You know how no major media outlet ever reports on people dying of malaria? It is, as they say, “dog bites man.” It isn’t news. It would be like publishing an article, “President uses bathroom multiple times per day.” Yet when someone goes out in public and kills a large group of people, it is all over cable news. Why is that? It strikes me as completely “dog bites man.” Yet the media are feasting on the Navy Yard shooting today.
Don’t misunderstand me: I care a great deal about such things. What’s more, I want to do something about them. I would like to make mental health more available to people. I would like to make guns less available. I would like to make the economy better for working men and women; I think our social Darwinian approach to the economy makes a more anxious and volatile population. I could go on (and on and on). There are many things we could do to create a more peaceful society while still allowing gun nuts to have their guns. Of course we don’t. Such measures could have all kinds of unintended consequences like a percent or two reduction in Walmart profits. Can’t have that.
But just because I think such stories are important doesn’t mean that I think the news agencies should care. I’ll go further: I don’t think the American people ought to much give a damn either. The truth is that we don’t really care about gun violence. It has been less than a week since two Colorado state senators were recalled because they pushed very minor changes to gun laws: universal background checks and magazine size limitations. But unlike a gunman killing 12 people, such restrictions to gun rights were an outrage!
So I think we should either do something about our gun murder problem, or we should just shut up. It shouldn’t be hard. As it is, we now pretty much ignore single gun fatalities, unless they involve a famous football player or other “important” American. I’m thinking maybe we could just set a limit. Killings of 12 or 13 are so common, I’m not sure they deserve much more than a passing reference in the newspaper on page 14 along with local police activity. It’s already the de facto policy that shooting sprees of only 3 or 4 are not worthy of national attention. All I’m saying is that we raise that number up to 100.
I think that’s a good number because I don’t remember a shooting spree with 100 deaths. And that would work out great, because then our coverage of shooting sprees would be the same as the amount that we actually care about them.
In all seriousness, I know that most people do care and do want to do something. But as the Colorado vote shows, it doesn’t much matter. After Sandy Hook, polling for universal background checks were polling really high: in the 90% range. But when politicians did what the people said they wanted, the people voted them out. I think it is all about attention span. If today’s tragedy had happened last week and the vote was this week, I suspect those legislators would still have jobs. But it doesn’t speak well for us as a people that we can’t remember one of the biggest shooting sprees in American history for even a couple of months.