Civil Discourse Now

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David Gregory lets NRA Prez off the hook on "Meet the Press."

   David Gregory hosts "Meet the Press," the Sunday news show that has been aired on NBC for 65 years. On December 23, Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA, appeared on the show. LaPierre’s appearance, ostensibly, was to defend the NRA’s proposal—as its "contribution" to the problems highlighted by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on December 14.

   To Gregory’s credit, he had come prepared with props. To illustrate his questions about whether legislation to ban extended-ammo clips—magazines for semi-automatic weapons that hold 15 or 30 rounds, as opposed to five-round clips—he brandished an example of each as he mentioned it. Gregory asked whether the bigger clips should be banned. LaPierre repeatedly returned to his talking points, chief among them that we should have armed guards in every school and that a good guy with a gun can shoot a bad guy with a gun.

   Why didn’t Gregory do more homework and less acquisition of "props"?

   Why didn’t Gregory point out to LaPierre that armed security was on staff at Columbine High School when those shootings occurred on April 20, 1999?  Why didn’t Gregory point out that the 2009 shootings at Fort Hood took place on an Army post—in the middle of a lot of people armed with firearms who were trained in use of firearms.

   Instead, Gregory flailed the clips around a few times, as though the clips themselves made his point.

   We have been raised, in this country, to believe there are "two" sides to every argument. I learned early in high school debate, ironically in the context of competitions that feature "affirmative" against "negative," that there are more than "two" sides to every issue. Our lives are far more complex than to boil each matter we face, as a society, to binary code. The "two sides" paradigm limits us. We come to accept that "two" parties represent all our views. An artificial battle is staged in which we cheer for our respective team.

   The media—the word "media is plural, btw—then stage competitions, for our benefit, that resemble athletic playoffs. Issues then are dealt with as substantively in elections as they are in the BCS series. ("What does the BCS have to do with elections?" you might ask. That is my point—nothing.) The elections are over, and yet an issue upon which a majority of our citizens agreed—raise taxation on the top one- or two-percent—is tossed to the side and we have farcical conversation about cutting benefits on programs in order to maybe restore tax rates to what they were before "W" took office for those who earn more than $400,000.

   The debate about gun control is a similar charade. Two-thirds of our citizens believe there should be restrictions on such things as the 15- and 30round clips for assault weapons. LaPierre said such limits would not protect us from "nuts" who shoot up schools. We need armed gurds in those schools.

   Why didn’t Gregory point out that was how the gunman in Arizona who wounded a Congresswoman and killed several other people was wrestled to the ground as he tried to change out clips on his weapon? In Aurora, Colorado, the gunman in the cinema came to the end of the rounds of his magazine and his weapon jammed. When a person comes to the end of a clip and has to change out, that’s inconvenient for the shooter—bummer—and an opportunity to bring carnage to an end. So make those clips shorter, and give people more opportunity to tackle the bastard.

   As Heywood Broun once said, when asked why the media are biased toward business: The media are not biased toward big business. The media are big business. Perhaps David Gregory is not instructed to avoid questions that might embarrass a guest who is the president of an organization that spreads lobbyists and money around Congress like a cocaine dealers spread snow at post-Rolling Stones concerts in the late 1970s.

   LaPierre wanted to discuss mental health as an area to be addressed instead of guns. What would he propose? That we arbitrarily incarcerate on MH "holds" anyone who exhibits "suspicious" behavior? To what end? That private corrections corporations can profit more from erosion of our liberties and gun manufacturers can continue to reap huge profits?

   The holidays soon will be past us. The "fiscal cliff" will consume the attention of the media. Talk of gun control will be only talk. The Vice President’s committee will propose some things. Those will be ignored or, more likely, voted down by a tea bag-dominated House of Representatives. There will be more shootings. So—don’t have kids. If you do, home school them or send them overseas for education. And don’t go to the movies. You might get shot there. Besides, according to LaPierre, Hollywood is part of the problem: too much violence.

   I knew that last part was true. When I came out of "When Harry Met Sally," I wanted to—what? Oh yeah, cry over the ending.

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