How the forces of gun control pretend to be fair to the other side. With empty chairs.
My suspicions about this documentary project were awakened immediately. First, there was the title: Under The Gun. Nothing ominous or accusatory about that, right? Then there’s the woman presenting the “famous face” of the project, none other than Katie Couric. You remember Katie. She once co-hosted the Today show, then went to CBS, where she was paid millions of dollars as no one watched her and the evening news ratings tanked. After CBS kicked her to the curb, she wound up on Yahoo!, where she was paid millions to do…something…but, once again, no one appears to be watching.
Ms. Couric worked with documentary director Stephanie Soechtig to create Under The Gun, screening at the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah this week. According to this breathless blurb about the film, the film “examines the battle between those who favor stricter gun laws and staunch Second Amendment supporters.” Battle is an appropriate word to describe the differences between us dangerous gun-totin’ ‘Muricans and the reasonable, non-violent activists who favor
total gun confiscation more gun regulation.
There don’t appear to be any trailers or clips available, even at the promotional web site created for the documentary. The only way to determine the “fairness” of the film is the brief video on the deadline.com site I referenced above. Combining the comments by Ms. Couric and Ms. Soechtig with how they plan to present their film (and the sponsoring organizations they link to on their film’s website), only an absolute idiot would come away thinking this was a fair presentation of both sides.
Let’s begin with what the filmmakers plan to do at the upcoming screenings. When you enter the theater, there will be twenty-two empty chairs present. Why? According to Ms. Soechtig, the empty seats will represent the number of people “shot while you are watching the film.” Of those 22, she claims, eight will die. Dominic Patten, the hyperventilating host of the video in the link, exclaims “a staggering number!”
I know you probably don’t want to do any math. So I did.
In the ten-year period between 2005 and 2014, the average number of automobile-related deaths in the United States is 32,022 (statistics courtesy of the NHTSA). That averages out to a bit more than 87 highway-related fatalities every day (or 3.625 deaths per hour). Extending this out to the total population, that’s about 10.5 auto fatalities per 100,000 citizens.
Now let’s put those “staggering” gun numbers in perspective a bit more. Ms. Soechtig tosses the numbers out there, but doesn’t say how or why those deaths occurred.
Since the film is about two hours long, four people will die from a shooting (allegedly). Four times twenty-four is ninety-six people dying from a gun shot per day. That’s a bit over 35,000 per year. I did a quick search and found that this number is pretty close: according to the Brady Campaign (not a pro-gun group, by any stretch), an average of 31,537 people died from gun violence annually between 2008 and 2010. However, of that number an average of 11,583 were murdered. 18,783 on average committed suicide with a gun.
As we all know, it’s easy to shock people by tossing numbers around while exclaiming “staggering!” Drilling down to the specifics and reasons often paints a very different picture. This is not to say that suicide by gun is not a bad thing because it wasn’t murder. But how many of those suicides would have occurred by some other means if a gun wasn’t available?
Ms. Couric and Ms. Soechtig make some interesting comments in the video, one in particular from Ms. Soechtig near the beginning that reveals just how they view the pro-gun public in the United States:
Katie really had a mandate going into this film that we needed to gain a better understanding of both sides of the conversation…We wanted to make sure we gave them their fair shake, that we did allow them to speak…
Oh, I see..they allowed those people to speak. Interesting choice of words. Considering that we’re now talking about the first two Constitutional amendments, the comment unexpectedly reveals the true motivation here: Come on in, watch this movie. Oh, those are seats for the dead and wounded, so don’t sit there. We’re going to show you a fair and open-minded discussion about gun ownership and gun control. We even allow some people who actually own guns to say something! Aren’t we tolerant?
Ms. Couric makes the claim that both sides of the gun rights issue are often doing nothing more than “talking at each other”, which may be the most honest thing she says in the entire clip. The problem with trying to talk about this issue (and both sides are guilty of this at times) is that each side often has an intractable position from which it won’t back down. Any strong disagreement against those positions, even only with words, is viewed as a threat, after which each side digs in a little harder.
The sticking point in the guns-vs.-no-guns debate stems from the fact that the Second Amendment, and the well-documented history of gun rights in America, have been in place for 228 years as I write this. The opposing side is attempting to make radical changes to a culture and a right that’s long entrenched. When you tell a group of people they can’t have something anymore, they are going to resist. Prohibition worked out really well, didn’t it? And how much longer do you think marijuana is going to remain illegal throughout the country?
Ms. Couric says something that she probably thinks is counter to what gun owners believe, but it really an idea around which I personally believe we can all rally:
We’re not going to completely eliminate gun violence in this country but I think we should emphasize reducing gun violence.
This is a perfectly reasonable idea. In fact, I’ll wager that if I asked 100 gun owners the question, most, if not all would agree that eliminating gun violence is a wonderful idea, not just reducing it. And Ms. Couric is correct; we will probably never completely eliminate gun violence. But she seems to imply that those of us who are gun owners and who are fighting to protect our rights live some kind of raging blood lust and don’t care about the violence occurring with these weapons on a daily basis.
But a meme I saw on the web the other day humorously addresses what I believe is our real attitude. The photo was of a large group of people all holding various handguns, pistols and long guns. The text on the image said something like “90 million American gun owners made it through another non-violent day.” As over-simplistic as this might seem to some, it makes a valid point. Law-abiding legal gun owners in America don’t want to kill or injure anyone with their weapons. Causing harm to others is not the point and it’s not the goal. Until the “other side” figures this out, we’re never all going to get along, to quote Rodney King.
The film makers give away their viewpoint when Ms. Couric mentions what really impressed her:
If you look at what’s done at the grassroots level, at Moms Demand Action and Shannon Watts and what’s she’s done in a relatively short period of time, galvanizing…citizens all over the country…
Wow. Katie, a bit of journalistic advice (I went to journalism school a long, long time ago): you may want to take a closer look at the way Shannon Watts and her group “galvanizes” us citizens out here. From the beginnings of her “grassroots” organization, Ms. Watts has chosen to go the ad hominem route when addressing those who disagree with her comments and statistics.
Case in point: John Lott. Dr. Lott is a pretty well-educated guy and over the years, he’s become the go-to authority on gun rights research. As you would expect, there are academics who have questioned his research and his conclusions (not without their own axes to grind), but Lott’s numbers generally stand up to scrutiny.
So when Shannon Watts Twitter-trolled the NRA about mass killings in gun-free zones, Lott responded with his own tweet, providing a link to detailed research showing the gun-free-zone-to-mass-shootings relationship to be factual. providing the evidence to back it up. Watt’s reaction to Lott was to refer to him as a “debunked…troll.” When Lott responded with the same link and asked her to respond again, she then alluded that he was as a sexist troll who was picking on her because she was a woman.
Kaitie, one more thing about Shannon Watts: she has armed security nearby when she makes public appearances. Just like her pal Michael Bloomberg, who’s dumps a lot of money into her cause and her organization. Ask Dana Loesch.
Even more telling: visit the documentary’s website and scroll to the bottom of the page, under the unbiased heading of Take Action, where you will see logos linking you to all the big anti-gun organizations, including Watts’s group, the Violence Policy Center and Sandy Hook Promise.
My question to Ms. Couric and Ms. Soechtig would then be: if your “documentary” is supposed to be a fair and even discussion of the gun ownership and gun violence issue, why are you not providing us with links to organizations that support gun rights. The NRA would be an obvious one, but how about John Lott’s Crime Prevention Research Center? There are others you can find with a reasonably simple web search.
An even deeper look into the conflict could be examining the relationship to the federal background check requirements and their ineffectiveness in preventing some the mass shootings that have occurred in the United States in recent years. Yet the gun control lobby and their political supporters keep pushing for more of these checks, at greater cost and inconvenience to the taxpayer.
So what’s the bottom line here? Ms. Couric reveals this at the very end of the video clip, where she discusses someone “from Texas” who told her that people “who don’t want anything done” are such a “tiny minority.” (I assume mentioning this person was from Texas gives the comment some kind of credibility with us right-wingers…because, you know there are no liberals or progressives in Texas, right?). Somehow, she takes what this “Texan” said and draws a line from the “tiny minority” to the inability to elect people who see things their way:
Why are they so powerful, if you’re saying that? He said “because [gun rights are] all they vote on, where other people, it’s issue four, five or six for them.” But people have to start really caring about this at…on Election Day, and they really have to make this a deciding factor and who the politicians are who will represent us…
First they will allow us to speak. Then they will inform us of what is the right thing to do, and that’s to stop being a tiny minority, get right in the head and start voting for more than one thing…as long as one of those things is more gun control policy. In the end, this entire documentary is simply a one-sided attempt to induce people into believing that gun owners are the problem, and the only solution is voting for people who will legislate more government control.
I don’t know if this documentary focuses on some the deeper issues in this debate, such as the aforementioned ineffectiveness of the background check program, how preventing the “mentally ill” from obtaining guns leads to more privacy invasion by authorities, or how the genuine gun violence problem in America is an inability to prevent real-life criminals from illegally obtaining guns, then using them in places like Chicago on a normal weekend.
I’m betting these ideas aren’t mentioned a whole lot, because, in the end, it’s not about preventing gun violence. The goal is for you to capitulate, first in baby steps.
Frog in the pot of water, remember? We thought it could never happen in America. Reexamine the last seven years.