Remember last December? The Newtown shooting was fresh in our heads, gun control dominated the national debate, and America was steadily on its way to solving this controversial issue once and for all. A reported majority insisted that gun control and further regulations would be the only way to prevent these kinds of tragedies. We didn’t just owe it to the children; we owed it to ourselves.
Well, that was a simpler time.
Today, the 57% that supported stricter gun laws has become 47%. And as much as anyone would like to argue the age-old “polls are skewed” argument (part of me is right there with you), a 10% leap is pretty significant. Not significant in that it shows the true difference between then and now, but rather in how it effectively portrays America (and the human race): we flail our arms at the sight of media frenzy.
I’m guilty of it myself. Back in December, I was tentatively arguing the 57% side of the debate, right here on this very website. I can still see it today — the perpetual quoting of the Constitution, the flagged comments, the links (used as facts) that lead to Ron Paul fan pages with black backgrounds and camouflage themes. The smell of blood dwelled in the comments sections of news sites all across the nation. Many good men were lost. Good, proud men.
What, you don’t like my war imagery? Good, because even actual wars are more organized than the mess of a debate our nation had. Newtown brought out the worst the media had to offer. It fed us conflicting initial reports, unnecessary and ineffective character profiles, demonization of both gun use and gun control, and we ate it all up. We clicked on all those dead-end article links about that one time Adam Lanza maybe said something that might lead us to discover his true motives because, obviously, if we know Adam Lanza’s motive to do anything, we know everybody’s motives to do everything. Right?
But the motives never mattered. The mom’s story never mattered. Hell, the polls never matter. What mattered is that guns are a national identity. The “can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em” cliché couldn’t be more fitting elsewhere. Whether you hate or love guns, or you hate violence in media, rest assured, the existence of guns (in the right hands) is the reason you can guarantee yourself a safe night’s sleep tonight. Unsurprisingly, guns are also the reason why many can’t guarantee a safe night’s anything. The plot, as it often tends to do, thickens.
That 10% that flipped from no-gun to sure-why-not-gun should serve as a cautionary tale for the dangers of sensationalism. However, it should also serve as hope. No matter how seemingly convinced a nation can be in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, time heals all wounds (even the mental ones).
It’s our responsibility, not just the media’s, to discern between what’s newsworthy or not. It’s also our responsibility to manifest this judgment to our lawmakers, including our president, lest we give them the power to gratuitously rekindle the flames once more and make us ask ourselves, Remember last December?