Friday, June 21, 2013

Reducing violence

Friday morning at Netroots Nation led off with an all-star panel to discuss gun violence. It's an issue that provokes strong emotional responses, particularly from the two panelists who represent teachers. But it's also an issue that provokes strong determination from the public officials represented on the panel, to continue to push forward legislation designed to keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands. Panel members also pushed back strongly against the idea that the movement to reduce gun violence in this country has anything whatsoever to do with taking guns away from responsible gun owners who keep guns for legitimate purposes. That is propaganda spread by the NRA which plays on the public's distrust of government to accomplish their primary mission, which seems to be acting as a trade association for gun manufacturers, rather than acting in the best interests of the responsible gun owners they purportedly represent.



Several of the panel members stressed the importance of engaging in a dialogue with gun owners, and couching arguments for gun control in a way that is not threatening to gun rights advocates, and that will appeal to the majority of public opinion. State Senator Darrell Steinberg, for example, made the excellent point that advocating for restrictions on assault weapon sales at the same time as acknowledging the need for mental health reform, are not either/or propositions. Some of the panelists also mentioned the need to support legislators such as Senator Joe Manchin, who took a courageous stand against the NRA position, despite a strong background in favor of gun rights.

It was interesting, however, that even on a panel devoted to the theme of reducing violence, gun metaphors and violence metaphors kept cropping up. Senator Steinberg repeatedly talked about "fighting" to enact legislation to reduce gun violence. I understand that strong opposition must be overcome, but it still seems a bit incongruous to talk about fighting to reduce violence. Somebody else talked about "shooting down" the opposition's arguments. And the moderator Jehmu Greene asked the panelists at the end to engage in a "rapid fire" round of final responses. It's an indication of just how strongly violence has permeated our culture when a group of people all sincerely and passionately dedicated to the cause of reducing violence has difficulty discussing that issue without resorting to the language of violence themselves. 

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