Happier times: criticising America's gun culture misses the point and takes the focus off the darker aspects of much broader cultural issues.

Mass media, massively misleading

The media and anti-gun lobby have been absolutely disgusting in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, beating the gun-control drum so hard we cannot hear any sense at all.

It’s simple, they say. Obama must introduce gun control to the gun-loving USA.

What a crock. That entire premise is flawed. The more this carries on, the more the media will deliver nothing but false hope that we can end these tragedies.

The US has gun control, although none of us would seriously consider it perfect. There are lots of people with guns, or access to them, who shouldn’t. But that boils down to a different issue, the fact that there are so many firearms in US society, and no ban will change that. Hence any talk of gun control is useless if it means little more than making laws.

If you make laws, only the law-abiding will follow them. When the US tried banning guns in cities like Washington and Chicago, the gun crime rate skyrocketed. Unarmed citizens were at the mercy of armed criminals. Interestingly, those crime rates did generally fall years later, though from what I can see there’s little interest in finding out why this happened. On the other hand, it is absolutely true that in US states where law-abiding people may go armed, crime rates are lower.

Armed citizens do stop crimes, regularly. This includes stopping mass killings. Just one example of many comes from Mississippi in 1997, when a 16-year-old student killed his mother at home before taking a rifle to his school, killing two and wounding seven before the school’s assistant principal, Joel Myrick, grabbed a .45 pistol. Myrick stopped the shooter and held him until police arrived. Echoes of what may have happened in slightly different circumstances in Newtown?

It’s also true that mass murders are not the province of people wielding “military style assault rifles”, as the media and anti-gunners love to portray them. In Australia, 88 people have died in deliberately lit fires since 1973, and that’s only counting fires that killed at least five people. Five more were bludgeoned to death in their home in 2009; no gun involved. A trucker used his rig to kill five near Uluru in 1983.

The gun is not the problem, no more than matches, hammers and trucks. Mental health, society’s fragmentation, various de-humanising influences, and myriad other factors are the root cause of all this.

Gun control should – or rather, must – attempt to keep guns out of the hands of people who can’t be trusted with them. Gun control must never mean taking firearms away from those who can be trusted with them.

Whether you see gun ownership as a right or a privilege, there are endless reasons why the right people must be permitted to have them. No tragedy should cloud this fact, but the media’s complete lack of worthwhile analysis since the Newtown shooting is clouding everything.




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.