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Stephen King's Essay 'Guns' Takes on Gun Policy, National Dialogue

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

The discussion and debate over gun violence in America continues in the United States nearly two months after the death of twenty children and six educators in Newtown. Connecticut affected people more than any other shooting that occurred in 2012 or years prior. Mass shootings that take so many lives are difficult and horrifying to think about, but the horror of Newtown is inconceivable.

People know what happens in the wake of these tragedies. It is so uniform that one could say there is a formula to it. It is not long before the discussion of gun policy in America comes to the forefront of the national dialogue.

Ask anyone who follows current events and/or political affairs to list off people they expect to hear from on the subject of gun violence in America and current policy on the issue and one name that would likely not be on that list is Stephen King. However, the world renowned author published his own essay on the subject in response to the massacre in Newtown.

Stephen King’s essay, Guns, doesn’t simply address gun policy in America. It also examines political discourse in the United States and the misconception that Americans live in a "culture of violence." It also has to be one of the most honest examinations on the prevailing issue. Tweet

Guns is not an attack on pro-gun activists. It is not an attack on the Second Amendment; though there are certainly some who argue it is, including many people who refuse to read the essay. It does take some serious shots at the NRA, including this:

“The NRA doesn’t come right out and say the victims are also to blame for thinking they could live in America without a gun on their person or in their purse, but the implication is hard to miss.”

At one point in the essay, Stephen King specifically focuses on national dialogue in the United States because if there is improvement in the overall national discussion and debate over issues like gun policy, then we may be able to identify the best solutions without the misleading and unnecessary elements that people see today. Tweet

On the topic of national dialogue, King said it is like “drunks in a barroom.” The loudest voices on any given issue are just that: loud. It would be a misnomer to call what America has today a ‘discussion.’ It is a shouting match and those involved are so concerned about what they are going to say next, they don’t really listen to the other side.

What King describes in his essay is arguably best visualized in the pilot episode of HBO’s The Newsroom.

The scene opens up showing political pundits just yelling at each other while Jeff Daniels is sitting in the middle with a look on his face like he has a serious migraine. The audio is manipulated so the viewer can somewhat make out what the two sides are yelling about, but ultimately it sounds like adults in a Peanut comic.

That is the current state of national dialogue in this country and, in the end, it comes down to who can yell the loudest.

It’s a serious problem not only because people are not getting the right information and important facts on important issues, but it has resulted in the spread of sensationalism. The fear that the government is going take our guns away leads to a dramatic increase in gun sales after every mass shooting even though there is no evidence to support such fears.

It’s paranoia promoted by a small few who want to capitalize on the issue. Now, we need to eliminate all gun free zones, arm teachers, and expand concealed carry to places where people are packed together like stadiums and theaters. People need fifteen round clips to protect their homes from 3,4, 5, maybe a small army of intruders.

This is what the NRA wants Americans to believe. Essentially, we should all live in a constant and perpetual state of fear and feel that we need to keep a gun on our person or near us at all times because that’s the only way we can feel safe. As King points out in his essay: We don’t live in Syria. We live in the United States.

People who promote these ideas use scenarios that are purely hypothetical. It doesn’t move the discussion where it needs to be and until dialogue shifts to a more rational approach, sensationalism and the spread of misinformation are going to continue and the American people will continue to be duped by people who are not concerned about their interests.

Stephen King’s essay, Guns, is honest. King uses strong language, but he manages to convey his powerful emotions on the issue while maintaining a level of control. It is revealing and thought-provoking. No matter where one stands on the issue of gun policy in America, it is worth the read.

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