Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Guns in America (part 4)

Over the holidays, a friend shared a story on Facebook which I think is relevant to the current discussion of guns in many ways (though not necessarily the ways that my friend intended or that the author of the original story desired). Here is the story, as posted on Facebook, that caught my attention:

On Sunday December 17, 2012, 2 days after the CT shooting, a man went to a restaurant in San Antonio to kill his X-girlfriend. After he shot her, most of the people in the restaurant fled next door to a theater.... The gunman followed them and entered the theater so he could shoot more people. He started shooting and people in the theater started running and screaming. It’s like the Aurora, CO theater story plus a restaurant!

Now aren’t you wondering why this isn’t a lead story in the national media along with the school shooting?

There was an off duty county deputy at the theater. SHE pulled out her gun and shot the man 4 times before he had a chance to kill anyone. So since this story makes the point that the best thing to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun, the media is treating it like it never happened.

Only the local media covered it. The city is giving her a medal next week.

Just thought you’d like to know.

I remain disgusted with the media’s deliberate attempt to whitewash news while at the same time creating their own narrative for whatever sinister reasons.

Before diving into the arguments being made by the story’s author, I want to focus on the actual facts of the story for a moment. First, here is another version of the story from a San Antonio online newspaper. Note that the newspaper article never says that the shooter said he was going to kill his ex-girlfriend; rather he apparently said that he wanted to “shoot someone”. Moreover, he didn’t actually shoot his ex-girlfriend; she wasn’t even at the restaurant at the time. Now, while I agree that those particular differences aren’t really a big deal, they are examples of a fact that the author of the story above simply made up “facts” in order to further sensationalize his story and the point that he was trying to make. More importantly, however, the newspaper article talks about the shooter chasing an employee and “shooting in the air and at other cars”. Hmm. Now that’s very different than simply shooting indiscriminately at people as we see in mass casualty shootings. And it certainly doesn’t conform to the author’s claim that the shooter entered the theater “so he could shoot more people”. Yes, the shooter did eventually shoot someone, but the article doesn’t make it sound like that person was the (or an) intended target. It’s also worth pointing out that the shooter didn’t have an assault weapon, but rather a handgun (though, I believe, an automatic). It sounds like the shooter went to the restaurant at which his ex-girlfriend (and possibly he) worked when he was angry that she broke up with him. He chased another employee toward (or into) a nearby business (the theater) while shooting into the air and at cars. And then he was shot and wounded.

The most important fact, though, that isn’t quite clear from the article above, is that the “off duty county deputy” was a 13-year veteran sergeant “who was working off-duty as a security guard” at the theater (emphasis added). In other words, despite the suggestion from the original article that an armed person just happened to be at the the theater and was able to shoot the shooter omits the fact that the officer was working security at the theater and had, obviously, at least 13-years’ of firearms and related training.

As to the suggestion that the national media ignored the story, yes, that’s probably true. But the conclusion drawn by the original author that the media ignored the story in order to “whitewash news” for “sinister reasons” seems to miss a few very critical facts. First, nobody died. The national media doesn’t tend to pay a lot of attention to most instances of gunplay and violence. For that matter, the media doesn’t tend to spend a lot of time reporting on instances of domestic violence or violence stemming from domestic disputes (other than local media reporting on local stories). And how often does the national media focus on stories where a police officer shoots a criminal? Yes, this was undoubtedly a scary incident for those who were at the theater and the restaurant, just as any shooting or act of violence is scary for those who are impacted by it. But to suggest that the story was “whitewashed” for “sinister reasons” is simply silly. Or paranoid. If the shooter had killed or wounded more people would it have gotten more press? Of course. But it’s because of the nature of mass casualty shootings that they generate press in the first place. Police stop crimes and criminals everyday; individuals fire shots every day; police shoot and wound or kill people every day. But those aren’t “stories”, at least not ones that merit national coverage.

By way of comparison, did the national media cover the death of 23-year-old Jovan Sconier, 41-year-old Eugene Wilson, 24-year-old Officer Sean Callahan, 58-year-old Anthony Garland Rice, 70-year-old Jan L. Hepworth, 40-year-old Larry Bradley, 38-year-old Sherman Horton, 27-year-old Marvin Lockridge, 20-year-old Melvin Duane Fletcher, 31-year-old Nishant Patel, 69-year-old Cheryl D. Hepworth, 31-year-old Quiana Phillips, 21-year-old Chelsea Magoon, 14-year-old Damin T. Russell, 4-year-old Aydan Perea, or the unnamed 18-year-old and 35-year-old men all of whom were killed with a gun on December 17, the same day as the San Antonio shooting?* Why is the author not bemoaning the lack of national coverage given to those stories (especially the death of a 4-year-old)? Could it be that the news media is trying to “whitewash” the extent of gun violence for “sinister reasons”? Or might it just be that we’ve become so immune to the horror of gun violence that it takes the death of 20 children for us to really take notice?

Finally, with regard to the suggestion that the this story stands for the proposition that the “best thing to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun”, I would respond that the story does not, in fact, stand for that proposition at all. Rather, to me, the story stands for the proposition that to stop a bad person with a gun, we either need well-trained, armed police officers in virtually every public place or we need to do more to lessen the number of guns so readily available in our society. Perhaps with fewer guns (and especially less dangerous guns), the need for an armed, well-trained police officer on every corner and in every public space will be lessened. Or, we can keep the easy access to guns and turn our streets, our restaurants, our movie theaters, and our schools into heavily armed zones where everyone packs ever increasing firepower. We can decide to accept armed guards in every school and every shopping center and every theater and every restaurant and every store and every park and every street corner and any other place where people might congregate. And hey, what could possibly go wrong with streets full of heavily armed people?


*The data on gun deaths on December 17 comes from the ever-growing daily gun violence fatality data being compiled and maintained by Slate magazine in their feature “Gun Deaths in America Since Newtown”. This is a tremendous, though frightening, resource.

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