Gregory Paul: "The Gun Industry Cannot Thrive Without Lots of Media & Real World Violence"

Natural Born Killers (still)
"And here’s another little dirty truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows violence to it’s own people. Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers… Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like American Psycho and Natural Born Killers that are aired like propaganda loops on Splatterdays and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life, and then they have the nerve to call it “entertainment.” But is that really what it is? Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography? In the race to the bottom media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes – every minute of every day of every month of every year. A child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches a ripe old age of 18. And through it all, too many in our national media… their corporations and their stockholders… act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, and amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delays meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away."
- NRA CEO & Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre

His pretend outrage was and is a lie. With maximum cynicism.

The reality is that the gun industry that the NRA and other gun fanatic organizations rep, cannot prosper without lots of violence in the media, violence fictional and all too real. Violence not just by the gun. but especially by the gun. They love and need the stuff, the more the better, and they help make it.

As soon as LaPierre blamed the violence packed entertainment industry for being the primary cause of high rates of homicide a few days after Sandy Hook, those who favored serious gun safety noted problems with the don’t-blame-guns-and-their-manufacturers-and-law-abiding-owners-for-this contention.

First, all other prosperous countries achieve low levels of homicide by limiting the distribution and utilization of firearms, not by controlling media violence which is protected by free speech rights, and is highly popular over there too. So the argument that suppressing media violence is the key solution to firearms mayhem is as spurious as it violates individual liberty and hinders commerce involving speech.

Which brings us to the fact that there is nothing “shadowy” as LaPierre claims about media violence. It’s all over the place as he notes, promoted by massive ad blitzes. That’s how they make huge money off of it.

Next -- and this is really sweet in a perverse way -- the NRA is itself part of the media violence promotion complex. Nothing secret about that either. It’s own headquarters has hosted an exhibit titled -- Hollywood Guns!  Among the items available for visitors’ viewing pleasure, the shotgun used by the late Keith Ledger in The Dark Knight. Of course LaPierre knew all about this when he came across as shocked, shocked and ever so offended by the violence out of Hollywood, so he was being outrageously hypocritical on both a personal and organizational level. How he thought he would get away with it is another matter.

But wait, there’s more what-they-are-really-up-to gun industry/lobby hypocrisy! A basic idea with how violence featuring entertainment causes people to go out and use their innocent weaponry – guns don’t kill people, people kill people -- to terminate folks individually or enmasse is that people play gun totting video games. (Before we get to that, note that if the guns don’t kill people line is a reason not to criticize law abiding gun ownership and use, then media violence does not kill people either as long as it is viewed by those who abide by the law, and the bashing of fictional violence by the gun lobby is hypocritical.) In doing so they both learn how to handle guns to maximum human slaughtering effectiveness, and they get juiced up with the idea of actually going out there and doing the real deed. This is especially applicable to those of borderline mental status.

The business about learning how to use firearms via digital simulation is literally true. That’s because those who create and produce the games prefer not to use generic guns. They know that to game players the gun games most worth playing are those in which they get to learn how to cyberoperate specific types and brands of firearms to virtually slaughter humans. That means that the game producers have to contract with the manufacturers of specific guns to get the rights and information needed to do so. Not only can the gun makers get some upfront cash, their brand is enjoying placement advertising, and the game can include links to sellers of the brand.

But of course, the gun makers refuse to go along with this commercial perfidy. Being always careful to in no way risk promoting misuse of their finely crafted products only intended for legitimate defensive and sporting uses, they decline to accept the tarnished lucre offered by the dastardly greedy distributors of violence porn that is causing people who would otherwise be law abiding gun owners to turn their innocent weapons upon their fellow citizens.

Ha, just kidding! Of course the gun guys will take any money and especially promotion that improves their bottom line. Deals between firearm producers and game companies happen all the time. But the link between media gun violence and the gun makers is much broader and deeper than that. The ghastly truth is that the more gun death and mayhem fictional and real that there is, the better it is for those churning out the killing machines.

You see, the gun industry has a lot of big problems. They have a bad business model, the poor fellows. They are making and selling machinery that is inherently lethally dangerous to those who own them (accidents, spontaneous suicides, sudden angry disputes, taking out noncriminal intruders including the occasional cop) that few people need, and that has a very long shelf life. A gun reasonably cared for can last a century of more. Cigarettes share the first two flaws, but because they are destroyed by the very act of using them you can sell vast quantities to the millions foolish enough to find themselves addicted to the things. If you want a good business model try clothes – everyone needs them, they’re safe to own, and they wear out quick if used a lot. Making matters worse for gun pushers is that the size of their market is shrinking for core demographic reasons they cannot do much about. The proportion of households with guns is shrinking (because rural families with hunting traditions are fast dwindling), the population is aging (can’t have a gun in the nursing home and so on), and women who are much less heater friendly than men are increasingly heads of households (on Pawn Stars guys are always bringing in their old pieces to sell for cash because their female partners won’t abide them in the house).  

The only way that gun producers and sellers can keep their business from perpetually sinking in output and more importantly profits, is by getting the dwindling number of those who want the things to acquire more of them. Lots more. That means inspiring as many customers as possible to become gun addicts that are psychosociologically driven to acquire as many vanity firearms as they can purchase, on credit if need be. (Much as many women are addicted to buying way more clothes, shoes and other adornments than they need or can use, and the clothing industry gins up the demand with mass promotion.) That’s hard work that requires a multi-faceted approach. One is to gin up the fear factor by hysterically warning that crime with flourish in, and tyranny will take over, in nations where guns are not widely distributed. This means the more murders on the streets, and in workplaces, eateries, entertainment complex, and schools the better. Seriously. Imagine what would happen to the American gun market if we had the low rates of murder and crime seen in many countries without lots of gun owners. Why gun sales would implode by golly, and we can’t have that in this land of wild west liberty and the 2nd Amendment that calls for all white males to belong to a well regulated militia ready to oppose the central government army if it gets out of hand!

Jon Stewart is naïve. On his Daily Show he said that all Americans want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the disagreement is over how to do it. No Jon, here’s how it ideally works for the gun complex.

The more guns in a population, the more homicides, which boosts the fear factor so more people get guns making it easier for criminals to get more guns to murder more people so the demand for guns goes up further. Although mass shootings kill less than a percent of those murdered they are especially great gun sellers, as we see everytime one happens. Chuck in fear of tyranny to the mix and it’s a superb stew for the firearms industry. 

And it is working. Since their peak in the Reagan/Bush 1 years, homicides have been declining (in approximate parallel with declining households with guns), but Pew finds that most Americans think murder rates are up, helping keep support for gun ownership high. (Some on the right are using the drop in homicide as reason not to increase gun regulations, but this risks backfiring by reducing the fear driven demand for weaponry.)

So fear of the gun-toting criminals made possible by saturating the nation with guns, and the Feds eliminating democracy are important to keeping the profits flowing to the gun complex. But to be frank that only does so much. In general, you don’t need more than one gun and a dash of ammo to deal with a ne’er do well in the house or a movie theater, and just a couple of semi-automatics pistols and rifles and a lot of ammo will do fine when the gun haters finally impose their dream of a firearm free socialist utopia dictatorship (although that will require the collaboration of the military that is dominated by pro-gun conservative Republicans – think about it).

To really convert gun owners into fanatical gun buffs that buy way more than they need in the way of rapid-fire weapons of mass destruction demands making the devices way cool man. It’s not enough for firearms to be mere tools to drop the occasional mugger in the street, or picking off the men inside massively armored tanks as they oppress the disarmed masses. Guns have to have that hip factor. What better way to do that than to get firearms into the movies where heroes and villains engage in exhilarating, adrenaline pumping, bullet whizzing gun battles, with the righteous shooter/s in the end settling the problem to save the day for all that is good and decent and preferably All American. (Never mind that the favorite movie pistol is the Austrian Glock.) Or maybe the bad guys win, but it’s still a heart-beating thrill. And how about video games where the potential gun enthusiast not only watches the action, but gets to blow away the bad guys, or any guys, with their own virtual talents and skills. The full immersion experience that boosts the user’s mental link to the product. You especially can’t beat the video game where a specific gun manufacturer can see one of their best-selling semi-automatics promoted directly to players. Players who may decide to get that particularly make of semi auto – at the big gun show coming to town where you don’t need to pass a background check!

Ka-chin, ka-chin.

So yes, Virginia, there does exist in this country as LaPierre says a “callous, corrupt and corrupting… industry that sells, and sows, violence to it’s own people” via media violence. It’s called the gun industry, including its main lobbying arm, the NRA.

Here’s the bottom line. For the gun makers, sellers and their lobbyists. When they claim to be upset about the chronically high homicide and other crime rates, and to be horrified by the mass shootings, and to be outraged by entertainment, they’re lying. It’s not that they don’t care about these things. They care a lot. They care because whether they recognize it or not they must have lots of murder, crime, and media violence. Because if not for those factors, there is no doubt that popular interest in guns would drop way off, and Colt, Smith and Wesson, Bushmaster, Thompson Machine, Red River Tactical, Wilson Combat, Windham Weaponry, Eagle Arms, Grizzly (just a teeny minority of those who produce AR-15s), Lock and the NRA would be screwed. Not only in income, but in their love and adoration for the gun. The USA is the only advanced, such as it is, nation where there is such mass adulation for the gun, a psychosociological dysfunction otherwise limited to the under developed nations like Somalia (one of the few countries that has almost as many firearms per person as we do, and the dreadful murder rates that always go along with such high gun density). The gun profiteers and fanatics care a lot more about their guns and/or the profits they generate (by no means are all who make and sell guns in love with the product, it’s the money they are into) than the well being of the citizenry. That some of them don’t know it does not matter.

As I and many others have documented elsewhere, the only means by which the America that has always suffered from high levels of homicide can enjoy the much lower levels long seen in the rest of the west is to do the same thing that has been done in the rest of the west. Dramatically reduce the number of guns in the population, with emphasis on pistols and assault style semiautomatics, along with a host of reasonable regulations of gun that do not overly hinder their use for sporting and functional purposes. In Australia a series of increasingly horrific mass shootings finally led the majority to say enough in the 1990s. The conservative(!) government enacted a mass forced buyback to severely reduce handguns and semiautos. It was done within months against strident opposition by gun adorers who warned of coming mass crime and tyranny. After the great buyback homicide has been low, mass shootings ceased, and Australia remains a prosperous successful democracy, mate. (Nor does any truly advanced democracy with extensive gun regs show signs of going tyrannical – why the Dutch queen just resigned.) The strong gun safety system is very popular, and many who opposed it now agree that it has worked out -- the chicken little predictions did not come to pass. What the Aussies did by greatly reducing the number of weapons in the populace was to also break the fear and entertainment driven psychological hold that the gun had on much of the population. They can still get their kicks from fictional violence, but it is too difficult for them to get guns and then commit the nonfictional mayhem firearms facilitate. If those down under can do it, can we do it too?  The demographic trends are favoring progressivism in general, and gun limitations specifically as suburbanization eats away at the heart of the gun culture where crime levels are down.

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