As New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said after the Aurora, Colorado massacre: “this cannot continue.” But it is —and gun violence in America will no doubt go on and go on. When—if ever—will there be adequate gun control in this nation? And what about the violence in U.S. society that especially permeates movies?
The issues must be grappled with and no longer avoided, with the National Rifle Association leading the way in blocking action.
Bloomberg’s full quote to Piers Morgan on CNN: “Someday there will be a shooting which you would think would trigger in the American psyche this ‘I’m not going to take it any more’ attitude. Maybe if… you shot a president? But Ronald Reagan, when he got shot, didn’t trigger it. Maybe if you shot a congresswoman? No. Maybe if you shot a bunch of students on campus? No. Maybe if you shot a bunch of people in a movie theater? I don’t know what it is, we obviously haven’t gotten there yet, but we just—this cannot continue.”
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Where I live, on Long Island, New York, there is a member of the House of Representatives who ran for office specifically because of the horror of gun violence in America—which led to her husband’s murder. Representative Carolyn McCarthy’s husband, Dennis, was killed, and her son, Kevin, severely injured, when Colin Ferguson opened fire on a Long Island Rail Road train in 1993. Six people were killed and 19 wounded in that Long Island massacre.
Representative McCarthy, who first ran for Congress in 1996, teamed up last week with Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey with new legislation, a Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act, that would require ammunition dealers to report bulk sales of ammunition. “Law-abiding gun owners and shooters should support this legislation because it hinders criminals from abusing the Second Amendment right that our nation promises and could save innocent lives in the process,” said Democrat McCarthy of Mineola, Long Island.
But does it—or any meaningful federal legislation on weapons—have a chance of passage considering the enormous political pressure of the gun lobby in the United States?
A local official on Long Island with extensive knowledge about violence is Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. She worked for the Department of Peacekeeping at the UN and has a degree in human rights and conflict resolution from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. “I think the American people are being misled by that faction that’s so pro-gun and claims it’s a black-and-white issue—you’re either allowed to carry arms or not,” she commented. “There are ways to regulate access and use on the part of civilians of weapons.” It’s “mind-boggling” that in the U.S. someone “can go into a store and buy an assault weapon.”
The federal federal government’s ban on the manufacture for civilian use of assault weapons—firearms designed specifically to kill people—was, scandalously, allowed to lapse in 2004. But there’s been—and continues to be—a prohibition in New York State on the sale of such guns, notes New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor. “This is not about trying to outlaw guns. What we’re talking about are automatic weapons which have one purpose only and that’s to kill people.” But New York State is “part of a larger country” and “a lot of guns” involved with crime in New York “come from the south and out west.” And, said Thiele, “we have a lack of action on the federal level.”
The New York Times in a recent editorial noted that when “campaigning for office in 2008, Barack Obama vowed to reinstate the assault weapons ban that had expired in 2004.
That would have prohibited the AR-15 rifle [a version of the military M-16] used in the Colorado theatre shooting….But as president, Mr. Obama has made no attempt to do so.” Meanwhile, his 2012 rival, Mitt Romney, “banned assault weapons as governor of Massachusetts…but now he opposes all gun control measures.” Another editorial three days later further criticizing them was titled: “Candidates Cower on Gun Control.”
What about violence in movies? Being inflicted by coming attractions in theatres these days is some experience—one ultra-violent film after another. In college I wrote a novel reviewed by a professor who advised: “You’ve got to kill some people”—to up the “tension.” A cheap trick. Greek dramas and Shakespeare’s plays, yes, include violence, but not the extraneous, ridiculous violence out of Hollywood today to hype “tension.” Cheap tricks and dangerous.
Director Peter Bogdanovich said in the wake of the Aurora massacre that “violence on the screen has increased tenfold….There’s too much murder and killing….It numbs the audience into thinking it’s not so terrible.”
It’s not only Hollywood. “Violent video games played by children—their brains still developing—blur the line for some kids between reality and fantasy,” comments Suffolk County, Long Island Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk, a former teacher. The massacre also shows we “need to do more to detect mental illnesses” and deal with that. He also wonders how the Aurora shooter so easily obtained thousands of bullets. “In the age of [the Department of] Homeland Security, for it not to be picked up when someone orders this much ammunition, I can’t believe it.” One of the Times’s recent editorials was aptly titled: “6,000 Bullets, There is no constitutional right to build a secret ammunition dump.”
There must be a stop put to America as a shooting gallery.