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Gun violence solutions go beyond control

Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 23:01

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Nick Pfosi / The Tufts Daily

Some suggest that gun control is not the only answer to decreasing gun violence in America.


 

This article is part two of three in a series on issues surrounding gun control. 

The role of guns in American society goes far beyond mass shootings. Over 1,000 gun deaths have occurred since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, according to a Jan. 23 Slate.com article. 

However, many do not see increased gun control as the only solution. According to a poll conducted by CNN, Time Magazine and ORC International this month, 61 percent of Americans believe that stricter gun control laws would not reduce gun violence in America. 

Curbing crime 

Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League (GOAL), argued that gun control should be approached differently. GOAL is the official state association for Massachusetts of the National Rifle Association (NRA). According to Wallace, gun control should focus more on cracking down on criminal gun users. 

“The gun control debate always focuses on what the lawful gun owner can and can’t do and unfortunately it really distracts from the real message we need to be sending ... which is dealing with the human criminal element,” he said. “Most of [the president’s and governor’s proposals] were a result of the Newtown [shooting]. If you look at all the proposals from the governor and from the president, none of them actually deals with the killer in the schoolyard.”

Wallace recounted a meeting he had five years ago with the public safety officials who run the gun licensing system in Massachusetts. When asked how many people applied for a license and were refused, they replied that they don’t keep that information.

“I said, ‘Really? So you’re spending millions of dollars on a database of the people who can own guns, but you’re not spending a dime tracking the people who you know shouldn’t be in possession of guns?’” Wallace said. “I think that’s why the gun laws here in Massachusetts are so inverted ... they need to reverse them to the point where they’re actually going after the bad guys rather than worrying about what we can and cannot own.”

Although pro-gun and gun control groups have differing views on how to best tackle the issue, they both try to address the need to curb gun violence and crime.

“People have their second amendment right to own a firearm and if they can pass a background check and if they’re not doing anything that looks like falsifying an ID or purchasing for someone else, that’s not the business that we’re into,” Federal Relations Officer for Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations Jake Sullivan said. “We’re after criminals — not gun control, but crime control.”

Blaming the media

Throughout the continuing national discourse on gun control, legislators and the American public alike have scrutinized the effects of guns and graphic violence in film, television and video games. 

“The entertainment industry has long been blamed for creating a glorification of violence, so whenever there’s some kind of mass murder, some awful episode like Aurora, Colo. or the Newtown shootings or Virginia Tech, people point their finger at the entertainment industry and say, ‘you need to stop doing what you’re doing or reduce what you’re doing,’” John Richard Skuse, professor of political science Jeff Berry said. “And it doesn’t seem to ever happen. I don’t expect anything to change on that.”

NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre has blamed the entertainment industry for the proliferation of gun violence. Senior Adam Cohen, who has been a recreational and sport shooter for eight years, suggested that this assumption is unfounded. 

“The argument against violence in video games has been made since forever, since as long as video games have existed. Is there perhaps a rotten apple who saw and played a violent game and so he decided to enact all that violence? Perhaps,” Cohen said. “[But] I think we’re capitalizing on isolated cases to try to make an argument about the whole thing. Correlation is not causation. In this case, violence in video games is not something that’s causing an epidemic of shooters and murderers. It’s just not.”

Both the gun lobby and gun control supporters often challenge the media’s role in both covering and perpetuating violent gun-related incidents. 

“I think another issue that’s pretty salient is that these massacres attract so much media attention,” Nick Vik, founder of Tufts’ current Gun Club, said. “I think that the fact that we’re sickly fascinated with these shootings, with the killers, and the fact that these people’s faces are being flashed across television screens ... there’s sort of a sick glorification going on of some of the people who perpetrated these atrocities. I think that’s a huge problem as well.”

Vik, a senior, also took issue with the lack of attention that the other 1,000 gun deaths since the Newtown shooting have received. Homicide, suicide and accidents, he argued, need to be included in the conversation.

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