“Two teenagers, one just 14-years-old, were killed by gunfire this weekend in northeast Omaha. Etienne Burns, 14, and Dejuan Johnson, 19, were killed within about a six-hour span Saturday night.” I detest passive construction, especially when writers use it to describe shootings and negligent discharges (a.k.a., accidents). In this case, not only is the phrase “were killed” inelegant, it hides the truth of the matter. In truth, “Gunmen murdered two teenagers this weekend in northeast Omaha. The killers shot Etienne Burns, 14, and Dejuan Johnson, 19, within about a six-hour span Saturday night.” This is not simply a question of Hemingway worship and hopeless pedantry . . .
By making the slain teens’ ultimate fate the focal point of the lede, rather than pointing an editorial finger at the actors who created the carnage, omaha.com writer Kevin Cole shifts readers’ attention away from those responsible for the teens’ death. To wit, the headline: Gun Violence Kills Two Teens.
What pray tell is “gun violence”? A violent act by someone using a gun, obviously. As in shooting someone. But you don’t need to be a gun rights advocate to know that gun violence is a loaded term (so to speak) that contains a hidden agenda.
For one thing, the vast majority of journalists deploy the term “gun violence” only when reporting a firearms-related injury or death perpetrated by an inner city gang banger. Sorry, a “disadvantaged minority youth.” For another, writers use the term “gun violence” to create a more-often-than-not unjustified sense of the shootee’s complete innocence.
People “killed by gun violence” are not killed by people who lack respect for laws and law and order and their fellow man’s right to remain un-shot, un-stabbed, un-beaten, etc. Nor are they civilians who failed to avoid the rabbi’s advice to “avoid stupid people in stupid places doing stupid things.” They are “victims.”
From there it’s a short step to removing the word “violence” from “gun violence” and blaming the gun itself. Hey, why not? No gun, no gun violence; no gun violence, no victims of gun violence. Problem solved. Not to put too fine a point on it, “gun violence” is shorthand for “This wouldn’t have happened if the killers didn’t have ‘easy access’ to guns.”
Truth be told, the gun control movement hearts gun violence. Not the violence itself, semi-obviously, but the phrase. It embodies the idea that firearms-related injuries and death could be reduced or eliminated by reducing (or eliminating) the number of guns in the hands of violent people—through stricter gun control (‘natch).
Here’s a press release from Mayor Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG):
The coalition members offered four concrete steps the administration could take without Congressional action to better enforce existing gun laws, reminding the President that over 6,100 Americans have died from gun violence since the Tucson shooting.
I don’t know about you, but I reckon locking-up the trigger man or woman who shot one or more of those 6100 Americans is first on my list “How to reduce the number of firearms-related fatalities.”
MAIG and other gun grabbers know that the term “gun violence” removes the gunman from any subsequent debate about crime prevention. By pre-deleting criminal culpability, they can highlight the “need” for gun control without raising an entire range of moral, ethical, cultural and political issues that would “cloud the issue.”
Hence the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Stop Gun Violence, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Women Against Gun Violence, etc.
Insidiously, organizations campaigning against “gun violence” are, by implication, OK with non-violent gun ownership. (Just as one supposes that the Mayors Against Illegal Guns are not against legal guns.) In fact, they are not OK with guns, period. The Brady Campaign was formerly Handgun Control, Inc. and the National Council to Control Handguns. Need I say more?
Just this: journalists who wish to avoid bias should avoid using the term “gun violence.” Instead they should tell the truth about guns. They should make sure that the person behind the trigger is at the forefront of any story about the resulting carnage. Anything less risks the possibility that society will deny the victims of their actions the genuine justice they deserve. Even if they don’t.