“The Mass Killing Meme: What Can We Do?” Comments, Page 1

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  1. Mass shootings used to be less frequent, and mass school shootings unheard of. I see two problems here.

    The harder problem to address is deteriorating mental health in the United States. Family breakdown, rising diversity, geographic mobility, increasing downward social mobility, increased social isolation (ironically, due in part to the emergence of social media and cell phones), decreased participation in churches and other voluntary organizations, easier divorce laws, increasing cultural and racial diversity probably do not even comprise a complete list of factors contributing to an increase in the number of alienated individuals, who invariably seem to be social isolates or, more rarely, a small group of alienated social isolates who have formed a dangerous alliance of social misfits. No matter what kind of laws or regulations are created, such persons can always acquire lethal weapons of some kind if they want to vent their rage badly enough.

    The easier aspect to this problem involves the media. Many of these crimes strike me as copycat crimes by people who want to go out in a “blaze of glory,” at least a blaze of attention. Taking local tragedies and turning them into nation-wide news events sensationalized for the masses over the highly visual and dumbed-down medium of television is the perfect way to encourage copycat atrocities. This should be stopped. Confine television coverage to local broadcasts, and allow the larger society to learn of it only through the medium of print, and never on the front page. Ratings be damned. The Supreme Court has ruled consistently for three generations (since 1937) that the 10th amendment does not apply when it even potentially has an effect on interstate trade, however minor, so the first amendment guarantee of free speech can easily be regulated by the same reasoning. The legal precedent has already been set and repeatedly reaffirmed. Indeed, the subordination of our bill of rights to the interstate commerce clause is the legal basis for the majority of our federal civil rights legislation. The subordination of the inalienable “rights of man” or “human rights” to the regulation of commerce has been the American way since 1937, so why not apply it to reduced copycat mass shootings? It will probably be a lot more effective than banning particular kinds of weapons. After all, we did not dramatically reduce smoking by banning tobacco but by manipulating how it was portrayed in advertising and entertainment.

    Now, I know some people will raise the “slippery slope” objection, but the time for that argument was the 1930’s or the 1960’s. Unless we want to roll back the legal foundation for most of our federal-level civil rights legislation, that legal Rubicon has already been passed and the doorway to regulating the content of the mainstream media (which certainly does affect interstate commerce, and is part of that commerce) is wide open. Plus, we can argue for a “compelling state interest.”

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