Stop Engaging with False Mass Shooting Narratives

Focus on what’s real

If you will permit me, I would like to start with some quotes.

“Why not place the blame where it belongs? The breakdown of the traditional American family.”

“It’s not a gun problem. It’s a parenting problem.”

“Mental illness and hate pull the trigger, not the gun.”

“ These video games that dehumanize individuals to have a game of shooting individuals and others — I’ve always felt that is a problem for future generations and others.”

These are talking points espoused by conservative loudhailers after the most recent mass shootings in the US. Feel free to recycle them when the next one comes along.

It’s not the right time to talk about gun control, we’re told. Those who do are accused of the dreaded “political point-scoring” or of “playing politics” — as if gun control in America is somehow not a political issue.

Weeks and months later, when you would think the dust has settled and it is time to talk about it, it’s too late. The news cycle has moved on — first thoughts, then prayers, then absolutely nothing.

At least, until the next mass shooting, when the cycle begins again. And rest assured, you won’t have to wait long.

Listen to most politicians after a mass shooting and you’d be forgiven for thinking the murder weapon was anything other than a gun.

Those politicians in the pockets of the NRA (or otherwise too cowardly to take on the pro-gun lobby) blame anything but America’s easy access to powerful killing machines for the tragedy.

“It’s a mental health issue.”

“It’s a parenting problem.”

“It’s violent video games.”


It’s a gun problem.

Suggesting that those with mental illness are all would-be mass murderers is demeaning and insulting.

Other countries have violent video games. Other countries don’t have hundreds of mass shootings per year.

Other countries also have neglectful, violent parents. Again, other countries don’t have hundreds of mass shootings per year.

You get the idea.

But hey, let’s play along just for a moment. Let’s imagine these shooters aren’t white supremacist terrorists who can pick up an AK-47 with the ease with which I can pick up a pint of milk.

Let’s imagine, instead, that they are the damaged offspring of neglectful parents, radicalised by Call Of Duty — wouldn’t it still make sense to make guns unavailable (or at least much harder to access), in that scenario?

The non-gun-related “problems” that the talking heads bring up are just distractions from the real issue. But we treat them as though they are real.

I’m not just talking about Fox News and the like, parroting the President’s talking points. Serious news outlets also pretend that these “issues” are worth proper debate.

After the latest two — two! — shootings across one weekend, you can’t move for essays and think pieces with titles like:

“Does America have a violent video game problem?”

The answer is no (people in South Korea and Japan buy more video games than Americans, they aren’t opening fire on each other) and most of these articles reach that conclusion.

But the conclusion isn’t the point.

Even discussing such ridiculousness gives the idea a veneer of respectability. The “violent video game” theory becomes a talking point — even though it has no real merit. Another thing to discuss that isn’t gun control.

Imagine if well-respected newspapers and websites did this with everything. Imagine if they devoted time and energy to every crackpot, easily disprovable theory.

Would our newspapers ask if the earth is flat?

Would the nightly news ponder the existence of an elite group of shape-shifting lizards in control of world events?

It’s ludicrous. And yet it happens whenever there’s a mass shooting. Someone jabs a microphone in front of a know-nothing lawmaker (or they get on Facebook, or Twitter) and all of a sudden we aren’t talking about gun control, we’re asking if rap lyrics are too violent or if Instagram is to blame, or pretending the rest of the world doesn’t have video games.

And before we know it, the news cycle moves on.

The solution is easy. We need to stop entertaining these theories. Don’t discuss them — even to dismiss them. Keep talking about what matters. Keep pushing for gun control.

People’s lives depend on it.

Thanks for reading! Keep in touch on Facebook or Twitter, or join the mailing list.

David is an author and freelance writer. He has two short story collections available, and his non-fiction work has appeared on The Mighty, WhatCulture and Just Football, among others.

Navigating parenting with a disability and trying to write a novel. Email:

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