Thursday, 14 February 2013

Why We’re Not All Like Piers Morgan: An outside offering on America’s Gun Control Debate

Residents of Newtown, CT, march on Washington DC in
favour of gun control. Credit: Elvert Barnes
If there’s one thing I’ve learned regarding the issue of American gun control, it’s that speaking out as a British person I expect to face some backlash. One only has to look at the fierce and scathing reaction to Piers Morgan’s decision on numerous occasions to open his mouth surrounding gun control, most evidently seen in the 100,000-strong petition to the White House calling for his deportation and accusing him of treason (it is worth noting that Morgan could not be guilty of treason for he is not a U.S. citizen).

The problem, however, is that on his nightly-airing show Piers Morgan Tonight, he has taken an incredibly firm and often bigoted stance on the issue, unsurprisingly causing quite a stir. There is no doubt that Morgan is an obnoxious bully, rarely giving guests of his show a chance to even respond if they disagree with him (see him call Larry Pratt, Executive Director for Gun Owners of America, an “unbelievably stupid man” below).

In reality, Morgan’s stance is not really any different to that of President Obama; ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, close loopholes surrounding background checks, make schools safer and improve the accessibility of mental health services. Yet, I think the point of contention for Morgan, is the intrusive and intolerant delivery of his opinion and a complete disregard for alternative viewpoints. 

Perhaps that's why he has a job though. After all, Morgan is CNN's 'resident Brit', the outsider from across the Atlantic who is employed to be argumentative and narrow-minded, like we all are. His investigative days as Editor-in-Chief of the Mirror are long gone, and having since made appearances as a judge on Britain's Got Talent, Morgan has become more of a celebrity journalist than anything else. Usually reporting on soft news and emotional stories, it's possible to say that the tragedies of Newtown represented a departure from the news that he is more accustomed to reporting, and as a result his professionalism went out of the window. He is personally outraged by the shootings and we can't really blame him for that, as most of us are too.

Yet because with CNN he has a primetime slot on a major news network, Morgan’s “la-la-la-la I’m not listening to anyone else” persona is unfortunately leading to the perception that he speaks for more than just himself on the issue. You only have to head to the comments section on some of the countless YouTube clips from Morgan’s show to see that although only a few extreme comments, there's a danger that Morgan is allowing all Britons to be painted with the same brush (warning: explicit content):

“Piers Morgan is a ****** ***** and needs to go back home!!!” - Source: YouTube  
“**** off Piers you British *******! Go back to England!” - Source: YouTube 
“why do people in the UK even care??? This is not your land anymore, this is AMERICA!!! **** off.” -  Source: YouTube
What I want to make clear, is that many other “foreign onlookers” living in the United States, like myself, see the situation differently. We understand that guns aren’t our ‘thing’, and more importantly we know that it’s not an issue with our country. I would never wish to entirely concern myself with the technicalities of weaponry and firearms, nor do I try to sound like an expert on the topic; as Mr Morgan frequently does. We do not suggest America has no need for guns - fully aware of the United States’ fine shooting traditions, and often a need for self-defence, it is not within our purview.

Firearms and shootings aren’t really a problem we have to face that often in England, and we're not going to tell Americans they shouldn't use them. But that is perhaps why when these tragic American incidents make the news across the Atlantic in the UK, they shock us beyond belief and compel us to speak out. It may not happen on our shores, but that doesn’t mean we’re not affected by it. The problem with Morgan is that he is forgoing his position as an American based journalist, to voice his British opinion, something which comes across as incredibly unprofessional. With an evening slot on America's go-to network when big news breaks, this is a real problem.

From my perspective, the real injustice here isn’t the uncertainty over rights of responsible gun-owners or the effect that changes would have on the NRA. Nor is it about the inability for advocates of gun control to easily pass legislation. It is bigger than that. During Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, President Obama let Americans know that the victims of gun violence “deserved a vote”:
“Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence — they deserve a simple vote.” - Source: NBC News
A vote. A vote. Here is the President of the United States, one of the world’s most powerful and influential individuals, pleading with Congress to even consider the possibility of just a vote on gun control. Even in the two months since the tragic deaths of 20 elementary school children and 7 members of staff in Newtown, CT, over 1000 more Americans have died from the bullet of a gun. Yet, whilst Congress stumbles over partisan roadblocks and Americans continue to express their right to bear arms under the 2nd Amendment, there seems to be a saddening indifference and lack of priority to the fact that hundreds and thousands of innocent Americans, young and old, are being shot and killed every day. What will it take for American government to put aside partisan beliefs in the name of national safety? That for me, is the major concern.

Monday, 11 February 2013

A Thought-provoking WSJ opinion piece on Gun Control

I read this interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning. David Rivkin and Andrew Grossman discuss Obama's skeet-shooting photo and the constiutional debate surrounding gun control.
President Barack Obama shoots clay targets at Camp David, MD, August 4th 2012
Image Credit: Pete Souza, via White House Flickr stream 
Could there be a better illustration of the cultural divide over firearms than the White House photograph of our skeet-shooting president? Clay pigeons are launched into the air, but the president's smoking shotgun is level with the ground. This is not a man who is comfortable around guns. And that goes a long way toward explaining his gun-control agenda.
Follow the link for the full article.

Source: The Wall Street Journal