Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Guns in comics and film

I have run across some interesting articles about the themes for some popular new comics and films. The Archie comic series has been around for a long time. I loved Archie comics while growing up. The characters were all of us. There was a little romance, some shenanigans, typical teen life in American schools- or so we thought anyway. Back then I don't think I was aware of any agenda of the comic strip. This article reveals what is going to happen to the ever popular Archie character in the last of the series. From the article:
"None other! And unlike a lot of comics deaths, it looks like this one is going to stick, because the comic in which it's happening will be ending its run next month, publishing just one additional issue after Archie dies. (August's final issue will pick up one year after his death to examine how his friends and loved ones have moved on in the wake of his death.) Oh, sure, Archie will continue to live on in the myriad other titles in which he is a star, like the comic that bears his name or Betty and Veronica. But in at least one of those titles, Archie will die.
And he won't just die. He'll die because he took a bullet to protect his good friend, gay senator Kevin Keller, as part of a storyline that examines issues of gun control. Yes, we're a long way from the days when Al Hartley licensed the characters to spread the good news of Jesus Christ."
Who knew that that was the intent of the original comic strip? Another article announces the demise of Archie:
The 73-year-old red-headed character will die in Wednesday's installment of "Life with Archie" when he intervenes in an assassination attempt on senator Kevin Keller, Archie Comics' first openly gay character who is pushing for more gun control in Riverdale. Archie's death — but not the circumstances — was first announced in April and will mark the conclusion of the series that focuses on grown-up renditions of Archie and his pals.
"Not to be too grandiose, but this demise is a fitting and tonally perfect tribute to a character who has always put his friends first," said Chris Cummins, who writes about comic culture for DenOfGeek.us. "This is a publicity stunt for sure, but one with heart that will have permanent ramifications."
Archie's final moments will be detailed in "Life with Archie" No. 36, while issue No. 37 will jump forward a year and focus on Riverdale honoring the legacy of their freckle-faced pal, who first appeared in comics in 1941 and went on to become a colorful icon of Americana and wholesomeness. Other incarnations of Archie will continue to live on in other Archie Comics series.
Does art imitate life or the other way around? Is this plausible? We know that the socially charged issues of homosexuality, gay marriage and "gun control" are issues that have caused a lot of controversy. As gay marriage has become more acceptable and gay people in elected office are not the pariahs they once were, that issue is thankfully fading as a social issue for most Americans. The same cannot be said for the issue of guns and gun violence. The writers of Archie comics have decided to tackle some of these hot button issues head on:
“Every few years, we see a comic book tackling an issue that could be considered provocative,” said Dave Luebke, owner of Dave’s Comics in Richmond, Virginia. “It’s interesting that the ending of ‘Life with Archie’ involves multiple social issues, but it’s not surprising.” (Luebke sold his rare 1942 “Archie” No. 1 comic book in 2009 for $38,837 at a Dallas auction.)
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and several Archie fans praised Archie Comics’ decision to have the character sacrifice himself to save Kevin, who is depicted in “Life with Archie” as a married military veteran turned senator.
“In recent years, ‘Life with Archie’ has become one of the most unique books on the shelves by using its characters to address real world issues — from marriage equality to gun control — in a smart but accessible way,” said Matt Kane, GLAAD’s director of entertainment media. “Though the story is coming to a close, we look forward to seeing Kevin and Archie’s stories continue in their remaining titles.”
After the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school that took the lives of 20 first graders, nothing has been the same. The corporate gun lobby has fought against any reasonable measures to save the lives of the next 20 children. Since Sandy Hook, about 17,000 Americans have died from gun homicides. ( this number is only since Jan. 1st 2014. There are a little more than 11,000 gun homicides per year in America.) The majority of gun owners and most NRA members support background checks on all gun sales but the corporate gun lobby has managed to stop legislation in Congress and state houses all over America. Saving lives from senseless gun violence should not be controversial. This is about supporting measures to prevent the violence that is so devastating to families all over the country. I think we can all agree that no one wants to be shot nor do we want a family member to be shot. That is what this is about. But the corporate gun lobby has a way of fanning the flames of fear, paranoia and insurrection and making false accusations about what proposed laws actually mean. This really isn't about taking away guns and gun rights but some on the far right continue to believe that.

Just take a look at what NRA Facebook supporters are saying on the NRA's Facebook page. The ugly and offensive comments made by folks on this page are not those of the majority of gun owners. But they do represent a subset of the gun culture that actually believes that those in favor of sensible gun laws should be attacked or even killed. Or that is what they write. Is it possible that someone will actually be shot over this issue that is supported by 90% of Americans? It would be a terrible tragedy to say the least but it's something to think about for sure. So the fictional comic world is not so far from reality. A gay politician who supports "gun control" is a target and his friend takes a bullet for him. This is a possibility if you believe the comments by some of the gun extremists. Let's hope they are just "blowing smoke" and do not actually mean the words they write. But words have power and can incite violence. Truth can be stranger than fiction. And the question really needs to be, why do they feel so strongly and hateful about people who just want to stop the shootings?

But I digressed there for a minute. Sometimes going to the movies can get people to do some thinking about important issues. One example is "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes", showing in theaters this summer. There seems to be a theme to the movie about guns and gun violence prevention. From the article:
“You’ll hear instances where actors have said, ‘I won’t appear in a movie poster with guns,’ or directors will say, ‘I will never put a gun in my movie,’ but there certainly aren’t many examples where [blockbusters] tackle this head on,” Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told MTV News over the phone. “In this case, it very compellingly shows that before the gun was introduced, a fight was a fight. And now, when a gun is introduced, it has a much greater chance at turning lethal.”
Pretty crazy for a franchise that launched starring former N.R.A. spokesman Charlton Heston, no? (...) 
Now, the message here seems to be pretty loud and clear — so clear, in fact, that Variety said you’d have to be “pretty obtuse” to miss it. But “Dawn” screenwriter Mark Bomback has already tried to dispute the notion that the film is an allegory for the dangers of gun violence, telling The Daily News that Trojan-horseing a gun control message into the film would be a “narrow approach.”
“First, the issue of gun control involves lots of complicated reasons why that is or isn’t a good idea,” Bomback said. “This film takes place in a post-apocalypse in which there’s a different meaning behind guns… When an ape uses one in ‘Dawn,’ it’s the moment we see how ape society will ultimately evolve (in the ‘Planet of the Apes’ world) into a militaristic version of human society. The gun symbolizes human technology dedicated to violence. In that sense here, guns are like the serpent in Eden.”
However, Gross feels that the “Dawn” approach to violence is much healthier when it comes to actually tackling the murky, hot button issue that is gun control.
“I don’t think condemning [all guns] is a healthy place to go with the conversation,” Gross said. “I think realistic is a much more healthy place. They’re not saying all guns are bad, they’re saying that guns make situations more dangerous.”
And Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence also comments on the film in this article:
One particularly powerful scene that is eerily reminiscent of real life gun culture occurs early on in the film, when a human fires a gun at a teenage ape. The ape poses little to no threat to this character, but the man’s fear is very real — so instead of asking questions, he lets his paranoia take over and stands his ground. According to Everitt, this “shoot first, ask later” mentality, and the laws that okay it, is exactly the kind of thing that movies should be questioning.
“There’s a lot of kids in other democracies watching the same movies, and they don’t have the same levels of gun violence,” he said, adding that studies have revealed that holding a gun can heighten levels of paranoia and aggression. “That begins to play into the message being used in this film, which is, when you introduce firearms into a situation, you’re more likely to have lethal outcomes.”
The entertainment industry often provokes messages about social issues that can be told in a way that real life can't. Even though we know that thousands of Americans are killed every year by bullets, depicting it as the end of the world as we know it makes the message more powerful. More from the article:
“Dawn” definitely doesn’t take as black-and-white a stance on gun violence as the original “Apes” did on nuclear weapons, but it seems like the point here is that the film is opening up a discussion. Because like it or not, history has already shown that Hollywood films can have just as much if not more of an affect on public conversation than the real life events that inspire them.
“Just like the original ‘Planet of the Apes’ might have been an important part of the conversation around the threat of nuclear war, our hope would be that this one can be an important part of the conversation around the dangers of unsafe access to guns,” Gross concluded.
In real life, families grieve loved ones who have been killed by bullets every day. The failure to deal with this national public health and safety epidemic is a blot on our nation's credibility. In America we have made it easy for just about anyone to access a gun. Most other democratized nations not at war have long ago decided that the killing of their citizens by other of their citizens is not acceptable and they will do whatever it takes to prevent senseless loss of life. It's part of the values held by an organized group of citizens that cares for the well being of their fellow citizens. We definitely need to have a national rational conversation about how we can best deal with our daily gun carnage. What we are doing now is clearly not working. I found this piece highlighting the volatile nature of our conversations about guns in America. From the article:
Boebert's gun is a symbol of that Western spirit. Rattlesnakes are a real thing out here, as are mountain lions, bears and coyotes. Man may be the most dangerous animal of all, however, and reading online comments about Boebert by people who've never met her makes you wonder about just how "civilized" our society is.
The ugly comments obscure the reality that while guns are a polarizing topic, there's a vast middle ground often drowned out by the extremes. The polarization obscures the fact that responsible gun owners don't want guns in the hands of crazy people or criminals.
There's a long, long distance between Boebert's Shooters and mass killings, and most certainly there's room for reasonable discussions about community safety. The attention given to the perfectly legal open carrying of firearms by responsible gun owners threatens to overshadow that discussion. Boebert doesn't want to see innocent people hurt by firearms. That's why she insists her staff gets training and undergoes background checks.
"I think the risk is that the extreme controversy that exists around open carry becomes portrayed as indicative of the kind of conversation most Americans want to have," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "It's not indicative of the kind of conversation most Americans want to have."
Most Americans are reasonable as are most gun owners. We need to find the place where we can come together to do what's best while respecting both sides of the issue. I believe that is possible but I am concerned about the distractions and the extremism out there. Dealing with the issue of guns and gun violence is volatile and in real life, can be dangerous. People kill other people by gun over small and large disagreements every day. Guns kill more people intentionally than any other method of homicide. We can do something about this if we are willing to challenge the current state of affairs. If you are interested in working on preventing senseless gun deaths, please join a group working on the issue and help get the message out that we will not tolerate the every day carnage caused by bullets.

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