Should We Show the Results of Shooting Deaths?

Brian BeutlerBrian Beutler wrote a very interesting article, but because of the headline, I let it sit in my RSS queue for a while, Republicans Accept Mass Killings. That’s Why Gun Control Advocates Must Get Graphic. I knew at least part of what he was getting at. Ben Carson recently made a statement that he had treated many gunshot wounds, “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” And I was afraid that Beutler might be calling for the gun control community to do what the anti-choice people do and show graphic, disgusting images. And that is more or less his argument, but it isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Before getting into it, let me counter what Carson said. His framing is wrong — I would say disingenuous, but he’s a seriously clueless guy. On the issue of guns, conservatives have gone far past the idea of a slippery slop and gone to a frictionless cliff. Implicit in what Carson is saying is that if we close the gun show loophole, private ownership of guns will be gone from the United States. It’s not surprising that he thinks this. The NRA has spent the last couple of decades arguing against any restrictions for this reason. If flamethrowers were legal, people would now be against doing anything to regulate them.

“I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” —Ben Carson

What Beutler pointed out is that there is another hidden assumption in Carson’s claims or the less obviously nutty claims of Jeb Bush. They look at the roughly 10,000 gun homicides and roughly 20,000 gun suicides each year. And they think that they are nothing. They are a minor issue that we should do absolutely nothing about because any measure to strengthen gun regulations is a much greater threat to us. It’s a curious argument, because pretty much every other peer country has far greater firearm regulation and they haven’t lost their liberty.

So Beutler thinks that we need to make this argument plain. He’s not suggesting that we march around with gruesome images of gun fatalities like the anti-choice groups do with large fake photos of abortion. But he is suggesting that we not hide the results of gun violence in reporting on it. When the results are not shown, just like in our wars since Vietnam, it has a propagandistic effect. It sanitizes it and makes it all about statistics. Note that in Ben Carson’s case, he was not treating people who had their heads exploded by a bullet; in the vast majority of cases, he was working on people who were wounded and not killed by bullets.

I’m not sure that I agree with Beutler that this would make any difference, however. The truth is that gun rights advocates will say the same thing that abortion rights advocates say: we all know the reality. Of course, look how different this is. In the case of abortion rights, we are talking about real people being negatively affected — in the case of late term abortions, we are talking about a matter of life and death. In the case of gun rights, we are talking about the idea that we can’t place any limits on gun ownership because (big assumption number one) it will lead to gun confiscation, which will lead to (big assumption number two) the end of liberty in America.

But maybe Americans do need to be reminded of the terror of a mass shooting. Beutler provided the following image from New York Daily News from the murder of television reporter Alison Parker. It isn’t graphic in the sense of showing blood and intestines. But I think it is quite graphic in the sense of showing the terror and pain caused by these shootings. Maybe such images would cause people who would normally stay at home to trudge down to the polling place and vote for reasonable gun control. It’s worth a try.

Murder of Alison Parker

Image of Alison Parker’s murder used under Fair Use.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

38 thoughts on “Should We Show the Results of Shooting Deaths?

  1. As you yourself keep saying, it’s long past time to get rude and even aggressive in pursuit of a more workable social/economic order. Bring it on! Reclaim ‘freedom’ – point at the gun nuts and loudly call them freedom-hating traitors.

    The mark of a prosperous and free nation is the ability to travel unarmed in safety. Fuckin’ duh.

    • Well put. The notion that we should all we walking around like gunslingers backing each other down with threats is madness.

      There’s no reason for anyone to own a handgun unless they’re sport target shooters — and they can do that by storing guns at gun ranges. Same with assault rifles. I have no problem with guys who want to go to a gun range and shoot the hell out of things with a machine gun. I’ve blown up old appliances with guns. It’s kinda fun if you have proper ear protection.

      We’d still have shotguns/hunting rifles everywhere, but other countries do too, and it’s never the problem it is here.

      The fantasy that unrestricted gun ownership prevents government tyranny is just absurd. What’s more, it never did. Armed veterans have staged marches/protests more than once in our history against government policies they hated, and guess what? The military put them down. Because it has more guns and always will.

      I suppose it’s fun to think of one’s like for shooting stuff as patriotic. I’d like to think of my hobbies as noble, that would make them more fun!

    • I’m a little concerned about being like the Operation Rescue types. But there are two differences that I see. One is that we are not talking about shoving this in people’s faces — most especially the faces of people when they are most vulnerable. The other is that what we’d be showing would actually be truthful.

  2. I think it has more value to show people how you can be so ordinary and become a victim. But look, this action here lets you stand help stop it before it happens.

    One thing I have noticed since the last major mass shooting is the gun control advocates are fighting back more and are being slightly more creative about it. My gun nut friends are acting like they are slightly embarrassed about how much they love their instruments of death. What does it mean for actual control? No idea. But it might help when people look at you and say “are you that pathetic?” to make it seem like it is a terrible idea to get a gun.

    • This now seems like an issue where middle America has gone into the gun control camp. I’m not saying they are way into it. But they now thing that something ought to be done. Under normal circumstances, the NRA would have backed down long ago. But like the Republican Party itself, the NRA has become a revolutionary group and they don’t go in for social norms. I believe the tide has turned, but the NRA will — like its favorite slogan implies — fight to to the death.

      • Raise the ire of middle America and things might actually change. When you finally figure out how to prod them awake they seem to be pretty good at getting stuff done.

        Although I was just on Buzzfeed and one of the things that struck me was that this time there were a lot more people on the Umpqua college campus who were armed and said exactly what any sane person would say: “I was armed but since I did not want to cause confusion for the police, I restrained myself from jumping in.” Most of the stories from Gabby’s shooting buried one of the most significant of the man who was armed (hey, its Tucson, they like their guns for all the liberalness of the city) but was glad he did not draw because he would have shot the guy who had taken away the gun from Loughner. Umqua is showing the ammosexuals that their deluded fantasies are just that.

        • I remember that. It got a fair amount of play in the liberal press, but I never saw it in the mainstream, and I’m sure it never made it to Fox News or hate radio. Because, you know: all you ever need is a Good Guy With a Gun™! Unrest in the Middle East? Good Guy With a Gun™! High unemployment? Good Guy With a Gun™! Failing school? Good Guy With a Gun™! It’s the answer to all our problems!

          • But only if the impossible to destroy zombie idea of lower taxes on the rich. What will the rich do if the right wing rednecks suddenly realise they are armed? And don’t care about the consequences.

            • I’ve long argued that taking care of the poor and middle classes — or rather, not screwing them as much as you can get away with — is like an insurance policy for the rich. But there is a guy, Chad Stanton, who wrote an article at Washington Monthly talking about how the rich were the real ones with “impulse control” problems. They really don’t think ahead. They live for today. But I’m still not convinced that the people will wake up about this. And if they do, I still don’t see guillotines in our future.

              • Lack of control of one’s impulses ignores that the marketing system in this country is completely geared to making people want those things they are unable to afford.

                But you are right about the rich-they have no sense of control on their actions because they have never been made to suffer for those actions. Their money insulates them completely from any problems. Even when they do go to prison they still don’t suffer much when they get out since they have friends of the family to give them work or they just live off of their trusts. So why would they care about what happens tomorrow as today is all taken care of and obviously that will never change?

                • I read today that Trump was chauffeured to and from high school in a limo. That’s insane. That’s also enough to make you hated by almost every other kid in school, even if it’s a rich school, so no wonder he’s a bully.

                  The rich aren’t just impulse-control-deficient because they’re protected from consequences . . . although you’re totally right, this is true. They’re also emotionally damaged by being extremely rich. It’s almost as dysfunctional an upbringing as being extremely poor. Probably sometimes worse.

                • That is the key issue that most Americans don’t get about prison. People think they pay their debt to society, but that isn’t true. Society punishes them for the rest of their lives. The biggest penalty is not the time itself. But for the rich, that just isn’t true.

                  The broader issue is that so much of conservative dogma claims that the problem with the poor is that they lack impulse control. You know: the marshmallow challenge. But the whole thing is axiomatic. It doesn’t matter: there must be a problem with the poor because they are poor; and no problem must matter for the rich because they are rich.

                  • Hahaha, my text book just brought up the marshmallow challenge!

                    You are right about how the punishment does not stop-one of my colleagues, a very rational and level headed woman in most situations completely freaked out when she found out a defendant was a convicted child molester. She kept him in jail despite this being a minor traffic issue. His attitude was one of defeated acceptance to someone keeping him in jail after his sentence had been served for his original crime. After all, it was a pretty heinous crime he had once committed. But I thought “if you demand someone serve time, they serve it, finish their probation…they are done. You have to let them try to change otherwise why would they bother?”

                    The rich will always come up with some reason to hate on the poor. Or I should say people will always come up with some reason to punish another for not being them.

                    • Yeah, it’s sad. And people don’t think this stuff through. Do you think we should kill child molesters? If not, then they are going to get out of jail. And what then? To a large extent, our prisons are overflowing because as a nation we aren’t willing to deal with our problems. Rather than helping the mentally ill, we just allow them to suffer — often homeless — and then most likely end up in jail. Drug users are “managed” by locking them up. And I don’t think most people get past that. They are locked up and so the problem is solved. But then, we are a cruel society — and that goes far beyond prison.

                    • Being on the front lines of the stuff that the mentally ill go through so to speak (as I work in the criminal justice system), I have seen just how harsh the system is towards those who are marginalized. Just doing an afternoon of arraignments shows the problems we have with racism, mental illness and gender.

                    • Yeah, the criminal justice system is the garbage pail we dump all our difficult problems in. It seems we hear all the time about the police shooting some mentally ill person. There are lots of problems with the police, but that one is on us. We don’t want to pay to care for the mentally ill. Actually, we don’t want to pay for anything.

                    • Americans will pay for tax increases but it has to be line items, temporary and very clear where it is going. They have compassion for the less fortunate but it is limited and easily withdrawn if they think for a second someone unworthy is getting it.

                      That is why it takes fifty pages to get $18 a month in food stamps. Can’t have some slacker get that precious few dollars without being humiliated. And that is for someone who is in their right mind. If you are say extremely depressed, it is very difficult for you to even get up the energy to go online much less go to some office, wait hours in line, be subjected to reminders you are worthless and then maybe still be turned down. :/

                    • I think it is that Americans are by and large really awful people. As a country, we give away very little in foreign aid, and most of it is some form of tit-for-tat. At the same time, Americans think we give away huge amounts of money in foreign aid. We are just terrible people.

  3. Here’s the TV commercial I’d like to see. Alternating images of innocents being shot with well-known gun supporters firing guns. Bang! Innocent shot. Show Ben Carson with a gun. Bang! Innocent shot. Show the NRA leader. Etc. Then a graphic: ‘blood on their hands’; ‘why won’t they take responsibility?’ etc.

    Get footage of children getting shot if you can. Let’s get inflammatory.

    • That could be very effective. Of course, I’m not sure how most Americans would respond to blaming “law abiding gun owners” for these shootings. Maybe we need to wait another year and 400 more mass shootings…

      • Like a lot of things, we need education on the issues, and less racism. A chunk of this is white people believing that carrying guns protects them from black people who are all carrying guns, swords, ninja throwing stars, and poison blowdarts with harmful intent.

        • Let us never forget that Governor Reagan was all for gun control when he was afraid of black people with guns. The only reason that conservatives are now against gun control is because they’ve forgotten that white people aren’t the only ones who can own guns.

    • You know, there’s half an idea I like in that. If you look at the article Frank cites and one of the links, you’ll see terrifying footage of a kid who’s getting Uzi instruction at a shooting range, then blows the instructor to bits. The footage stops right as the Uzi gets out of the kid’s control. You don’t see the gore, thank God. But it’s still frightening. (It’s frightening just seeing a little kid being instructed in use of an Uzi!)

      There’ll never be an ad on American TV criticizing the NRA. Not in the near future. But you or someone you know could do something on YouTube. Include the gore, and I’m sure they’ll ban it. But there might be enough publicly licensed footage out there to put together stuff that’s harshly critical of gun-nut extremism without being graphic. Those “Post” stills of the reporter getting shot are brutal as hell. I don’t think it’s demeaning her murder to make it into a visual motivator for change.

      • I thought the SNL ad from this weekend was pretty effective-the pregnant woman holding the rifle on the nurses is rather terrifying and shows exactly how stupid having a gun with you at all times is a bad idea.

  4. And then last night, I caught this video on PBS:

    At the 8:30 mark, there’s a feature on a man who carves elaborate gun handle metal decorations. The man is amazing. He did it for years without making money (he’s making money now.) The lever of detail is unbelievable. Anytime someone spends that long pushing themselves to get better — for the sheer challenge of it — they’re a true artist. I don’t care if it’s decorating unholy terror weapons.

    So, yeah, a lot of gun nuts are great people. But the laws they support are horrible. Ain’t that America.

    • You have to respect artisans. The thing is, I’ve never met a regular gun nut who was against the kinds of laws we are talking about. The only ones who are against them are the libertarians who have fantasies about revolution. And then there is the NRA which is only interested in protecting the interests of gun manufacturers.

      • I think the NRA is mostly interested in protecting the international arms-sales industry, which is abominable and basically illegal but quite profitable and never prosecuted.

        That guy is astounding, though. If you have ten minutes, give him a look. It’s idiosyncratic art of the sort you love. The same show also celebrates pandering garbage art in that episode and many more (I looked around the site today rather than working.) I was just floored by that guy. He’s the real deal.

        • I will try. I’m working on a machine that loses the internet if I run more than two windows at a time.

          • Oh, Lord, I love those. I’m not a computer guy, so great to know even those who are get annoyed as hell. I recently learned how I could manually update my router’s firmware, as it kept crashing, and I’m used to buying a new one every year . . . but still I’m sick of those lifetime warranties being bunk and having to fight with the company for ten hours to get my money back. So, updated firmware, I get a little more life out of the cheap router. Yay, Internet instructions for things! More weeks out of products with lifetime warranties useless in a year!

            • I try to avoid that. I’m so glad not to be doing any IT work. But the truth is you never get completely away from it the same way you never get completely away from auto repair. My big problem right now is the amount of memory this computer has. Ugh.

          • I am on a laptop most of the time. I am almost at the point of needing to have three screens at work though.

  5. Looks like this thread is full of communnists and freedom haters. Hitler took people’s guns before he rolled out his plan…. and really? social shaming to get people to give up their freedoms… you should read orwell…. you people are sheeple that get your opinions spoon fed to you by the liberal media “americans” like you make me sick

    • There’s never someone so assured as the ignorant. Your history is bad. I’ve read pretty much Orwell’s oeuvre — I seriously doubt you have. No one is talking about taking away guns. There are already limits to arms ownership. You can’t normally own a flame thrower. You can’t ever own a nuclear weapon. Your slippery slope argument is nonsense. As for “liberal media ‘americans'”: your just a silly person. You’ve even de-Americanized the people here. If they don’t agree with you about certain issues, they don’t qualify as Americans?! And you are the one ranting about rights. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

      We get trolls around here all the time. If you want to be part of the conversation, fine. If you want to shout about how people aren’t real Americans (because you are the ultimate arbiter), then you’ll be banned.

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