Opinion: Debunking gun memes

Jake Hughes
February 26, 2018 - 12:55 pm

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Well, then.

The past few days has seen a lot of activity surrounding gun control and hot topics always sparked conversation, sometimes bordering on vitriol. There were well thought out arguments and even a bit of  name calling. My personal favorite was the guy who called me a "kool-aid drinking Obama a** kisser." 

But one thing that kept coming up were the memes. And I don't mean the dank, spicy kind. I'm using meme in the original meaning of the phrase: an idea or message that has been passed from person to person. An image or a statistic gets thrown out there, usually on Facebook or Twitter, and people see it and believe it to be true, because Facebook is an echo chamber by design. You only see things that you generally agree with according to their algorithm.

Well, I'm not here to talk about that problem. I'm here to debunk some of the more common gun control/shooting memes out there, because, as the meme says, "It's time to stop." Bad facts and figures obscure the truth, and keep people from making informed decisions, or make the other side look like idiots. So, here are a few that I've seen popping up lately:

1. There have been 18 school shootings this year alone.

On the surface, this seems extremely disturbing. 18 shootings in 2 months?! Wow, we really need to do something about guns now! Except... that's not technically true. Now yes, there have been 18 gun-related incidents this year alone, which in and of itself is disturbing. But 18 "school shootings" like the tragedy in Parkland, FL? Not so much. According to the Washington Post, that number is horribly misleading. The 18 it speaks of include any time a gun was discharged on a school campus, even if there were no injuries. For example, one time a person's gun accidentally went off in their glove box, before any students had even arrived, or the time a man climbed atop a school and fired several shots at seemingly nothing. Known fact-checker website Snopes.com says the actual number is lower...depending on whose definitions of "school shooting" you use, of course.

2. Israel lets teachers carry guns, so why don't we?

I saw this one in the comment thread of my last Op-Ed. Usually, it's accompanied by a picture of a woman with a rifle slung across her back, and a group of school children in front of her. This image and fact has been spreading around the internet since The Sandy Hook shooting. It paints a stark contrast in how much the U.S. and Israel value their children, and it would be a fine argument for allowing American teachers to carry weapons... if it were true. According to a report on Israeli school defense, there are indeed armed security at schools. But the teachers are not the ones carrying guns. In schools of over 100 students, the government dictates that there will be at least one guard. These usually comes from civilian security firms, but the Israeli police has the overall responsibility of ensuring the school's safety. Going back to the Washington Post, one of the reasons there is less gun violence in Israel is that they have heavier gun restrictions. 

3. David Hogg is a "crisis actor" hired by the anti-gun lobby.

I first saw stories like this after Sandy Hook, and it never ceases to amaze me at how some people will believe even the most ludicrous things if it backs up their world view. A survivor of the Parkland, FL massacre, student David Hogg has been very outspoken against the National Rifle Association, and in favor of gun control laws. Because of this, he has been the target of a number of wacko conspiracy theories. Snopes , claims have been made that he was continently interviewed by CBS about another shooting in California a year prior to Parkland. Certainly damning evidence... except there were no guns involved in the incident. Also, this isn't the Soviet Union, people are allowed to travel across states and go on vacations if the want. Another claim is that he actually graduated from high school in California in 2015. Someone even went as far as to make a fake classmates.com profile to "substantiate" the claim, complete with a yearbook photo. It very quickly became apparent that the profile was fake, and a classmate of Hogg's came out very quickly to show that it was, indeed, a current yearbook photo from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

4. Armed security at schools wouldn't work becauase that didn't stop the Fort Hood shooter.

This one just reeks of ignorance and lack of research. In 2009, disgraced officer Nidal Hassan killed 13 people, and injured more than 30 others on post at a soldier processing building. Now yes, it is true that Hassan made it through the post gate with a loaded weapon, and a conversation about post security should be had. However, in 1993, a law was passed that laid prohibitions on who could carry a weapon on post, mainly security, police, and anywhere that there was, “a reasonable expectation that life or Army assets would be jeopardized if firearms were not carried.” So yes, Hassan went into a building filled with highly trained soldiers, but none of them could carry guns, and an SRP building wasn't a high-probability target, so not a lot of security.

I could carry on for ages with all the disinformation out there, but you get my point. I know everyone has heated opinions on these matters, but I implore you to do your research. There are valid points on both sides of these problems, but all memes do is muddy the issue.As always in my articles, I call for calm, rational discussion. I've done my best to be balanced in my meme busting, because both political sides have their own problems with false information.

As in all things, remain calm, talk it out and have a blessed day.