Monday, February 04, 2013
What is gun control advocacy really about? Part I.
As I have said, there is no credible evidence that guns cause crime or that any kind of gun control aimed at law-abiding citizens will reduce crime. Further, the idea that the criminal segment and the dangerous mentally ill will obey gun laws is ludicrous. The law abiding will suffer diumunition of ability to defend themselves. There is much data suggesting thousands of defensive uses of guns every year. There are already millions of guns in this country. Guns will flow in just like like illegal drugs flow in from around the world. There are thousands and thousands of AK-47's available on the international black market. AK-47s can be fired in fully automatic. The awful "asssault rifles" in this country cannot legally do so, and are being targeted. Will we somehow get ahead when the criminals and wackos substitiute AK-47's for "assault rifiles? The whole gun control thing is largely irrational in terms of crime control. Thus, what is gun control really about? Here's one theory which makes sense to me and a lot of others.
Much of the propaganda from both sides on the gun control issue can be visualized in terms of the concept of “symbolic politics” Much of propaganda is an appeal to symbolism rather than reason or substance. Oliver and Marion (2008) write:
“Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
(George Orwell, 1946/1981)
Past research has shown that the issue of crime is often used by different political actors as a way to increase their public support (Cronin, Cronin, & Milakovich, 1981;Finckenauer, 1978; Gusfield, 1963, 1967; Scheingold, 1984, 1995). In this way, the issue of crime becomes a symbolic issue for these political actors, including presidents,candidates, and members of Congress. Murray Edelman (1964, 1971, 1988), in his pioneering work, was the first to acknowledge the importance of symbolism in politics. Edelman explained that “every symbol stands for something other than itself, and it also evokes an attitude, a set of impressions, or a pattern of events associated through time, through space, through logic, or through imagination with the symbol”(Edelman, 1964, p. 6). In a later writing, he explained, “Symbols become that facet of experiencing the material world that gives it a specific meaning” (Edelman, 1988,p. 8). In other words, symbols derive their meaning not from content, but from the value people attach to them.
It also reassures the public that something is being done about a particular problem, as well as minimizing thecomplexity of the issue and government’s limited resources with which to address the situation."
For some guns symbolize a free society and constitutional rights. For others guns symbolize violence. I’m sure there are other symbols for other folks (e.g. macho, “wild west.” etc.) Unfortunately symbols evoke emotions and not reason. Policy needs to be make on the basic of reason, not emotion. For some people, guns are, for better or worse, not just symbols, they are seen as a real tool for defense in high crime neighborhoods. In some neighborhooks in this country, gunfire is a nightly occurrence. Of course for some symbols are more important than the ability of people to defend themselves.
The American public wants “fast, fast, pain relief,” and politicians want to appear to have a solution. That’s why we elected them, or course. To fix everything. Politicians, however, rarely have any significant understanding of crime, guns, etc. and certainly don’t let research results or data get in the way of a good symbol. However, many of the “fixes,” have little chance of working, may be counter-productive and endanger constitutional rights. This is.of course, of little important to politicians who only care about getting re-elected.
As I have said before, let’s get real,let’s get rational.