Why The Media Is to Blame for Lax Gun Control Laws


Photo by Roman Kraft | Unsplash

I am a 46-year resident of Highland Park, Illinois.  My eyes and ears laid witnesses to the horrific events that occurred in our town on Independence Day earlier this month.  I also wrote about it for Smerconish.com, for our local outlet of the Nationwide Patch, and for a guest columnist feature in The Orlando Sentinel on July 14, titled, “Amid Horror of Highland Park Massacre, a Plea for Gun Legislation/Commentary”.  I also have corresponding photos of the event which were later turned over to law enforcement authorities. Consequently, I have more than ample credibility and familiarity with what I am about to pen.   

In my writings, I described what I had heard, but particularly what I had seen. I used the words, “massacre”, “bloodbath”, and even sentences like “…I saw blood on the sidewalk and those injured with blood on their arms and legs.  The three adults on the ground were the most nauseating, motionless and askew, covered in blood.”  Additionally, “Then I saw a young boy motionless in the arms of his parents, one yelling out incessantly for a medic.”  This was probably the child who was paralyzed from the waist down from a bullet to his abdomen or chest.  No doubt, we have all heard countless such words to describe the carnage left by what an assault weapon can and has done to innocent, unsuspecting human bodies, with over 310 such mass killings this year alone.  Though, what has our government produced legislatively?  Nothing. We saw nothing but new tragedies over the last couple of decades since Columbine, except for some “milk toast” gun control legislation passed into federal law in recent days.

On July 20, 2022, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Illinois’s Senior Senator and Senate Majority whip, Dick Durbin, held yet another hearing on gun violence, including the mayor of my town as one of the panel-member witnesses  Later, on CNN, she described her experience, noting that before she spoke, Republican(s) on the committee had already departed.

On this occasion, I created a word that, to my knowledge, is not in any dictionary: “Jelloesque”- meaning there is a lot of “wiggling”, viz, advocating, and supporting stricter gun control legislation (as the mayor and the other witnesses endorsed on July 20), but not convincing enough for senators in red states to enact any gun law as effective as the one Congress passed into law in 1994.  As we know, it only lasted 10 years, during which time mass killings and gun violence were significantly reduced.

So, what is left to do?  Talk more? Write more? Waste words?  Not ideal. Have more legislative hearings?  That’s a waste of time. Sign into law creative solutions like California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, did last week, providing a minimum $10,000 award to residents who successfully sue makers of illegal guns? That is only state-based subject to legal challenges that will take months to adjudicate, and without uniformity across all state borders which is what is required.

Although sickening, nauseating, and gut-wrenching to view, what’s left is to show all the actual carnage of those killed and injured (with the victims’ identities redacted of course).  After all, media outlets are more than willing to show the same level of carnage resulting from the same type of weaponry during their reports on war and combat zones like Ukraine, and before that, Afghanistan, Iraq, and even long ago in Vietnam. However, outlets are afraid to show those needlessly gunned down throughout America.  Undoubtedly, the media has standards that will not allow graphic images of victims in mass shootings from an AR-style weapon to be shown on air or in print—as has been my experience— yet, once more, are more than willing to display the same human demise and injuries in lands outside our borders.  Why are there two different standards applied to the same human suffering?

Even before Congress, on July 20, the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, spoke of the lives lost in her country using photographic evidence in tow. Comparably, in the penalty phase of the trial for the convicted defendant, Nikolas Cruz, who took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the jury was allowed to see the graphic video of the shooting, despite the defense’s objection.

Words, prayers, and thoughts are sincere and heartfelt, but nothing but hollow expressions of human kindness and care to advance into law effective gun control measures. Showing blood to shock the conscience of those legislators (as well as their constituents and the general public) that look elsewhere for excuses besides enacting laws to ban assault-style firearms, limit high-capacity magazines, and beef up background checks is the only remaining option.  

It is simply fruitless to use words or descriptive adjectives, as I have, or as so many journalists have in their writings over an excruciatingly long period without results.  A picture tells 1,000 words, and if such graphics do not move Republicans into legislating, then we know that they prefer assault weapons over life. This, despite what they say, they find unobjectionable innocent Americans in civilian society being killed by weapons of war; translated, We the People must then act by voting them out of office.

So, to any reader that might have questioned the title of this piece, it should now be clear.

Miles J. Zaremski

A graduate of Case Law School in Cleveland, Miles Zaremski is the longest-serving chair of the American Bar Assoc.’s Standing Committee on Medical Professional Liability and a past president of the international organization, The American College of Legal Medicine.

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