Posts Tagged ‘gun violence’

Guns in America: Redefining Responsibility

February 7, 2013
I mean, THIS is the guy you want to hear about gun control?

I mean, THIS is the guy you want to hear about gun control?

And so before I turn back to my pop-culture strength (don’t think I haven’t noticed far more likes for my latest Read It and See It than for my gun control rants…), let me polish off my little suggestion on this important debate.

And so The Nerdy Blogger Dad Solutions to Gun Violence Act of 2013, as I’m sure the bill will come to be known, began with the ambitious proposal of mandating state or local police forces around the nation place two officers in every public school in the country.

Remember, it was the NRA itself that opened the door to this major initiative, and I’d have a hard time seeing even Wayne LaPierre arguing that there are any better “good guys with guns” than our own police.  But unless there’s a gun fairy that I am unaware of, we were going to need to pay these new cops.  To make this program an unfunded mandate would be unpalatable to liberals and conservatives alike.

But when we are filling these new police positions, what is it that we are paying them for?  To guard against the kind of horror we saw at Newtown, right?  Where a disturbed individual gained access to horribly destructive weapons that were legally in his mother’s collection.  If that is the case, then what we are paying for is the responsibility we have as a society for our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.

There's no Effing guarantee.  Come on, sing it with me!

There’s no Effing guarantee. Come on, sing it with me!

Freedom, my friends, isn’t free.

And that’s the potentially uncomfortable new prism of responsibility that I think those who support and participate in our armed society need to wrap their heads around.  The responsibilities of a gun owner don’t stop at keeping their weapons under lock-and-key.  They extend to the dangers as a whole that an armed society present as a whole.  The “legal” vs. “illegal” guns is a moot point, as virtually all the weapons in our society were produced legally and then over time through insufficient registration and background checks filtered into the black market.  It is simply yet another price we pay for our right to bear arms.

And so in order to pay for this program, I go back to the brilliant idea that my wife proposed: treat guns like we do another dangerous but legal commodity—cigarettes. For much like the smoker who may never fall ill still has to pay the taxes that go to help ameliorate the damage cigarettes do to society as a whole, so too would responsible gun owners be contributing to mitigate the larger costs of gun violence.

But guns are a different animal insofar as the fact that once a cigarette is smoked, it no longer poses a continued danger to society.  I therefore suggest not a sales tax on guns, but an annual fee on all guns owned, tiered by that weapon’s destructive capacity.  So if you want the right to have that AR-15 in your collection, you need to pay for the heavy price society has to pay when weapons of that type fall into the wrong hands.

Of course, the stickers will need to be a little smaller.

Of course, the stickers will need to be a little smaller.

This would, of course, mean, that all gun sales and transfers, whether they be at gun shows, between brothers—you name it—would have to be reported and registered, as you need to know who has the gun to know who gets the bill.  And so I have little doubt that there are some gun owners out there that would be uncomfortable with having to tell the government which guns it has (though there really is no reasonable argument that it would be unconstitutional).  But if we have to register our cars, tell me why again we shouldn’t have to do the same for our guns?  Back to that public sentiment thing, a recent poll suggested that more than three quarters of Americans thought that gun registration was a good idea (and this one was even taken before Newtown).

Of course, this system could get gamed, but it would provide some financial disincentive for just trading guns around like playing cards, and progressively so for the most dangerous weapons available.  It would also make guns something that isn’t a “one-and-done” purchase.  Every year there would be a chance for a family to weigh to the costs and benefits of having a gun or guns in their home.

I admit that many demons will gnaw their way forth with details.  But for those who would chafe at a police mandate, I wouldn’t mind if states or localities are granted opt-out power to use the funds that would go for police instead be spent on other gun violence reduction initiatives from buy-back programs to rebates for smart gun purchases to education campaigns for gun safety. And for those who don’t like the fact that their guns are being taxed when they don’t pose a danger, I could see deductions for storing weapons at secure facilities rather than in the home.

Maybe it can work both ways.

Maybe it can work both ways.

I also admit this is NOT the ultimate solution to gun violence in America. But what we have seen with cigarettes is that by taxing them and using that money to help highlight their danger, it has provided a societal counterbalance to the “smoking is cool” notion that prevailed in previous generations.  This in turn has led to progress in curbing smoking despite the fact there are no intentions on making it illegal.

So instead this proposal is a way to reframe the conversation we are having about guns.  There are no convincing statistics that say that an increasingly armed society is increasingly safe.  Indeed, most convincing statistics say just the opposite. But if we put more cops in schools, and redefine responsible gun ownership as not just an individual responsibility, but a societal one that honesty portrays the burdens of these weapons alongside the rights, perhaps we can push past this rhetorical impasse and pull together reasonable people toward common sense solutions.

And that, to me, is the conversation worth having.

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Guns in America—An Uncomfortable Proposal

February 1, 2013
Always comfortable cooking with my wise and beautiful Aunt.

Always comfortable cooking with my wise and beautiful Aunt.

A good three decades ago, my Aunt Libby was having a conversation with her teenage stepson who had anger management issues.  She told him that while he may not feel good being angry, he felt “comfortable” there.  It didn’t help him.  Indeed it hurt him.  But it was the place he felt familiar and safe.  So being angry was his default switch.  Unlike some people, he had to actually work, to move outside a place he felt comfortable, to be happy.

If we as a nation genuinely want progress on gun violence, I believe we have to get uncomfortable, too.  For those of us who are advocates of gun control, it’s very easy to sit down and watch John Stewart make mincemeat out of the rampant hypocrisy of political gun advocates.  It makes us feel right, justified, and like the other side is just a bunch of deluded idiots for opposing some common-sense measures to curb gun violence.  It makes us feel comfortable.

Hilarious, but helpful?

Hilarious, but helpful?

And for reactionaries like Wayne LaPierre (and note I do NOT put most gun owners in this category, but LaPierre is the public voice of the gun lobby pushing on policy), it is comfortable to fall back on the comforts of “an armed society is a polite society” and fire copies of the 2nd Amendment out of AR-15 rifles.  It’s the old, comfy sweater of the gun violence debate.

And, having been in on this debate when it flared in the 1990s, I’m having a hard time seeing how this is going to play out any differently if we all stay in our comfort zones.  For, as I said in my Newtown post, let’s face it, we who dislike guns have neither the right, nor the numbers, to impress our vision of a gun-free America on our nation. But the same holds true for those who believe an armed society is a polite society. But as long as that’s the argument we’re having, all that will happen is nothing. And nothing simply isn’t good enough.

And so, Mr. LaPierre, let’s talk about armed guards in schools.

Not exactly my idea of an inviting learning environment.

Not exactly my idea of an inviting learning environment.

Well, I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of that particular idea.  The notion of hiring some private security to stand guard over the school sounds militaristic.  A school is the microcosm of a community, not a place of business.  Our kids are young people wanting to feel safe, not money in the bank to be shielded by intimidating guys with assault rifles.  But, wait, isn’t there some kind of community service that provides the public protection?  Oh, yeah, right.  The police.

Those police were right out in front of my little guy’s elementary school the Monday after Newtown.  I had told both my fellas about what had happened, so Gunnar understood why the police were there.  How did he feel about it?  He thought they were “cool.”  The officer was giving all the kids high-fives and exchanging pleasant hellos with parents.  It didn’t feel like overkill to me.  It felt like a community coming together to protect its kids.

And my big guy had a similar experience with the police officer that’s assigned to his middle school.  One day in the hall, he and a friend witnessed one of the school bullies attack another student.  The kid pushed the victim against a locker, where he slammed his head and fell, apparently unconscious.  They were both a little scared to tell anyone, but bucked up the courage because there was a person whose sole purpose was to protect the kids, and one who had the legal authority to do it—the school police officer.  According to my son, the officer reacted quickly, apprehending the attacker, assessing the victim, and clearing the hallway.  Frankly, with all of the work that teachers and administrators have to do in order to keep a school running, I find it heartening and helpful that the police have resources like this committed to our kids.

Yeah, a little idyllic, but definitely better than the other guy.

Yeah, a little idyllic, but definitely better than the other guy.

And so, I propose that we mandate that each public school around the country have not one, but two police officers patrolling it at all times there are children present (this includes afterschool activities and if the school is being used for evening youth activities as well).  I say two, not just one, as given we are reacting specifically to the Newtown incident, two officers in separate portions of the school would be far more difficult for an assailant to neutralize quickly than just one might be.

From my experience, a police presence at school is something that can not only benefit the students, but the police as well.  It gives officers more of a visible and positive link with the community.  It reinforces their role as trusted protectors rather than those people who hide in the bushes and give us speeding tickets.  And given there has been historically more police presence in schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods around the nation, universalization could give the practice a little less of a stigma (and a little less fiscal pressure).

“But Scott,” you might be asking, “Even if you’re right and police in schools provide kids with more protection, how in the world is it going to solve the problem of gun violence?  Isn’t this just giving the NRA what they want—more guns?”  That’s a great point, and if the proposal ended there, I’d probably be among the first in line to protest it.  More than that, it seems entirely counter-intuitive, entirely uncomfortable to cede power to the NRA at a time when, at the moment, the forces for gun control appear to be winning the national argument.

Mike Thompson, Detroit Free Press

Mike Thompson, Detroit Free Press

But in Conflict Partnership terms, sometimes you need to give up power in order to get power in return.  Because whether it is armed guards or more cops in schools, such a proposal comes with a hefty price tag.  And it’s not like building a fence or installing an alarm—this is an ongoing and significant expense.  And so the NRA, normally a “don’t tread on me” kind of gang, is calling for a pretty massive new program that, in some way or form, the government needs to be involved, as it’s providing a public service.  And in a fiscal environment where states and localities are struggling to pay even for current services, asking for such a major new commitment isn’t realistic…unless you find a way to find new money to pay for the responsibilities of our right to bear arms.

And that’s where the conversation may get a little uncomfortable for the NRA.

Next: The payment plan that puts new perspective on guns.

Guns in America—We’re Digging in the Wrong Place

January 31, 2013
"Asps.  Very dangerous.  You go first."

“Asps. Very dangerous. You go first.”

“They’re digging in the wrong place,” Sallah and Indy said, noting that even though the Nazis have all the equipment and manpower they need to find the ark of the covenant, because they don’t know the actual location, they’d never find it no matter how much they dug.

I believe that’s exactly where we now stand with the issue of gun violence in America.

Yes, I know the statistics about guns; homicides, suicides, and accidents involving firearms dwarf incidents of self-defense.  Yes, I am moved by the heroic testimony of Gabby Giffords on Capitol Hill and the touching words of Mark and Jackie Barden, parents of Sandy Hook victim Daniel.  Yes, I am disgusted by the intransigence, bullying, and hypocrisy of Wayne LaPierre.  Indeed, I was a part of this very debate back in the 1990s, working on the international ramifications of America’s lax gun laws.

Yet while I am heartened that we are mining our collective souls once again now that the oft buried costs of an armed society have been so savagely exhumed, I am more convinced than ever that we are digging in the wrong place.

What convinced me of this fact was the irony of back-to-back memes that popped up on my Facebook news feed seemingly arguing with each other despite the fact that these two friends of mine aren’t at all acquainted:

Gun Control MemesTo me, these two pictures paint a clear picture as to the problem—the two sides of the debate are simply, once again, talking past each other.  Indeed, Vice President Biden’s meeting with the gun lobby was by all accounts a perfunctory one at best—an honest drawing of the battle lines now that the front had shifted so suddenly, so tragically, in the direction of gun control advocates.

As one who spent 20 years lobbying and organizing on issues such as this one, I understand the temptation to press an advantage when it arises.  Spikes in gas prices help make the point for better fuel economy.  Attacks on U.S. soldiers by enemies armed with U.S. weapons make the point for a Code of Conduct on international arms sales.  Been there, done that.

But here’s the problem that my two friends’ memes demonstrate so well.  While the majority of Americans are now in favor of sensible gun control laws (including many NRA members) the majority of Americans are also in favor of placing armed security at schools (including many who don’t own guns).  And so the rhetorical and policy battle becomes not a discussion on common ground, but the two sides staking out positions that have public support, but not the support of the other side.  By focusing simply on their perception of what is right, both sides doom us to more division, more failure, and more partisanship.

In Conflict Partnership terms, this is classic “Power Over.”  You find the position of which you are at greatest advantage and attempt to leverage it to the hilt.  In electoral circumstances, I understand the need to focus on that strategy as there really is a winner and loser and the loser goes home.  But when you are trying to make real change, Power Over tends to create at best short-term gains with long-lasting negative ramifications.  Indeed it has been just this “I just need to convince enough people I’m right to shove those I believe wrong out of the way” philosophy that has Congress polling below cockroaches in popularity.

Perhaps gun control advocates are able to push their way into a significant enough majority to finally get some common-sense gun laws on the books, but I’m dubious.  What makes me far more upset, however, is that the fight we are having does nothing to bridge the gap that when you strip away lobbyists and policy makers, may not really be much of a gap at all.  Perhaps it’s really that we’re just having the wrong argument.

From the web shooter of babes

From the web shooter of babes

To make a real change, I believe President Obama should look to his past—his nerdy, nerdy past.  As we know, the President’s all-time favorite Super Hero is Spider Man (something we share other than going to Occidental College).  And Peter Parker’s guiding philosophy came to him from his Uncle Ben:

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

There is very little I can think of that this axiom applies to more than guns.  But the conversation we have over and over again is about “rights vs. responsibilities.”  Instead, perhaps what we need is to talk about “rights and responsibilities.”

This, to me is where we could begin our conversation anew, and actually begin it with the topic that got it started in the first place—keeping our children safe.  And it could start exactly where the NRA has its power, on security in schools.  For if the right to bear arms needs to be balanced with the responsibility we have to our children, then, yes, I find myself with the majority that say increased security is a good idea.

I also believe that if we begin digging there, where the NRA put the big, red “X”, we just might be able to begin having a very different conversation about guns in our society.  It’s one that both sides of the debate may be a little more uncomfortable with.  But in this case, uncomfortable is good.  I’ll explain about what I mean in my next post.

New Year and Newtown

January 8, 2013

newtown-memorial-ribbon4-300x300Happy New Year everyone.  I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but that’s not for lack of writing.  Yes, most of my time has been spent trying to whip my book into enough shape that an agent might be interested, but a lot of it as spent writing endless drafts for a post about Newtown.  I mean, if there ever was an event that a blog like this should weigh in on, it’s this one.

This is actually my fifth attempt, as I often found myself arguing endlessly with…myself.  And I don’t think I’m alone in that.  So even with the operative element of blogging being to be in the moment and to write what you think, I felt a need to hold back until I had something coherent to say.  Here’s my best effort:

He was a stranger, walking into an elementary school. Carrying a large basket covered with a brown cloth so as to hide its contents, he tried the front door to find it locked.  He simply pushed a button, and within seconds a low-pitched droning indicated that the school was open for him, no questions asked.  A teacher even held the door open for him as he entered the principal’s office.

From there, he marched straight into a Kindergarten class, and placed his basket on the floor.  He uncovered its contents, and removed a black mask.   “Is this going to be scary?” a little girl asked innocently.   The man pulled the mask over his face, removed a weapon from his basket, and began…

The stranger?  Me.  The school?  My nephew’s.  The basket?  Filled with props, inclusive of a foam sword and a black Darth Vader mask for my annual rendition of “Chanukkah Wars”—the holiday story told with a Lucasian bent.  All done right around the same time that the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown was happening.

That feeling of walking in some kind of mirror universe side-by-side with a killer is something I simply have not been able to shake.  There I was, standing in front of 30 wide-eyed 5 and 6 year olds, sharing what I believe is all the best that American culture has to offer; the curiosity and openness to learn about the traditions of people who are not exactly like yourself wrapped up in the package of imaginative icons that our pop culture that has made us such a profound influence all over the world.  As the Vader mask-clad evil Lord Antiochus battled the inflatable hammer-armed Judah Maccabee, and unleashed the Death Star of the ancient world, a horde of what turned out to be very ticklish battle elephants, the kids yelled, squealed, laughed, and learned.

At that very same time, kids that same age were yelling and squealing…and dying…as they were confronted by the very worst that American culture has to offer.  A society where it is easier to buy a gun than to receive adequate mental care.  Where guns are not seen as a dangerous tool, but celebrated and enshrined as something sacred.  And the pervasive danger of these guns in our society is so highly politicized that we end up ignoring the problem, much to our peril.

Click to read the USA today article on the hundreds of children in the Chicago area alone who have been claimed by gun violence over the past few years.

Click to read the USA Today article on the hundreds of children in the Chicago area alone who have been claimed by gun violence over the past few years.

This ghosting in my mind’s eye of my steps with Adam Lanza’s haunts me like a shadow dancing at the corner of my peripheral vision.  And I think that’s where we have tried to keep the dark secret of violence in our society.  It is very easy to keep it there when the violence happens in a steady, unyielding trickle.  A little girl caught in a drive-by shooting (a gun is 22 times more likely to be used in a violent crime than in self-defense).  A tragic accident with a handgun in the house (a gun in the house is responsible for the vast majority of accidental child shootings).  An abused wife meeting a violent end (an abused woman is 6 times more likely to be killed if there is a gun in the home).  It is a deadly blind spot in the American psyche.

Now, you might expect me to go on and jump in with the ocean pressing for new, tough gun control laws.  Instead, I want to tell you that when I first thought about what we could do to keep our children safe from gun violence, my first thought turned to pretty much exactly what Wayne LaPierre, chairman of the National Rifle Association, has now suggested; except my proposal was even stronger than his “armed guard in every school” idea.  I proposed that we have at least two police officers in every public should in the country, as only one makes it too easy for a madman to eliminate the children’s only line of defense.

For those of you who have read some of my posts, this might come as something of a surprise to you.  Indeed, I’ve surprised myself when I’ve found myself on the other side of the debate with many of my friends who immediately took La Pierre to task for blaming everything in society EXCEPT for guns as a cause of this tragedy. But, while I find the sentiments and tone of the NRA and La Pierre’s comments abhorrent, I cannot get over that feeling of disquieting ease that I had as a stranger gaining access with a basket of who-knows-what into my nephew’s school.  This is why as people saw LaPierre’s comments as typical NRA evasion, I saw it as an opportunity.

Here, for the first time since I can remember, the organization that was really the model for Tea Party anti-regulatory reactionary attitudes was actually suggesting a massive increase in government involvement in our society.  Much as Bill Clinton so masterfully took opposing issues and used the as a springboard for his agenda (think Welfare reform), I think those who want to see real change should take LaPierre up on his offer.  Indeed, if you believe in serious gun control, I think you may have to.  For while I am hopeful that Vice President Biden’s task force on gun violence may come up with some great ideas to tackle this issue, I am concerned that in the effort to appeal to “all sides” we end up setting up the same circle of spin we’ve been left with time and time again.  Sometimes, it’s important to know when to give up power in order to get to your goal.

Perhaps instead of thinking about cigarettes as weapons, it's time to think about guns as cigarettes.

Perhaps in addition to stigmatizing cigarettes as weapons like this ad from The Truth campaign, it’s time to think about guns as cigarettes–a dangerous addiction that we have no intention of making illegal.

I think this could very well be one of those times. In the great “give and take” that, when it functions correctly, makes American society work so well, I think the more police in schools should go right along with the great idea my wife put forth.  To pay for the program, we would institute an annual federal license fee on gun owners. We have tremendous precedent for such a solution.  We tax the hell out of cigarettes and put the money in for healthcare and anti-smoking programs.  If you want the right to smoke, you have the responsibility to pay for the damage smoking does to not only yourself, but to society.  If you want a gun, the same criteria should apply. Seems like a very analogous solution and a step—yes, only a step—in the right direction.

So rather than decry Mr. LaPierre’s idiotic language, I’d love to see Obama call his bluff and propose this as a part of the solution. Because, let’s face it, we who dislike guns have neither the right, nor the numbers, to impress our vision of a gun-free America on our nation. But the same holds true for those who believe an armed society is a polite society. But as long as that’s the argument we’re having, all that will happen is nothing. And nothing simply isn’t good enough.

Is This Knight Simply Too Dark?

July 30, 2012

I’ve been waiting a while to write anything about The Dark Knight Rises and the tragedy in Colorado, simply because I wasn’t sure if I had anything productive to add to the conversation despite this being in my topical wheelhouse.  Indeed, this great piece from The Onion really encapsulated my intense frustration at the fact that the hyper-political histrionics around the sacrosanct status of the great and glorious gun in our society makes it impossible to have a civil conversation about it.

Those darned scientists trying to infringe on my freedom!

I guess all I have to say to the conversation around guns in light of what happened is around the ridiculous “slippery slope” argument.  Decrying sensible measures to make guns in our society safer (mandatory safety locks, tracking bulk ammo sales, assault weapons ban, barring straw purchases) as a back door effort to “take my guns away” is akin to saying that mandatory seat belts and air bags is obviously a path toward the government trying to ban the automobile.  The vast majority of we who do not like guns get the fact that many good, upstanding Americans do like them, and consider them an asset.  I strongly disagree, but respect the fact that I am in the minority in this country.  So can we just get past the “cold, dead hand” crap and have an honest conversation about how we can just make these things safer? I really wish we could.

Now let me pivot and leap into the cultural abyss here, as of all the pieces I’ve read on all this, Peggy Noonan’s piece in the Wall Street Journal is to me the most provocative.  In it, she makes an interesting case for Hollywood’s cultural demise putting Batman front-and-center:

Did “The Dark Knight Rises” cause the Aurora shootings? No, of course not. One movie doesn’t have that kind of power, and we don’t even know if the shooter had seen it. But a million violent movies have the cumulative power to desensitize and destabilize, to make things worse, and that’s what we’ve been seeing the past quarter century or so, the million movies. Each ups the ante in terms of carnage. Remember Jack Nicholson’s Joker, from 1989? He was a garish, comic figure and he made people laugh. He was a little like Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook in the old TV version of “Peter Pan.” You knew he wasn’t “real.” He was meant to amuse.

Compare that with Heath Ledger’s Joker in 2008’s “The Dark Night.” That Joker was pure evil, howling and demonic, frightening to see and hear. If you know what darkness is, you couldn’t watch that Joker and not be afraid. He looked like the man who opens the door when you get off the elevator to enter Hell; he looked like the guy holding the red velvet rope. That character was so dark, and so powerful, he destabilized the gifted actor who played him. Ledger died of a drug overdose six months before the movie opened.

Hard to argue with Noonan’s description

Okay, so let’s dismiss the irrelevant and unsupported claim about TDK’s Joker being part of Heath Ledger’s demise.  Noonan makes a great relation on the two iterations of Batman’s most iconic enemy.  For while I recently allowed Gus to watch Batman Begins, as desperate as he is to see the sequel, I said that he’d need to be at least 13 before I even considered letting him watch the Bat battle the Clown Prince of Crime.  Indeed, while I believe TDK is a fantastic movie, it is so incredibly dark that I still believe it merited an R-rating.  I would personally rather my son see a movie like Jaws at his age, as what makes something adult is not just about the body count or the blood.  To me, more importantly, it is about the underlying psychology of where that blood fits in.

My plan is actually to allow Gus to see Dark Knight Rises in a year or two and skip over the second film.  Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is really two stories with a middle chapter which doesn’t have all that much to do with the book-ends.  The villains’ intent, motivation, and execution in films 1 and 3 are intertwined, and while the scenery is more realistic and intense than you see in most Super Hero films, both are still very big and broad action films at their center.  Destroy Gotham.  Big, strong villain in a rather goofy mask doing dastardly things.  Hero comes in to save millions.  Been there, done that.  Frankly, I thought Noonan’s reaction to TDKR is more a hangover from film 2, which is, indeed, a different animal.

Ledger’s Joker is to the Super Hero genre what Jigsaw is to Horror.  As the Saw films started a trend in horror toward the “torture porn” films from the more over-the-top slashers like the Jason Voorhees’ and Freddy Krueger’s I grew up with.  It turned the violence from silly to celebratory; from an cathartic romp with the Id into a vivid guidebook down the inky pit of our own souls.  To me, Saw and its copy-cats crossed a very real line.

Nolan did the same thing with his Joker—making The Dark Knight more of a noir, psychological thriller like Se7en than it was like Batman Begins.  It was a fascinating premise and really the Joker at his most frightening, pulled from comic classics like the Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke.  How do you handle a villain who’s only motivation is, as Alfred says “to watch the world burn”?  It was a brilliant and terrible walk down a morally ambiguous path.  And, as Noonan points out, the more realistic flavor of the madness could feed the motivation to those souls where the darkness is already seeping in.

I feel like Noonan is overplaying her hand a bit, as the incidents like those in Colorado are sporadic and, frankly, pale in comparison with gun deaths by suicide, drug-related homicides, or accidental shootings as we consider which cultural issues are of priority to tackle even within the sub-category of gun violence.  And within the Super Hero genre, for every Joker, we have a Red Skull, Loki, and Lex Luthor that are played purely for the same kind of campy, diabolical fun as Ming the Merciless was generations ago.

But I do think it merits consideration for Hollywood and the MPAA, not to mention the video game industry, to put a new prism on evaluating the content not just for the events as they transpire on the screen, but the context.  Because just because the blood doesn’t splatter, that doesn’t automatically make the violence “harmless.”  For films, games, and TV shows–especially the Super Hero (and Super Villain) genre—really do have the power to tap into the American psyche, for good or for ill, like no other.

And, I think I’ve read somewhere, that with great power comes great responsibility.