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December 31, 2012

Celebrities Who Demand Gun Bans Sure Seem To Celebrate Gun Violence In Their Movies A Whole Heck of a Lot


I saw this video last week but wasn't sure what to make of it. The short film here, ridiculing celebrities for pronouncing on gun control while romanticizing gun violence in movies, seemed to be making the same mistake the celebrities were.

That problem is precrime.

I think our society -- any society -- goes off the rails badly when it stops criminalizing criminal acts and instead dabbles in a precrime regime, seeking to criminalize non-blameworthy behavior on the theory that such behavior, while not harmful to others directly, is indirectly harmful, or is a "root cause" of the ultimately blameworthy behavior.

Making murder by gun a crime is perfectly reasonable. So is making it an extra felony to carry a gun during the commission of a crime.

But actually just owning a gun?

The theory these Big Thinkers work under is that "the crime couldn't happen but for the gun," so they want to eliminate the gun, and not just remove it from the criminal's hand, but to remove it generally, from existence.

But this is a horrible response for two reasons: First, criminals are defined as ignoring the law generally so they really don't care if you make a gun illegal. In the case of the Newtown shooter, the criminal was not deterred by the law that you are forbidden to murder your mother and steal her guns, for example.

Second: And in your attempt to make it slightly more difficult for a small pool of persons to get a gun, you're taking away guns -- and basic rights -- from millions and millions of law-abiding Americans.

People often criticize Hollywood, too, for celebrating gun violence -- and thus, the theory goes, making it more likely that some lonely, unloved loser will see The Gun (capital letters intended) as a totem, as a Symbol, as a vehicle for giving him power over others which he doesn't otherwise have.

That's actually... true. And yet I still flinch from the idea of taking away another Amendment right (the first, of course) simply because of the indirect and tenuous link that violent, gun-crazy movies might have on a violent, gun-crazy viewer.

Some things may in fact be indirect contributing factors to an ultimate harm, but we do not generally criminalize indirect contributing factors for a simple reason: Virtually everything we do that is not useful work, sex for reproductive purposes, childraising, and church-going is an indirect contributing factor to some social or criminal evil.

Alcohol causes a great deal of violence and death that probably wouldn't happen in its absence -- drunk driving deaths, the hand that balls into a fist and strikes the head in a flare of vodka-fueled anger, the gun that sneaks out from a pocket in an inebriated fury.

Shall we ban that?

No. All these things are PreCrime.

There is a sad fact that most people don't seem to appreciate, or wish to even credit as a fact: Most heinous crimes are punished retrospectively, after the carnage. Only a minority are stopped beforehand, and that can only happen if the criminal (or would-be) criminal is under intense surveillance before his intended crime. An intense surveillance our society has not yet -- thankfully -- extended beyond a few thousand known terrorists or known mafiosi.

So people start dreaming up ways in which we could have avoided the carnage -- they start thinking Precrime. If we just had criminalized this or that behavior...

So as I thought about it more I started thinking this video was in fact fair, and not a mistake. If these celebrities want to install Precrime laws criminalizing otherwise-lawful activities on the notion that We Must Do Everything Possible to stop all contributing factors to killings... They should take a look at themselves.

They certainly have done an awful lot of PR work for the Gun as Totem Bestowing Power on the Impotent. They've depicted the gun -- unrealistically, fantastically -- as a Magic Wand that grants its owner the heroic ability to Win and Impose His Will on Any Situation.

And that belief is just as necessary to the mass killing of six year old children as the gun itself. Normal people do not murder 20 children.

It wasn't only the gun that was needed for this killing; it was also the psychological state of believing in The Gun as an agent of Power and Deliverance.

And that came from Hollywood.

Now I wouldn't indulge in either of these awful and stupid precrime measures. I would not repeal the First Amendment just as I wouldn't repeal the Second.

But if Hollywood's calling for one precrime prohibition, it is duty-bound to call for the other as well.

After all -- the children. The children that they were responsible for killing.

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posted by Ace at 03:27 PM

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