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January 14, 2011

The Economist Cover and the Giffords Shooting: All About Guns

(I)t is a big (and so far unjustified) leap to blame the woeful state of American political discourse for the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, a congresswoman, and the killing of six people in Tucson, Arizona, on January 8th (see article). Worse, by focusing on this issue, America is ignoring the real culprit: its gun laws. – From: The Blame Game. (The Economist)

KAL’s take, on the cover of The Economist, points to a single culprit in the Giffords shooting. It’s guns. The Brits obviously make a good point, calling out the large elephant in America’s room where the NRA otherwise rules the day. But is it all that simple?

A few questions about the drawing: Are there really two equivalent sides?  Are there other threads running through the issue that undermine the illustration, such as the threat of class warfare (and “white-on-white” violence) in the face of a gross and widening economic gap.  Does the difference in color and type between the two firearms tell us anything? And then, how much does the drawing actually contradict the Economist’s point — that harsh political discourse had nothing to do with the Gifford’s shooting — if guns can really replace tongues?

(illustration: KAL)

  • jmac

    The different gun colors suggest the issue is black and white. The conservative Supreme Court overturned precedent and original intent (a state’s right to stand up to a national army) and turned “the people” (collective) into an individual right, not a state’s right, and the issue now seems to be black and white. A million “well regulated” militias were born.

    The Columbine shooter used weapons obtained by a friend, from a ‘hobbyist’ in a gun show – no questions asked. The infamous ‘loophole’. Every Tom, Dick and mental patient Harry doesn’t have a right to own a gun.

    My side doesn’t fight with the intensity of the other side. One of the figures should have been a cowering wimp. THe Omaha school shooting in January of this year was preceded by 15 shootings at educational institutions in 2010. They barely made the news. Now that a Congresswoman and a judge have been shot, some are suggestions tighter Congressional protection. The 10-year old skipping rope in Harlem and the kids hurt in schools last year deserve just as much protection.

  • Stan B.

    Which are the two opposing sides aiming guns at eachother? Really- I want to know. There’s only one side that insists on the more guns the better, one side that insists that you’re not truly free until you own one, one side that insists that guns are what make us Americans. The cover should have one face, one gun- pointed at the reader.

  • Enoch Root

    The two sides illustrated seem to be extreme right-wingers and more moderate right-wingers. They are both, after all, pudgy white men with comb-overs.

    Only someone completely unfamiliar with American politics could perpetrate that cover illustration. Perhaps the article is equally ill-informed.

  • paulo

    They are ostensibly the same person. Despite the different clothing, it appears these are better this is a white middle class (suit jacket / cardigan) person.

    If you don’t assume a left/right divide, it could just as easily be read as “a house divided…”.

    I don’t know why different guns. Perhaps guns are so freely available it would be a most unlikely coincidence for two randomly produced guns to be the same make and model.

  • Lenox

    You see, over here in Europe we think that having guns, whether ’six-shooters’, semi-automatic rifles or indeed grenade-launchers, under the bed in a normal household is a bit peculiar. Many of us consider guns to be dangerous and gun-owners to be nuts. Yes, I know – it takes all sorts…

    • Brian

      Odd – you must be really freaked out by your Scandinavian neighbors, then.

    • black dog barking

      Read the entire article and you learn that if anyone is freaking out it is the Scandinavians. The last paragraph of the linked article:

      Norway comes in just behind Sweden on the list. But thanks to fears of gun crime and school shootings plus tough EU regulations, new laws throughout Scandinavia may make Europe’s wild north a thing of the past.


    • Brian

      That’s rather my point, isn’t it? Things may be changing, in the future. However, I’m pointing out how it is now. I’m wondering if Lenox is aware of how many Scandinavians are sleeping with military weaponry under the bed. If so, how odd does he find that?


    • me

      I prefer ood.

  • bresson

    Hard not to assume a left-right divide with figures facing off in profile, one pointed left and the other right. Despite the artistic talent on display, this is Bullshit Balance of the worst sort, an instance that goes way past laziness and approaches a level of disinformation bordering on the evil. In the heated political rhetoric of the last 10 years, both sides have carried offensive signs and both sides have committed minor acts of vandalism. But only one side has used gun violence (and the threat of gun violence) as a political weapon. And only one side has a leadership morally depraved enough to wink at it — when they’re not actively encouraging it.

    • Helen

      Absolutely. This is just pandering to the “b,b,but both sides are just as bad!” apologism for the conservative readership.

  • black dog barking

    The European view of American culture: red-faced graying white men yelling over one another. The guns? Guns are everywhere in our culture. TV and movies are filled to the brim with ‘em. American drama without a gun playing a fair-sized (but uncredited) role is a pretty rare bird.

    Imagine a mime, arms rigid in front of his body, hands clasped around an imaginary Glock, pretending to search an apartment, spinning rapidly into a doorway and scanning the room over the gun sight, signaling ‘All clear’, and moving on to the next room. Caption: an American searches for Truth, 2010.

    When was the last time someone said “Yankee ingenuity” in your presence? I used to hear it all the time.

  • bill

    Though not a particularly academic source, I believe Michael Moore’s movie about Columbine made the point that Canada (and perhaps other countries?) have gun laws just as “liberal” (?) as USA’s and yet their violence/murder rates are a fraction of ours. In other words, the problem is not our laws, but is deep inside us. And the current political discourse, and the GOP’s electoral strategies in general, are not going to help!

  • g

    Find me one – just one – example of a left-wing political leader advocating the shooting of a named opponent. Then I’ll believe this false equivalency.

  • Mayfly

    As the viewer faces the illustration, the gun on the right is a revolver. The gun on the left is an automatic.

    The revolver likely shoots no more than six bullets, one at a time.

    The automatic uses a clip, and can spew many more bullets. —-

    Here’s a riddle: two young men enter a gun shop. They are similar in appearance, both white, both dressed in jeans and tee-shirts. They are both marginally employed and looking for better jobs. They both live in a mid- to high-crime area and plan to buy a gun “for protection.”

    One young man buys a pistol that will shoot five or six rounds. The other young man insists on a pistol with a magazine of 15 to 40 rounds.

    Now I tell you that one of these young men is mentally disturbed and I’ll give you an even bet of $1,000. dollars that you can’t guess which one it is.

    Take the bet. It will be the guy who thinks he might need to kill a whole lot of people at once.

  • tinwoman

    The whole cover is a giant false equivalency fallacy; well, the Economist is a right-leaning magazine (very right wing in European terms) so I don’t expect better from them…they can hardly be expected to be honest about the American left.

    Note to journalists: both sides *aren’t* doing it.

  • Anuja

    The Economist is not only not honest about the American “left” (or what remains of it after all these decades of elite multiculturalism inflicted on the masses by upscale opinion engineers). The Economist is also clueless about what the Second Amendment means in the American system. It is the reboot button for our system of government, the insurance that our government representatives (representing US) will not forget who they work for, and take it into their heads to do things like they do in lovely Royal We Britain–like start banning tableware and butter knives in the name of “public safety.”

    One of the problems with the Second Amendment issue in general is that too many people are mouthing off who know nothing about firearms. In my view the “two different guns” was an attempt to generate some sort of street cred. Bogus at that. And disgustingly racist and sexist in its eagerness to cast the Second Amendment as “just a big mouthed white male issue.”

    Fact is, many of us who are armed in daily life are elders, disabled, queer, racial or ethnic or sexual minorities, atheists, Jews, pagans, liberals, radicals…the list goes on, and both the European left and the American left, as well as the Euro-Right, make us invisible for their own elitist reasons.

    In the US, I have the ability as an Indian Muslim woman to say NO to the culture my family foisted on me. I can make it stick. My NO has lethal force behind it, standing up the lethal force that my family would use in Britain to force me into sharia law, and life in a bag. In India I would not have any power to say no to this.

    That is what the US and its Constitution is about: giving people the freedom to liberate ourselves personally and culturally in whatever ways we see fit. In the US, my no means NO. And just because a handful of idiots abuse that right is no reason to dump the Second Amendment, or to caricature law abiding firearms ownership and use. Any more than abuse of the First Amendment–say by corporate and mainstream media whipping up obnoxious behavior and irresponsible discourse–is any reason to suspend that right.

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