The horrific shooting on February 14 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla, is a cogent reminder of the media’s ability to engage in agenda setting. No, the media cannot tell us what to think. Decades of research proves this. However, the media CAN set an agenda, or tell us what to think about in some situations. This is one.
CNN led the charge with non-stop coverage of the tragedy for more than a week, leading up to its Town Hall broadcast on February 21. But there were many other media outlets following suit. The New York Times has had page one above-the-fold stories about guns and gun control for several days as well. Pre-planned special interest groups launched simultaneous sponsor withdrawal and social media campaigns against the National Rifle Association
The agenda: controlling the purchase of firearms. This soon spilled over into affiliated areas, as President Donald Trump said he was considering asking Congress to ban the sale of some rifles and bump stocks to those under age 21 (which receiving some news coverage). Then he advanced the idea of arming teachers in schools (which received significant media coverage, much of it inferring an ‘is he sane?’ veneer).
Do we have a gun and gun violence problem in our country? Let’s look as some numbers and do some comparisons.
According to FBI crime statistics, about 70 percent of all the homicides committed annually in the U.S. are done with a handgun, rifle, or other type of gun. In calendar year 2015, for example, there were 13, 455 murder victims in the nation.
Now, look a little closer behind the reports. The FBI stated that in 40 percent of these murders, the criminal was either a family member of the victim or someone whom the victim knew well. Charts from the FBI are available the conclusion of this blog for your perusal.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, about 45,000 Americans die of suicide each year. So our nation has 3.5 times more deaths by suicide than by murder. (A majority of these victims use guns to commit suicide.). Of course, in virtually every suicide, there is a mother, father, spouse or family member who probably could have helped prevent the tragedy. All too often, loved ones fail to see a mental health issue or other signs of suicide.
Next, let’s “connect the dots” a bit. We know that the latest school shooter was being treated for a mental illness. Hmmm … sound familiar? Go back and review stories about school shootings. Go to Sandy Hook, or all the way back to Columbine. You will see a clear pattern emerge: virtually all of these perpetrators had mental health issues.
(Aside: Have you ever recorded, and then listened to, an advertisement for anti-depressant medications at half speed? Try it sometime, and listen for the word “suicidal” in the description. You’ll hear it again and again. But you won’t see any calls to ban these medications.)
One simple and very effective way to reduce guns violence in the U.S. would be to prohibit the sale of guns to, and even remove guns from anyone who’s been diagnosed with or who’s under treatment for mental illness. The same regulations should apply to persons who have been diagnosed and/or who are under treatment for depression. If these two steps were taken and had a 50 percent efficacy rate, we would save 29,000 lives a year.
Another technique would be even simpler and more effective — pay attention more to one another, anda care more about each other! More on this topic follows below.
Finally, let’s look at some other grim statistics: There were 41,000 traffic deaths in the United States last year, or three times the number of murders. No one is suggesting that we ban automobiles, although we all agree that banning texting or cell phone usage while driving could save many thousands of lives annually.
How about all unborn babies who are aborted? Official statistics are harder to find, as some states (such as California) have gone so far as to remove reporting requirements. According to the website abort73.com, about 893,000 abortions took place in the United States in 2016—down from about 914,000 abortions in 2015. If we reduced that by 50 percent, we would (theoretically) have about 450,000 more lives saved a year.
Yet, due to agenda-setting of the media and a political party, gun control is what’s in the crosshairs right now. We lose sight of the fact that about a million more people in the U.S. are dying every year through other preventable means — mental illness/suicide, automobile accidents and abortion.
Before changing gears, did you know that there are 170 school districts in the U.S. which allow teachers to carry firearms? Yes, this is the law in Texas. Some of these districts are in rural areas where there are no local police within a 15 to 30-minute drive of the schools.
Kudos to Florida educator Kelly Guthrie Raley, who was named 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year at Eustis Middle School. She wrote a Facebook post in response to the Stoneman Douglas shooting, one which bears reading. An excerpt from it is just below, along with a link to the entire post as it appears on the website
Here is some of what Raley wrote:
…. Until we, as a country, are willing to get serious and talk about mental health issues, lack of available care for the mental health issues, lack of discipline in the home, horrendous lack of parental support when the schools are trying to control horrible behavior at school (oh no! Not MY KID. What did YOU do to cause my kid to react that way?), lack of moral values, and yes, I’ll say it-violent video games that take away all sensitivity to ANY compassion for others’ lives, as well as reality TV that makes it commonplace for people to constantly scream up in each others’ faces and not value any other person but themselves, we will have a gun problem in school. Our kids don’t understand the permanency of death anymore!!!
I grew up with guns. Everyone knows that. But you know what? My parents NEVER supported any bad behavior from me. I was terrified of doing something bad at school, as I would have not had a life until I corrected the problem and straightened my ass out. My parents invaded my life. They knew where I was ALL the time. They made me have a curfew. They made me wake them up when I got home. They made me respect their rules. They had full control of their house, and at any time could and would go through every inch of my bedroom, backpack, pockets, anything!
Parents: it’s time to STEP UP! Be the parent that actually gives a crap! Be the annoying mom that pries and knows what your kid is doing. STOP being their friend. They have enough “friends” at school. Be their parent. Being the “cool mom” means not a damn thing when either your kid is dead or your kid kills other people because they were allowed to have their space and privacy in YOUR HOME. I’ll say it again.
My home was filled with guns growing up. For God’s sake, my daddy was an 82nd Airborne Ranger who lost half his face serving our country. But you know what? I never dreamed of shooting anyone with his guns. I never dreamed of taking one! I was taught respect for human life, compassion, rules, common decency, …
Kelly Guthrie Raley hit the nail right on the center of its head. We have a serious problem in our nation, and it begins in our homes. Parents need to stand up and take responsibility for the full upbringing of their children.
Each semester we learn about the Internet in a chapter of the Introduction to Mass Communication class which I teach. My students and I routinely talk about video games. At some point during the discussion, we will delve into video game ratings. I ask them if their parents pay attention to the ratings on the games, ones they are buying, ones they are playing. More than 95 percent of the time, the students respond with “no” — mom or dad aren’t paying attention, and I can play any video game I want.
Here’s that link:
At what point should we as a society insist that grown-ups act like grown-ups and take their child-rearing responsibility more seriously? Almost lost in the agenda-setting drumbeat on gun control is this: CNN reported on February 16 that it had evidence showing law enforcement officers responded to (incidents) at the Parkland, Fla., shooter’s house on 39 occasions over a seven year period.
It’s well documented now that many grown-ups did NOT act as grown-ups in this particular situation. There were dozens of ways many different people and groups (from the FBI on down) should have intervened long before February 14 in this shooter’s life.
Also well worth the read: Kent State University senior Sydney Diewald’s opinion column about addressing mental illness. It is linked below.
Our nation and especially Christians are mourning the passing of Rev. Billy Graham, who died last week at age 99. I had the privilege of hearing his message two times in Cleveland at old Municipal Stadium. Rev. Graham was an unwavering voice calling for us to be saved and redeemed from sin. He influenced countless lives for God and for good.
He also worked behind the scenes on many occasions to make America a better place. He bailed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. out of jail, and worked with Dr. King and others to preach and practice racial reconciliation as early as the ’50s, before the Civil Rights legislation of the mid-1960s and at a time when it was very unpopular (in Rev. Graham’s south) to do so. Below are a couple of links, including one to a Wall Street Journal reminiscence from former President George W. Bush, who credits Graham for helping him to turn away from alcoholism.
EXPANDED CRIME STATISTICS expanded_homicide_data_table_11_murder_circumstances_by_weapon_2015
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/
Billy Graham and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/february/billy-graham-martin-luther-king-jr-friendship-civil-rights.html
Billy Graham and former President George Bush: https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-billy-graham-changed-my-life-1519427900