 3:58 pm

Let it be so. In the aftermath of the next school shooting, no one for whom gun-ownership is a deeply-felt identity issue is allowed on TV. For their own good.

An unintended but concise summary of progtrash attitudes on just about any public policy question.

8

Ogden Wernstrom 02.22.18 at 4:32 pm

The most-heartening thing I heard from one of the students is that almost all of the graduating seniors at Stoneman Douglas High will have their first opportunity to vote later this year.

In Florida.

9

Layman 02.22.18 at 6:43 pm

CNN reported in early February that 14 police officers have been shot and killed in the line of duty in the US so far this year. Presumably these police officers were well-armed and well-trained, yet they were shot dead despite those advantages. No mass shooting has ever been stopped by a civilian with a gun. Furthermore, I think no mass shooting has ever been stopped even by police or security guards present at the time the mass shooting began. The only thing that works is to take away the guns. I hope the kids don’t fall for the kind of weak slightly-more-effective status quo they’re going to be offered, like the ‘bipartisan’ bill in the Senate that is so pointless it is actually endorsed by the NRA.

10

PatinIowa 02.22.18 at 8:44 pm

As 64-year-old white dude, I’m coming to the conclusion that things won’t really improve until white boomers are entirely off the scene. Mostly when I see my students, I want to apologize to them for climate change, education costs, and so much more.

11

Ray Vinmad 02.22.18 at 9:02 pm

Off topic–but is there a good book about meme flow (as in–viral ideas, not visual mottoes), talking points & the emotional manipulation involved?

There are all these schoolyard bully/hectoring shaming tactics involved, and they quickly become a shared narrative. I know Frank Luntz & other publicists come up with emotionally-laden terms–but I wish I knew more about the whole process. (Another thing I wish I knew about is the flow of ideas via social media. Where does the narrative originate, and what paths does it take.)

Are there books about this? It’s something I keep track of as an amateur. You are better at it than I John Holbo! I wonder if there is a literature that explains it in depth.

12

bekabot 02.22.18 at 9:16 pm

True, these kids have first-hand experience with guns that seems to qualify them to speak, but the truth is that they are too close to the issue.

There you have right-wingers in a nutshell. This is why I no longer respect them. In their world, if you have direct, unmediated, undeniable experience of a phenomenon, then of course it’s to be expected that you’re overwhelmed by it (or, if you’re female, that you’re hysterical about it) and that you can’t be objective. Therefore, nobody should listen to you. OTOH, if you’re looking at a phenomenon from a distance, the way (for example) a non-politician with limited finances looks at a government functionary’s travel budget, it means you’re not qualified to parse the technicalities or discuss the fine points, which in turn means that you can’t possibly know what you’re talking about and that (once again) you can’t be objective…and therefore, nobody should listen to you.

In the end, nobody ends up being eligible to talk about anything except for right-wing opinion-mongers and the billionaires who pay their bills…and though I may have to live under just such a regimen, I don’t have to like it or grant it any dues.

13

Karl Kolchak 02.22.18 at 9:55 pm

Funny how it took the slaughter of 17 AMERICAN kids to get all these twits off their couches. Where were they as countless hundreds of thousands of kids were being butchered overseas by Bush and Obama? Playing video games and twiddling with their dumbfones, that’s where. Michael Moore first made the link between the school shootings and the wanton violence America unleashes around the globe in his movie, Bowling for Columbine. America is a sick society, but it’s going to take a heck of a lot more than a few gun regulations to change it. And I’ll bet these kids will be back on their couches in a few weeks once the outrage over this latest shooting starts to be swallowed by our collective amnesia–just as their parents and grandparents put down their protests signs once the chance that any of them would be drafted to serve in Vietnam was ended and they could all safely go to work for the man.

14

Lee A. Arnold 02.22.18 at 11:17 pm

We need an assault weapons ban + universal background checks + more help for mental illness. At the minimum.

15

Moz of Yarramulla 02.22.18 at 11:34 pm

bekabot@12:nobody ends up being eligible to talk about anything except for right-wing opinion-mongers and the billionaires who pay their bills

Yep, it’s Calvinball played with other people’s lives.

Trump is in many ways the exemplar of this – it doesn’t matter what is said, what matters is that he wins. Ideally you should also lose, but it’s more important that he wins.

I’m heartened by the number of Democratic wins in smaller elections of late, and by the way those wins have happened – lots of positive local organising, addressing facts and largely bypassing the trolls. Turns out lots of merkins will vote for the saner candidate if they’re given the option.

16

harry b 02.23.18 at 1:17 am

Shirley: “It’s crazy. I can only imagine what ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ the civilized world thinks of us right now.”

Last night’s conversation
Daughter (17). “Dad, what does the rest of the world think of us? Do they all just think we’re idiots?”
Me. “Yeah I think so”

17

Layman 02.23.18 at 2:38 am

Karl Kolchak: “And I’ll bet these kids will be back on their couches in a few weeks…”

Yeah, sure, dump on them FFS. Good grief.

18

Alan White 02.23.18 at 3:30 am

First we need someone to get two political memes going:

“Politician X has taken Y amount of Blood Money from the NRA”

“Dues to the NRA have produced Z number of children killed by assault weapons”

Second we need to address the sheer number of assault weapons already in the US populace. Here is a proposal I wrote to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“There are somewhere around 10 million assault-style weapons in private hands in the US–on the order of 10 times that used by active US military. Legislative bans on such weapons (not likely) would not address the problem of such a large pool of weapons already available for private sale or theft. I have a modest proposal to reduce the existing number of assault-style weapons that does not challenge the second amendment and relies on capitalist principles.

There are hundreds of billionaires in the US, and some number of them must be sympathetic to the problem of large-magazine assault weapons used in mass killings and might also wish to reduce the total number of these weapons in society. What they could do is donate some of their billions collectively (a foundation with tax incentives) to an aggressive buy-back program. Since each assault rifle costs on average something like $1500 dollars, then offering (say) $5000 for a buy-back per rifle would require an investment of 75 billion dollars as a maximal purchase pool–about 2 1/2% of the total wealth of US billionaires (about 3 trillion). To further restrict continued access to those weapons without challenging the second amendment some of the funds could be used to subsidize non-military-contract weapon manufacturers as a disincentive to produce them in the first place.

A lot of money? Sure. But the lives saved and improved security for all would be worth it–and for the billionaires maybe even a Nobel Prize.”

19

christian h. 02.23.18 at 3:33 am

Victims of crime in general should not really be allowed to vote in any elections for judges or prosecutors or sheriffs. They simply cannot be objective.

20

Sandwichman 02.23.18 at 4:58 am

Yeah, I know. The Pundits. But when you research the history and the institutions that these pundits are fronts for you learn things that you cannot talk about. It is class and it is the organized power of class that is being displayed.

These folks know exactly what they are doing. THEY ARE NOT TRYING TO PERSUADE ANYONE OF ANYTHING. Their jobs is simply to prevent a conversation and they succeed.

Because now we’re talking about “pundits” and not about the plutocracy. See also the Dotard.

21

Z 02.23.18 at 5:18 am

In fact, victims of oppression or marginalization, the poor, the destitute… anyone who claims to have been negatively affected by social or political power or anyone with a political grievance really should preferably be banned from participating in the political process in any way. TSCBO™.

“Dad, what does the rest of the world think of us? Do they all just think we’re idiots?”

Not to twist the knife, but cruel idiots perhaps?

22

casmilus 02.23.18 at 10:26 am

“Dad, what does the rest of the world think of us? Do they all just think we’re idiots?”

To be honest, I just think of school shootings as a Thing That Americans Do, like Prom Nights, Superbowl, and Thanksgiving.

23

RichT 02.23.18 at 11:45 am

“Dad, what does the rest of the world think of us? Do they all just think we’re idiots?”

Well I can’t speak for the whole of the rest of the world, but broadly, yes, probably that – though it was already apparent from your choice of president (amongst other things).

But also, Americans (rather like the British with Brexit) are the victims of their own mythologised past, in which clinging on to foundation myths (Freedom standing against the Tyrannical State, How the West was Won) is more important than stopping children being gunned down by heavily armed nutters.

24

Anarcissie 02.23.18 at 3:23 pm

I think many of you are overly optimistic about the probability that if a law exists, it will be observed. The history of Prohibition and the Drug War should disabuse you of this notion. Of course military weapons are far more dangerous than drugs*, and some law might be tried out on them; but given the constant, ubiquitous fetishization of weapons and their use in the United States, including in its mainstream politics and government, as well as its news and entertainment media, countervailing currents will be deep and strong among the folk. I suppose the possibility of doing something about that problem is even more remote than passing laws and getting them enforced (except against persons of color, of course. That will work.) It seems to me there is a more generic problem here than the random terrorist or lunatic, one which will not be solved by making fun of gun nuts.

* I guess. I have never been attacked by a drug or a gun, so I don’t speak from personal experience.

25

anymouse 02.23.18 at 3:31 pm

Ok. Sure. I agree.

Let’s strip it all away and look at the numbers.

If we repeal the 2nd amendment and reduce private gun ownership in the US by 100%.

We would save about 7,000 – 15,000 suicide deaths per year. The impact on homicides
would at best be insignificant. The impact on mass murders would be pretty much nill.

The most honest progressive position on gun control –

Reducing gun ownership reduces gun deaths

is propaganda.

26

Lee A. Arnold 02.23.18 at 6:45 pm

Increasing gun regulation certainly reduces gun deaths, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence & the Brady Campaign. Of the top 10 U.S. states in 2013 with the lowest rates of death by guns, 7 of them have the most stringent state gun regulations. There is a fairly close correlation throughout all 50 states. The 10 states with the highest rates of gun death have the laxest regulations, etc.

27

Ogden Wernstrom 02.23.18 at 7:25 pm

Perfect is the enemy of good.

28

Ogden Wernstrom 02.23.18 at 7:51 pm

A quick check with CDC 2014 statistics shows 15,872 homicides in the US, 11,008 of which were firearm homicides. Does that seem an insignificant portion?

That same year, they report 21,386 firearm suicides. I think we can assume that a number of those would find another method. I wonder what that number might be.

Mass murders are a small portion of total homicides; that is true. I wonder if the number of people killed in mass murders would drop in proportion to any drop in the total number of homicides. Would it be so bad to reduce homicides by more people than are killed in mass murders each year?

29

Moz of Yarramulla 02.23.18 at 9:36 pm

anymouse : can you show how the US is so spectacularly different from every other country, in that the homicide rate is not affected by gun ownership?

I think you’re being unrealistic thinking that you could remove all privately held guns from the US, but I suppose at least the US wouldn’t have the US trying to sell guns to its citizens in that situation so it would be easier than it is for most countries.

What do you think of Mike Huben’s suggestion in the other thread that instead of regulating guns you simply implement the “well organised militia” part and make enrolment in the National Guard part of getting a firearms license? If you don’t meet the ongoing Guard requirements you’re not part of a well organised militia and thus don’t get to keep your guns…

30

anymouse 02.24.18 at 12:44 am

Ogden Wernstrom and Moz of Yarramulla ,

In the US.

The correlation coefficient between state gun owner ship and state homicide rates is .06.

Running it again with the numbers from this link

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearm_death_rates_in_the_United_States_by_state

I just got .085. I am sticking with my first answer but this way you can check for your self.

The correlation coefficient between state gun owner ship and state suicide rates is .62.

This

http://ftp.iza.org/dp4995.pdf

is very popular study with progressives. See page 47. Based on that for 100% reduction in the legal private gun stock. You would get a suicide reduction of about 2,000 per year in the US. So, 7000 was probably too high. The study doesn’t claim any reduction in total homicides.

With a repeal of the 2nd amendment and confiscation of large quantities of guns I really think you will reduce the suicide rate. The homicide rate? Not really.

The dishonest two step is to claim that gun control reduces homicides and then link to a study that shows lower gun owner ship = reduced gun deaths. Well yeah! Suicides. Or claim that reducing gun owner ship reduces the gun homicide rate. Yea, but not the homicide rate which is what we want to reduce.

31

Dipper 02.24.18 at 9:47 am

Just out of random curiosity, will a teacher’s effectiveness with a weapon be part of their job description? Will they get appraised on it? Will promotions go to the best teachers or the sharpest shooters?

And if, or when, someone with an assault rifle enters a school where teachers are armed, shoots some pupils, and an armed teacher survives, will the teacher be liable to be sued because their job was to die in a gun fight and they survived?

And what about bullet-proof vests? Surely the armed teachers should all wear these so they have a better chance of shooting the shooters?

32

Dipper 02.24.18 at 1:27 pm

“Americans (rather like the British with Brexit) are the victims of their own mythologised past,”

oh just give it a rest.

33

Ogden Wernstrom 02.24.18 at 9:47 pm

@30 anymouse:
With your change-in-parameters/move-of-goalposts from @25 to @30, you should not present @30 as a response to @28 and @29.

Somehow, your post neglected to address @26, Lee A. Arnold – who makes some good points that appear to counter your one-number-to-rule-them-all result. The wikipedia.org page you link supports his points.

If I were to crunch some numbers, I would not rely so heavily on a state gun ownership rate that surveyed 4000 people to self-report, and used the survey results to give estimates of 51 subsets – most to them to 3 significant figures, somehow.

34

J-D 02.24.18 at 9:57 pm

It’s crazy. I can only imagine what ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ the civilized world thinks of us right now.

This ‘civilised world’ you speak of; where is it?

I think it would be a good idea if people in your country tried to make your country (and also the world) less violent. But then, I think it would be a good idea if people in my country tried to make my country (and also the world) less violent. I think that would be a good idea for people in every country.

I don’t think that ‘because of the way it appears to the neighbours’ is a good reason for trying to make your country less violent; and I don’t think that people in other countries stereotyping Americans (or anybody else) is likely to help make the world less violent.

35

John Holbo 02.24.18 at 11:10 pm

“We would save about 7,000 – 15,000 suicide deaths per year. The impact on homicides
would at best be insignificant. The impact on mass murders would be pretty much nill.

The most honest progressive position on gun control –

Reducing gun ownership reduces gun deaths

is propaganda.”

I’m confused. You are saying BOTH that we would reduce 7,000 – 15,000 gun deaths, by suicide, AND that the claim that we would reduce gun deaths is propaganda.

Obviously you are not classifying suicide by gun as a gun death. But why not?

36

John Holbo 02.24.18 at 11:14 pm

I guess your point is it’s dishonest to point to school shootings as a paradigm of the problem. And we should ban handguns not AR-15’s. Because that’s the suicide weapon of choice? Even so, gun deaths are gun deaths.

“Yea, but not the homicide rate which is what we want to reduce.”

But I think this is just wrong. I think people want to reduce the suicide rate AND the homicide rate.

37

reason 02.26.18 at 10:40 am

I can’t really understand the argument used by Anarcisse. I think it is a bit beside the point. In terms of homicide prevention, it surely is a big deal if you can arrest someone seen walking with a military style weapon rather than having to wait until they actually shoot someone. Isn’t it?

38

lurker 02.26.18 at 1:41 pm

‘it surely is a big deal if you can arrest someone seen walking with a military style weapon rather than having to wait until they actually shoot someone’ (37, reason)
AFAIK American police have the right to kill a man for having a pellet gun used for pest control in his hotel room, first making him crawl on the floor begging for mercy.
If they ever do turn on gun owners, gun owners will be so fucked.

39

reason 02.26.18 at 2:08 pm

I don’t mean that. Remember that there were several reports to the police warning that the perpetrator was a danger and armed. If that was sufficient to have him arrested (or his weapons confiscated) for having for instance illegal weapons then the events could have prevented. As several people elsewhere have pointed out, the current legal situation meant that apart from a 24×7 watch (prohibitively expensive) there was nothing they could do.

40

JanieM 02.26.18 at 2:52 pm

anymouse: “Yea, but not the homicide rate which is what we want to reduce.”

JH: But I think this is just wrong. I think people want to reduce the suicide rate AND the homicide rate.

Yeah, “we” is such a conveniently hazy word. (As in “we want to reduce…”

Google “Vermont suicide guns” and you’ll get a raft of links about one state’s efforts to cut the suicide rate.

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