There is a lot of power to words and to their connotations. And we should be well aware that the media and politicians (and really anyone in the business of communication) are keen on this. They know that when describing a person who is careful to save rather than spend money, they can use a positive expression or phrase, like “frugal” or “thrifty,” or they can use a negative term, like “cheap” or “closefisted.” One little word can change everything. It can cause an emotional response. It can paint a picture. It can taint or deceive. It can manipulate.
One clever and calculating use of words is the phrase “gun violence.” I have heard that one a lot. It really has become part of the American lexicon. But I believe that this phrase is intentionally misleading and being used to pull people toward gun control. Because who in his or her right mind would be for any kind of violence…right?
For instance, check out this photo caption used in a recent article from the Daily News: “Hillary Clinton holds flowers as she visits the Kids Off the Block memorial in Chicago, which pays tribute to children that were killed by gun violence.”
Did you catch that? “Children that were killed by gun violence.” This is the danger in the phrasing, the wording, the diction…the subtle, intentional stringing together of words to encourage and solidify a very specific line of thinking: There is no blame here for the murderers. It’s the guns.
But what does “gun violence” really mean? Responsibly armed Americans may define it as the unlawful use of a gun to cause harm or death. And we may want to think that it refers to criminals hurting innocent victims. But people are being led to believe it’s any use of a firearm, whether it’s a law enforcement officer taking down a bad guy or a young college student protecting herself from a violent attacker.
So I asked some people to define “gun violence” for me, you know, so I—a gun-toting mom—could understand it better. Overall, most folks declared that “gun violence” is violence committed with the use of a gun. Okay. Makes sense. But with that definition in mind, does that make ANY violence committed with any certain object THAT specific kind of violence? For instance, if someone were to become violent with a knife, is that, then, “knife violence?” What if the violent person were threatening others with a baked potato; is that, then, “baked potato violence?”
I actually brought up this line of questioning, but I was immediately shot down by someone who, frustrated, informed me that, “It is the person committing a crime that is the problem, not the item itself.” Exactly. It’s not the gun—the inanimate object—that is a violent thing. It’s the individual. A gun is only as “violent” as the person who wields it.
So nowadays, when people start throwing around the term “gun violence” and talk about how we need to eliminate it, I guess in many ways, I agree. I believe we need to eliminate that phrase. Guns are not the cause of violence. People are. And we need to be careful enough to read between the lines whenever those words appear. In many cases, the ones who are speaking out the loudest about “gun violence” are really only speaking about gun control.