Kevin Warnock

Entrepreneurship, ideas and more

Reduce mass shootings by outlawing the media circus that accompanies these events

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Three days ago, on December 14, 2012, a human being apparently shot and killed 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut USA. Since that time there has been an intense focus in the media on this shooting, with thousands of articles written, and thousands of hours of television and radio coverage around the world, most of it by commercial entities that make more money the more viewers, listeners and readers they attract.

This media coverage probably incites others to commit mass murder, because one can easily see that mass murder is a sure fire way to get famous overnight.

The media outlets I presume secretly love mass killings, for they attract lots of interest from their customers, and the media outlets just have to be making a killing doing these stories about killing.

Every time there is a mass killing, the calls for gun control become temporarily louder.

I like the idea of requiring all firearms to be registered and insured, like vehicles are. All drivers must take and pass competency tests to get a driver license.

There should be a more stringent process to obtain a firearm license.

The license should be valid for just a limited number of years, and if it expires, the holder should have to sell or turn in all their registered firearms. When the firearm owner dies, the firearms should have to be turned in or sold by the owner’s estate.

This would help eliminate the dangerous situation I just saw first hand. A friend of mine saw her husband pass away. He left her four guns, two of which were loaded with bullets. My friend didn’t know how to unload the weapons or even how to determine that they were loaded. Thankfully, she recognized the danger and turned them in at a gun buy back on Saturday. I accompanied her, and I had to tell the police the guns may be loaded or not, that neither my friend or I knew. I wasn’t going to inspect the weapons, and I don’t know how to operate a firearm, and I don’t want to know. The police took the weapons away and came back to report two were loaded. They unloaded the weapons for my friend, who is a senior citizen.

I mentioned gun insurance above. How much do I recommend? USD $1,000,000 per gun owner, adjusted annually for inflation or deflation. I would still allow unlimited guns per owner, but since the insurance would probably be sold per gun, that will naturally limit gun ownership, like car insurance costs today keep people from amassing lots of vehicles.

I think the right to bear arms is a good right, as it serves as a check on the government becoming overbearing. It also will make it more difficult for an invading power to conquer the United States. I have never shot a gun, and I do not intend to. I did shoot a squirt gun as a child, and I wish I had not.

I approve of the second amendment to the United States Constitution.

If we are to allow gun ownership, how can we cut down on these mass shootings?

I suggest we outlaw the intense media coverage that accompanies mass killings.

The media makes money from mass killing.

As a result, the media industry has blood on its hands.

What I propose is not far out. Apparently some jurisdictions have so-called Son of Sam laws in effect. According to WikiPediA, some such laws extend to the friends and family members of the criminal. So all that’s needed is to extend the laws to apply to anyone.

For my readers not familiar with the phrase Son of Sam Law, ‘A Son of Sam Law is any American law designed to keep criminals from profiting from the publicity of their crimes, often by selling their stories to publishers,’ per WikiPediA. That same article goes on to say ‘In certain cases a Son of Sam law can be extended beyond the criminals themselves to include friends, neighbors, and family members of the lawbreaker who seek to profit by telling publishers and filmmakers of their relation to the criminal. In other cases, a person may not financially benefit from the sale of a story or any other mementos pertaining to the crime—if the criminal was convicted after the date lawmakers passed the law in the states where the crime was committed.’

I propose to make it illegal to profit from mass murder.

Once the money is taken out of the intense media coverage, I predict that the coverage would naturally, and without additional laws, dwindle by 90% or more, and then future killers won’t be as motivated to kill, because they will know that they will not get famous.

I am not suggesting the crimes be covered up and not reported at all. But I am suggesting that the proper amount of coverage should be a non dramatic story relegated to the inside of the paper, or its equivalent for online, radio and television coverage. Once reported, that should mostly be it for coverage. I don’t own a television or watch a television, but I can guess that the news channels in particular have been devoting a huge amount of time to this story. Instead, I suggest perhaps a five minute story the day of the event, and perhaps five more minutes a week later to follow up on what was learned in the interim.

To really strengthen these proposals, I would even make it illegal for everyone and every entity to print the names of mass murderers. This is an important feature of my proposals, because people are fascinated by such stories, and if they can’t get their ‘fix’ of information in the formal press, then bloggers and multitudes of regular people will take over and fill their Status Updates, Tweets and blogs with enough information to make the perpetrator famous, negating some of the benefit of my limit on conventional news reporting.

To those that say prohibiting publishing the names of future killers would violate the US Constitution’s first amendment right of free speech, I would point out that free speech has limits already. For example, one may not shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. I think that society’s interest to not permit a mass murderer to become famous warrants this tiny additional exception to freedom of speech. As you consider my bold proposals, please ask yourself the name of the shooters in some of the recent killings. I bet most people can name at least one mass murderer, and that far fewer can name any of those killed.

Note that many news outlets already don’t report the names of victims of sexual assault, so not reporting the names of mass murders should be easy to accept once the evils of doing so are explained.

If the radio and television outlets insist on wall to wall coverage like they do now, then the outlets should be criminally prosecuted and forced out of business, which is easy to do by revoking their FCC licenses. This may sound harsh, but people are literally dying now, by the dozens per year, so shutting down a few media outlets should be viewed as quite reasonable compared to the current situation.

Media outlets are routinely fined for allowing swearing on air, or for allowing the female nipple to be shown. Oh, the horrors of a female nipple! We won’t allow that, even though everyone has nipples and probably nourished themselves at a female nipple for months after birth.

However, we let the whole world consume dozens of hours of coverage about mass killings, which I think does make some people want to repeat the killings to boost their own fame.

As my hero Robert Reich likes to point out, we are not protecting our children from many dangers, including the danger posed by guns. We are allowing them to fall into ill health. We allow too many children to live in poverty.

Look at this great status update Robert Reich posted to Facebook today, around 5pm Pacific Time, December 17, 2012:

“Additional thoughts. Not only are we failing to protect our children from deranged people wielding semi-automatic guns.

We’re not protecting them from poverty. The rate of child poverty keeps rising – even faster than the rate of adult poverty. We now have the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world.

And we’re not protecting their health. Rates of child diabetes and asthma continue to climb. America has the third-worst rate of infant mortality among 30 industrialized nations and the second-highest rate of teenage pregnancy, after Mexico.

If we go over the “fiscal cliff” without a budget deal, several programs focused on the well-being of children will be axed — education, child nutrition, school lunches, children’s health, Head Start. Even if we avoid the cliff, any “grand bargain” to tame to deficit is likely to jeopardize them.

The Urban Institute projects the share of federal spending on children (outlays and tax expenditures) will drop from 15 percent last year to 12 percent in 2022.

At the same time, states and localities have been slashing preschool and after-school programs, child care, family services, recreation, and mental-health services.

Why?

Conservatives want to blame parents for not doing their job. But this ignores politics.

The NRA, for example, is one of the most powerful lobbies in America – so powerful, in fact, that our leaders rarely have the courage even to utter the words gun control.

A few come forth after a massacre such as occurred in Connecticut to suggest that maybe we could make it slightly more difficult for the mentally ill to obtain assault weapons. But the gun lobby and gun manufacturers routinely count on America’s (and media’s) short attention span to prevent even modest reform.

The AARP is also among the most powerful lobbies, especially when it comes to preserving programs that benefit seniors.

We shouldn’t have to choose between our seniors and children — I’d rather focus on jobs and growth rather deficit reduction, and sooner cut corporate welfare and defense spending than anything else. But the brute fact is America’s seniors have political clout that matters when spending is being cut, while children don’t.

At the same time, big corporations and the wealthy know how to get and keep tax cuts that are starving federal and state budgets of revenues needed to finance what our children need. Corporations systematically play off one state or city against another for tax concessions and subsidies to stay or move elsewhere, further shrinking revenues available for education, recreation, mental health, and family services.

Meanwhile, advertisers and marketers of junk foods and violent video games have the political heft to ward off regulations designed to protect children from their depredations. The result is an epidemic of childhood diabetes, as well as video mayhem that may harm young minds.

Most parents can’t protect their children from all this. They have all they can do to pay the bills. The median wage keeps falling (adjusted for inflation), benefits are evaporating, job security has disappeared, and even work hours are less predictable.

It seems as if every major interest has political clout – except children. They can’t vote. They don’t make major campaign donations. They can’t hire fleets of lobbyists.

Yet they’re America’s future.

Their parents and grandparents care, of course, as do many other private citizens. But we’re no match for the entrenched interests that dominate American politics.

Whether it’s fighting for reasonable gun regulation, child health and safety overall, or good schools and family services – we can’t have a fair fight as long as special-interest money continues to poison our politics.”

Reich posts frequently to Facebook, and he’s an impressive thinker.

Once we get the guns registered and insured with generous automobile style liability policies that pay victims for accidental or intentional harm, society should outlaw violent games including violent video games. It is imprudent to allow people to practice mass shootings. We don’t allow child pornography because of the harm it causes, so society can enforce draconian penalties for violent games as well. I would outlaw paintball games and even squirt gun fights, as those games are also training for shooting people.

I was appalled in 2011 when I attended the Intel Developer Forum at Moscone Center in San Francisco. To show off how fast their computer chips are, Intel had set up a large booth in a central location where one could play an exceptionally violent game where one would fire full size physical ‘toy’ assault rifles at the large screen monitors, with the goal to kill the zombies on screen. I was so upset that I harshly criticized the Intel employees staffing the booth. They defended Intel by saying they characters were zombies. That the crazed somewhat human characters were zombies is not relevant. If the targets had been invading Martians, plague infected rats or malaria infected mosquitoes, I would still object. Intel was arming its customers with physical guns that they held and fired as if they were real full size guns. When they pulled the trigger and hit a zombie, blood-like fluid sprayed everywhere, just like with people.

It was revolting and shocking, and more shocking that Intel would associate its name with mass killing even of zombies.

I am happy to report that Intel apparently had no such booth at the Intel Developer Forum this year, based on my quick walk through. Whether it was my comment that nixed the booth I don’t know, but I applaud Intel for cancelling the violence.

I suspect that per capita gun ownership in the US was once much higher, and a century ago I don’t think there were multiple mass school shootings each year, though I have done no research to find out if my guess is true.

There are so many ways to conduct mass killings, and there are so many guns, that I don’t think trying to take away all the guns will eliminate the killings, which I predict will continue for decades.

Society needs to take away the impetus to conduct mass killings.

The first thing to stop is the circus style media frenzy of reporting. The second thing to stop is the training of killers by getting rid of the sophisticated killing simulators that we improperly characterize as games.

In the interest of brevity and because I don’t know much about the subject, I will not delve into other possible causes of mass murder. I agree there are many contributing factors and issues, including prescription drug use, illegal drug use, bullying, low self esteem, romantic relationship problems, job loss and many, many more.

If the National Rifle Association (NRA) uses its considerable influence to stand in the way of my proposals, I suggest that the association be purchased by the US Federal Government for fair market value using eminent domain powers, or new powers created by legislation if eminent domain powers are judged insufficiently potent. Once the government owns the NRA, I suggest it be disbanded, and the sale proceeds be distributed equitably to the many leaders and volunteers in that association. This will compensate the organization and its contributors for its tireless years of hard work. This payment is critical, to soothe their hurt feelings from loosing their important and powerful voice. When the purchase price is calculated, I suggest the opening offer start in the billions of dollars, since the NRA has perhaps the highest profile of any US lobbying organization, and such power took over a century of hard work to amass.

To prevent the NRA 2 from forming, I suggest that Federal law be enacted prohibiting the formation of lobbying groups for firearms and similar lethal devices. While law makers are at it, lobbying for firearms should itself be made illegal, to prevent each gun manufacturer from lobbying for their own benefit or for the benefit of the gun industry as a whole.

If representatives of the NRA discover this post, I want to emphasize that I support the 2nd amendment, and I hope that amendment lives on forever. I approve of responsible citizens owning even hundreds of guns if they wish, provided they are licensed as a driver would be to operate them, and provided the owner is insured in case of disaster.

It would be far better for the NRA to adopt and advance the proposals I suggest in this post. By doing so they would elevate their cause in the eye of the public, and they would not have to endure the taunts of the public after every mass murder spree carried out with a firearm.

If my proposals come to pass, now, or in a century or two, I would like to be remembered for this post.

Thank you for reading, and please share this post widely, while keeping in mind that I am not a historian and I am not particularly well informed about what I write about above. I wrote from the heart, and if there are errors, I invite my readers to share their opinions and knowledge so that I may form even more well reasoned opinions about this subject matter.

My heart goes out to those that have lost a loved one at the hands of a mass murderer.

Kevin Laurence Warnock
San Francisco, California USA
December 17, 2012

PS — This post was inspired by a widely circulated Facebook post published soon after the December 14, 2012 school shooting that was incorrectly attributed to actor Morgan Freeman. It was that text that opened my eyes to the media helping to incite mass killings, and I thank the anonymous author. See this Snopes article for details on this hoax.

Written by Kevin Warnock

December 17th, 2012 at 10:27 pm

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