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Television's Lame Attack on Guns


When script writers run out of something else to say (e.g., there are only so many times they can say everyone is uninsured and miserable about it), guns and gun makers are easily available to demonize. “Life” and “House” have both gone after guns in recent episodes.

Life’s episode “Initiative 38” has a fairly unbelievable plot: a woman working on an initiative to ban handguns is murdered and there is one major suspect, P&K, a gun company. Here is some of the dialogue:

Detective Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis): We are saying that someone came here to kill your wife. Can you think of who that might be?

Harold Amis: Yes, I can. Initiative 38.

Woman who works for Initiative 38: Initiative 38 is a comprehensive ban on handguns. Lisa was working to get it passed.

Detective Seever (Crews’ partner): How comprehensive?

Woman who works for Initiative 38: We were working to take back our streets.

Seever: Getting any push back from the gun companies?

Woman who works for Initiative 38: Getting push back? Ya, there was a lot money coming in against us from the other side. From P&K guns. I didn’t think that they would do this though. Lisa was the face of Initiative 38.

Seever: Lisa Amos is the face of Initiative 38. If that passes, P&K guns gets hit hard.

On the one side, the show notes all the carnage from guns being used to kill people. The only argument offered for guns is that they produce jobs for those who make them and that guns are the one manufactured product left that we can produce cheaper than China.

Of course, there is no mention of defensive gun use and that guns are used to stop crime about 4 to 5 times more frequently than they are used to commit it. No mention that while police are extremely important in stopping crime (indeed, my research shows them to be the single most important factor), the police themselves understand that they virtually always arrive on the crime scene after the crime is committed. Obviously, the question of what victims should do when they are facing a criminal by themselves is ignored.

The notion that gun makers, which are fairly small companies, are going to donate a lot of money to defeat an initiative as the episode suggests is also fairly unbelievable. The donations to defeat such initiatives would tend to be a lot of very small donations from people who care about being able to defend themselves and their families and the principle of self-defense.

“House” often goes after gun ownership. It only mentions people not having health insurance more frequently. In the episode “Simple Explanation,” Kutner (Kal Penn) commits suicide with a gun. There is all the normal dialogue about how he probably bought the gun for self defense and instead used it to commit suicide.

For those interested, the National Academy of Sciences released a 2004 report that comprehensively reviewed academic research studying guns and suicide. The panel set up under the Clinton administration surveyed the extensive literature from public health, economics, and criminology. The Academy concluded that, “Some gun control policies may reduce the number of gun suicides, but they have not yet been shown to reduce the overall risk of suicide in any population.” The point is that there are a lot of ways to commit suicides, and you would pretty much have the same rate of suicide even if guns disappeared tomorrow.

However, I would argue that there isn’t even a lot of evidence that gun bans or gun lock laws reduce gun suicide rates.

Kal Penn was killed off in the show so that he could go work for the Obama administration. It is probably somewhat appropriate that he got killed off in a way that provided a politically correct lesson for viewers.

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