Pundits: Pay Closer Attention to ‘Real’ Vs. ‘Reel’ Life

The nation continues to reel in the face of the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which at the time of this writing is still only a couple of weeks old. Surely there can be no experience more dreadful than to lose a child. To contemplate the senselessness of the events in Connecticut, however, provides special occasion for desperation and grief.

As a writer, I’m a major fan of the Constitution, and in particular the First Amendment. As professional expressers, writers have a special interest in free expression. One does not need to be a writer, however, to treasure the Constitution. Every American who likes to breathe free has a special interest in the fundamental laws underpinning our democracy.

If the tragedy at Newtown isn’t sufficiently soul-searing, we have also to suffer the predictable lamentations of the gun lobby, blaming everybody and everything other than our firearms-saturated society. Some readers of these words will ask: Since I’m so in love with the Constitution, why won’t I defend not only the First but also the Second Amendment?

In fact I do support that and all the other amendments, too. Some say the time has come to rewrite the Second Amendment; I vigorously disagree. What we need to do is merely reread it. Gun groups quoting the Second Amendment inevitably leave out the opening thirteen words: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state….” To assert that this limits gun-ownership rights to members of well regulated state militias is no mere interpretation; it’s what the document explicitly, expressly states.

Do those words serve no function? The writers of the Constitution did not waste words, and neither should screenwriters. Every word in a screenplay has to have a purpose, indeed, they all have the same purpose: advance the story.

If the authors of the Constitution did not mean to limit gun ownership to well regulated state militias, why did they open the Amendment with those words?

I heard a radio interview with a gun industry lobbyist who, when asked about outlawing military-style rapid-installation thirty-round ammo clips, stated that few gun owners use them anyway, since they tend to jam. If that’s true, why does he oppose their prohibition?

He went on to blame the Connecticut bloodbath not upon the proliferation of assault-style weaponry but—you could just hear it coming—violent video games and movies.

Aren’t Canadians (for example) subjected to the same media as Americans? What can explain the vastly lower rate of firearm deaths there other than the fact that our northern neighbor’s gun laws are far more restrictive?  Japan (another example) has media and video games that are even more violent than, and yet that nation experiences precious little gun violence. Can any reasonable person doubt that the explanation lies in the reduced availability of firearms?

Among the greatest dramatic narratives lies bloodlust and mayhem aplenty. Nobody gets hurt, however, because it is all pretense. Pundits need to pay closer attention to the differences between what is real and what is reel.

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