Stigmatize gun ownership like smoking?

The Christian Science Monitor continues to astound with its idiocy.  One recent Monitor headline described the belligerence of Hamas as mere “military action.”  This when their signature mode of armed conflict–rocket attacks–consists in the indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians.  So much for the idea of terrorism.

Now, the Monitor‘s editorial board suggests gun violence can be curbed by a public perception campaign akin to that which stigmatized smoking.  What would this look like? We can imagine the Ad Council cartoon propaganda now: a bratty, freckled blonde boy, sporting a sideways baseball cap, growls, “Hey bro, owning guns is not cool.”  Will subjecting upstanding, law abiding gun owners–who are generally paragons of civic responsibility–to such a silly and divisive psychological campaign really help?

There are better stigmas to promote instead. When Hollywood celebrities earnestly “demand a plan” of politicians while remaining unapologetic for their own glorification of gun violence, we ought to stigmatize their hypocrisy (and chuckle given their unintended fulfillment of this prophetic Portlandia parody). When our society allows severe mental illness to remain untreated out of fear of institutionalization and the corresponding desire for maximal autonomy, we should stigmatize indifference towards such danger.

Michael Medved is right when he declares that gun violence is a spiritual rather than a material problem. Prisoners of progressive thought are always trying to stigmatize material things.  They say SUVs kill the earth, or guns kill people.  At least the market tinkering of “cash for clunkers” had the probable effect of increasing the nation’s overall fuel efficiency.  But gun buybacks only decrease the ratio of gun ownership between law-abiding citizens and criminals.  Why is it ever good for criminals and murderers to have relatively more guns than the population at large?

The Monitor editorial also suggests an expansion of non-gun-owner rights along the lines of “non-smoker rights.”  Please, everyone, we have to think more carefully about rights!  We can’t just keep making up new ones.  Especially ones backed by stigma.  Have the editors at the Monitor forgotten that stigma–based on the materialistic concern of skin color–once supported the Jim Crow “right” for whites to not share public accommodations with blacks?

Rather than invoke stigmas based on material things, let’s stigmatize undesirable attitudes and behaviors instead.  We can start with the unfounded hysteria over gun violence.

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