Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Culture of Violence

Gun Sales Soar in U.S. Following Obama Re-Election and Newtown Shootings:
As Washington focuses on what Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will propose next week to curb gun violence, gun and ammunition sales are spiking in the rest of the country as people rush to expand their arsenals in advance of any restrictions that might be imposed.

Gun dealers and buyers alike said that the rapid growth in gun sales — which began climbing significantly after President Obama’s re-election and soared after the Dec. 14 shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., prompted him to call for new gun laws — shows little sign of abating.  

Keep the timeline straight here: Obama re-elected? Buy Guns. Twenty 1st graders massacred in school? Buy Guns.
December set a record for the criminal background checks performed before many gun purchases, a strong indication of a big increase in sales, according to an analysis of federal data by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade group. Adjusting the federal data to try to weed out background checks that were unrelated to firearms sales, the group reported that 2.2 million background checks were performed last month, an increase of 58.6 percent over the same period in 2011. Some gun dealers said in interviews that they had never seen such demand.

“If I had 1,000 AR-15s I could sell them in a week,” said Jack Smith, an independent gun dealer in Des Moines, referring to the popular style of semiautomatic rifle that drew national attention after Adam Lanza used one to kill 20 children and 6 adults at a Newtown school. “When I close, they beat on the glass to be let in,” Mr. Smith said of his customers. “They’ll wave money at me.” 

Mr. Smith said many people were stocking up on high-capacity magazines in anticipation that they might be banned. Two weeks ago, he said, a 30-round rifle magazine was $12, but it now fetches $60. Popular online retailers were out of many 20- and 30-round rifle magazines. 
Because remember, if the government tries to take our guns away from us, then only the government will have guns. And my arsenal ("more arms than arms can bear") will protect me from the criminals, and the government and, say, predator drone strikes, any day of the damn week.
The gun industry expected a surge in sales even before the Newtown shooting. Gun sales rose after President Obama was first elected in 2008, and many manufacturers expected an increase in gun sales in the event of his re-election. “We believe the continued economic uncertainty and the outcome of the 2012 presidential election is likely to continue to spur both firearms and ammunition sales,” the Freedom Group, which owns Bushmaster, the company that makes the rifle used in Newtown, wrote in a financial report on the quarter that ended Sept. 30. 
It may as well have written, "If the black guy wins, load up." And isn't it ironic that after Newtown, the NRA said we need to arm more schools, but after the Trayvon Martin shooting last year, no one said "we should arm more black teenagers"?

Another interesting fact: gun-related sales generate $30 billion a year to the gun and ammo industry's. Gun-related deaths, meanwhile, cost society roughly $40 billion a year, close to the health care costs related to smoking.
At Georgia Arms in Villa Rica, Ga., west of Atlanta, the ammunition business was brisk, with dozens of the yellow bins that usually held ammunition empty. The Rev. Laurence Hesser, a pastor at Memorial United Methodist Church near Knoxville, stopped by because he had been unable to buy ammunition on the shop’s Web site, which halted sales because inventory was so low. 

He likened the current run on ammunition to the rush to buy Twinkies last year after its maker, Hostess Brands, announced it was closing. “It’s the same thing,” he said. “When you are threatened with the possibility that you are going to lose something, you get a bunch of it.” 
LOL...the Twinkie defense. Meanwhile, as the gun "enthusiasts" try to shift the blame elsewhere ("guns don't kill people, video games do"), the video game industry is also ramping up its defenses and expecting a surge in sales.
With the Newtown, Conn., massacre spurring concern over violent video games, makers of popular games like Call of Duty and Mortal Kombat are rallying Congressional support to try to fend off their biggest regulatory threat in two decades. 

The $60 billion industry is facing intense political pressure from an unlikely alliance of critics who say that violent imagery in video games has contributed to a culture of violence. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. met with industry executives on Friday to discuss the concerns, highlighting the issue’s prominence.  
Sidebar: can anyone ever remember a time when Joe Biden struck fear into the hearts of so many?
Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, suggested that the focus on violent video games is misplaced. He called the games “a healthy form of education and entertainment for our family” and said ratings made it easy to keep inappropriate games from his children.  
Bring it on. Nothing says "family entertainment" quite like decapitating and pulling the spinal columns out of people on Grand Theft Auto. Wholesome!
Some researchers have found that games bring out real-life aggression, making players less empathetic. But other studies say the linkage is exaggerated and that game-playing does not predict bullying or delinquency. 

The authorities have linked some past attacks, directly or indirectly, to the gunman’s fascination with violent games. 

In the 2011 rampage in Norway that killed 77 people, for example, the gunman played Call of Duty six hours a day to practice shooting. In the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, which killed 12 people, the two teenage gunmen were said to have been obsessed with a game called Doom, featuring bloodshed and explosions. 

There have been reports that Mr. Lanza, 20, the Newtown gunman who killed himself after his rampage, liked World of Warcraft and other violent games, as do many young men. James E. Holmes, 25, who is accused in last summer’s massacre at a theater in Aurora, Col., was a fan of the same game. 
So? Millions of people play Call of Duty or World of Warcraft and will never go on mass shootings or rampages. While an interest in these games is a common correlation with mass shooters, the idea that the violent video game causes these things is absurd.

But causation isn't the problem here. It's the larger, herd-like culture of violence we have in the U.S. that causes people to rush out en masse and buy guns after elementary school kids get mowed down; that causes people to race to Gamestop and load up on violent video games because the big bad gubmint might be coming for our games (and guns). 

You know you're in the Twilight Zone on this issue when one of the only people who makes sense is the Governor of New Jersey.
“I don’t let games like Call of Duty in my house,” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said this week on MSNBC. “You cannot tell me that a kid sitting in a basement for hours playing Call of Duty and killing people over and over and over again does not desensitize that child to the real-life effects of violence.”  
It's a cultural thing, as they say. We live in a society that launches "wars" on everything from drugs and crime, to cancer and fat. If it's an inanimate object, we're going to war with it. We have the most militarized law enforcement in the world, and more people locked up per capita than any country on the planet. We cover our more base and primal urges under the Constitution, hiding there when someone takes the "freedom" to be wack too far. Do you have your 1st and 2nd amendment rights to own violent video games and as many guns as you can possibly buy? Damn right you do. Soak yourself in blood, real or imagined, 24/7.

But please, stop the weeping and faux sympathy and crocodile tears when the next round of school kids, one of your family members, or anyone for that matter (almost 700 people have been shot to death in the U.S. since Newtown; new research shows "Stand Yer Ground" laws have added 500-700 homicides every year), gets whacked.

That's your "price of freedom" cultural argument, tough guy.

UPDATE: Milking Dead Children For All They're Worth:

The [gun show] dispute has made for outstanding business. The deaths last month of 20 schoolchildren and 6 adults in Newtown prompted politicians to propose additional gun-control legislation. Since then, Mr. Petronis’s shop in Mechanicville, N.Y., called Hudson River Trading Company, has sold out of assault-type weapons, said his wife, Cathy, the store’s co-owner. On Saturday, a line of mostly male attendees stretched out the doors and around nearly two blocks. 

For Mr. and Ms. Petronis, the attention amounts to free advertising. “The more people to the event, the more dealers are happy,” he said. “I’ll be answering my Web mail for months.” 

“I feel we’re kind of persecuted,” said Sean Garvey, 60, the president of Dunham’s Bay Fish and Game Club nearby, who has been coming to the Saratoga show for 20 years. He sighed and added: “Gun owners are blamed for certain things. We’ve been under attack for a long time, and we’ve been framed for things.” 

Donald Fangboner, 70, a retired police officer from Lake George, N.Y., said he had come not just to browse, but also to lend his support. 

“I want to see a free America, and if we lose this, it’s over,” he said, patting an anti-Cuomo button on his chest. (Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently vowed to enact the country’s “toughest gun assault weapon ban” in New York.)
Awesome. In another gun-related article, this WaPo expose traces the history of the NRA from a benign sports and hunting organization to extremist outlet for "gun radicals" and "anti-government kooks."
In gun lore it’s known as the Revolt at Cincinnati. On May 21, 1977, and into the morning of May 22, a rump caucus of gun rights radicals took over the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association.

The rebels wore orange-blaze hunting caps. They spoke on walkie-talkies as they worked the floor of the sweltering convention hall. They suspected that the NRA leaders had turned off the air-conditioning in hopes that the rabble-rousers would lose enthusiasm.

What unfolded that hot night in Cincinnati forever reoriented the NRA. And this was an event with broader national reverberations. The NRA didn’t get swept up in the culture wars of the past century so much as it helped invent them — and kept inflaming them. In the process, the NRA overcame tremendous internal tumult and existential crises, developed an astonishing grass-roots operation and became closely aligned with the Republican Party.
Must read stuff. 

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