Father of Isla Vista Victim Sparks Gun Control Movement Destined to Be Ineffective
Since the tragedy in Isla Vista, California this weekend, there have been countless displays of the shooter’s disturbing YouTube videos, discussions about mental health, and a renewed focus on modern misogyny (albeit mostly via social media not the news media). Yet, because news cameras are attracted to spectacle, Richard Martinez – father of victim Chris Martinez – has become something of a spokesperson for gun control.
He surprised everyone by making a rage-and-sadness-filled statement after the shooting that many gun control advocates now point to as a rallying moment for the movement to rid America of guns. “They talk about gun rights,” he said, then took a deep breath, “but what about Chris’s right to live?”
Mr. Martinez raises an interesting question here. Especially in America, we surround ourselves with an illusion of safety, believing that our great society has conquered danger. From a certain point-of-view, the bullets that tragically took the life of a 20 year-old man and five others were not unlike being struck and killed by a drunk driver or some other such human-involved, accidental death. Thus one is able to dismiss Martinez’s pleas for gun control by saying he’s simply blinded by grief.
In an interview with CNN, he addressed this criticism head-on, saying “In fairness to me, I can be both emotional and rational at the same time.” While emotion and rationality are not mutually exclusive, the rawness of his loss certainly prevents him from applying nuance to his arguments. There is also a spectacle element to it all that sours every appearance he makes with the flavor of exploitation.
Still, it is the depth of Martinez’s emotion that allows him to publicly suffer so that others might take action. Only the current “movement” circulating the internet has currently branded itself in such a way that it’s lack of rationality undercuts all of the emotional intensity that Martinez created.
Latching onto a chant Martinez started of “not one more” which was snatched up as branding for the Everytown, USA gun safety group started by “moms” and mayors like former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. Yet, their stated goal that not one more child should die from gun violence is simply an impossible goal.
Even in countries where guns are illegal, people are still shot and killed. In Japan, which has virtually eliminated private gun ownership, still has “as few as two gun-related homicides a year,” according to The Atlantic. While that is an impressive number (although, no data after 1990 on how many police-related gun deaths there are that I could find) it is still one more than one more.
And herein lay the trouble with basing political debates in emotion and not reason. Part of the reason Occupy Wall Street was so easy to dismiss was because it’s message became so convoluted and impossible to achieve that it simply appeared silly. With gun control, where the opposition has the marketed cornered on silly, only by appearing rational can one build a coalition that can get something done. Of course, what that something might be is another problem entirely.