On Sunday, October 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the Las Vegas strip killing 58 people and injuring 527 people before turning his firearm on himself, ending his rampage, but signaling the beginning of the fall-out that has followed.
The media, obliged to report the news unbiasedly, instead capitalized on a turn of phrase that has been burnt into the minds of Americans, effectively limiting the conversation from protecting Americans from mass acts of violence to a single idea – that more gun control is needed. That phrase, “This was the worst mass shooting in modern American history”, does not draw suspicion, because it smacks as being factually correct, but it forgoes solving the real problem, instead pushing a political agenda. There is a word for that – rhetoric.
First, limiting the time frame to “modern American history” ignores the remainder of American history; thereby excluding similar incidents, such as; the 1846 Sacramento River Massacres where Explorer John Fremont fired on the Wintu tribe, killing at least 120 men, women and children because he heard a rumor that the tribe may attack; the 1919 Elaine Massacre where in response to African American sharecroppers meeting with union leaders to discuss more equitable treatment by white plantation owners, the Sheriff led a group of white men to head off a rumored insurrection, shooting on sight reaching a death toll into the hundreds; or the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot where a white mob opened fire on one of the wealthiest African American communities hospitalizing over 800 people and killing as many as 300 people.
The media, by limiting their headlines to “modern American history” inherently excludes such examples as these that occurred prior to any enactment of gun control legislation thereby precluding from consideration the fact that the persistence of these crimes post gun control legislation means one simple thing – that gun control is simply ineffective in preventing these types of mass acts of violence.
Second, the term “mass shooting” ignores the other types of mass murder that has occurred. Such examples include the Jonestown Massacre in 1978 where cyanide poisoning caused 919 deaths, the 1995 Oklahoma Citing Bombing where 168 were killed and over 600 were injured from Timothy McVeigh’s misuse of fertilizer and a truck and most recently in New York City where a suspected terrorist using a rented truck plowed down a bike path, killing 8 people.
Therefore, considering these two limitations in media headlines and the effect of those limitations; one which limits factors to exclude those that would enable one to conclude the ineffectiveness of gun control legislation and the other that limits mass acts of violence to include only shootings – the logical conclusion is that the media’s turn of phrase is rhetoric meant not to prevent mass acts of violence, but to promote gun control.
Mitchell W. Kopacz
Gun Owners of New Hampshire