Right after the latest school gun violence (the one in Santa Fe, Texas) I made the following somewhat snarky post on Facebook:
I was sad and angry.
One of my friends responded with this:
I am also sad. These school shootings are a horrible, horrible thing. Guns are not toys and gadgets children should have access to.
Lee – why are you talking about the media and about politicians? Do you have any doubt the voters in the state of Texas, even if polled today, would not agree to restrict access to guns? That they would say they would rather live with school shootings and keep their guns?
Talk about the people of Texas, and about their choices that you don’t agree with. These people are not being manipulated by the media or politicians. They are making a free and clear choice.
His challenge made me think more about what I said.
I’m talking about politicians because they’re making the decisions about gun regulation and school safety. They are influenced every day by campaign contributions, the threat of contributions to opponents, and legions of paid lobbyists. Hopefully, public opinion matters too.
I have no idea what the people of Texas think about the guns and school safety issue. I’d guess that opinions are varied. Because of gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the influence of money, I don’t know whether the views of their elected officials reflect the views of the people. About the only thing we can be sure of is that everyone wants our students and school staff to be safe.
We certainly can’t dismiss the role of the media in all of this. Things that are constantly repeated stick in the mind and have both subtle and substantial influence on the way people think.
Look at the constant repetition of the stock indices throughout the day. Anyone who listens to any news shows on TV or radio knows whether the “market is up or down”. But these numbers are useless to almost everyone. Unless you’re a day trader (and there aren’t many ), you don’t need to know the indices hour-by-hour. If you gamble on short-term market swings, your casino is your broker’s website; it has all the indices real time, so why should NPR broadcast market indices every hour?
What has made stock market indices so valuable that they merit such constant repetition? I don’t know. But the subtle message is that they must be important and useful. They’re neither in the short term.
But the safety of our kids and teaching staff is important. The number of people killed by guns is staggering. Why not devise a gun violence index and repeat it throughout the day. It would be constant reminder to all of us that we have so much work to do. And, if we should be so fortunate as to take some real steps to reduce gun violence, we can let the declining index encourage us to do more.