This is going to be a tough column to write because I have no choice but to criticize the efforts of a man and wife who lost a son to gun violence and are now devoting themselves to raising public awareness about preventing gun violence, or what we refer to as GVP.  The couple, Manuel and Patricia Oliver, lost their son in the massacre at Parkland High School in 2018, and they now run a program which “uses urban art and nonviolent creative confrontation to expose the disastrous effects of the mass shooting pandemic. It also brings focus to the NRA’s corrupt maneuvers to buy lawmakers, while forcing solutions which are essential to healing mass shooting victims’ families’ lifelong grief.”

Last week they got serious media attention when they posted a video showing David Keene, past-President of the NRA, and the hated John Lott allegedly delivering commencement speeches to a parking lot filled with 3,044 empty chairs. The chairs represented students who have not been able to graduate from high school because at some time or another because they have been gunned down.

The commencement was allegedly going to take place at ‘James Madison Academy’ in Las Vegas, except there is no such school in Las Vegas or anywhere else. Both Keene and Lott delivered their remarks in a television studio which, they were told, were warm-ups for their actual speeches later that day. But then they were told that the commencement had been cancelled because of concerns about Covid-19.

So, you do a taping of Keene and Lott from behind as they are saying whatever they said to an empty room. Then you edit the tape and put in a picture of a bunch of empty chairs and – voila! – you’re ready for prime time on the GVP network, i.e., YouTube, Democracy Now and everywhere else. If Donald Trump could hold a daily press ‘briefing’ in a room in the White House made to look like the South Lawn, what’s to stop anyone from creating total fiction with a video file and a software package like Adobe’s Premier Pro?

Again, please understand that I’m not even remotely trying to criticize Manny and Pat Oliver for what they did. My concern is how their foray into the public debate over gun violence may turn out to have a result which is exactly the opposite from what they and other GVP advocates intend.

Right now, the political alignment in D.C. is exactly what it was every time the Federal Government passed a law regulating guns: a liberal President and both Houses of Congress controlled by the blue team. Will Joe introduce a gun bill sometime soon? I suspect so. Will the bill get signed into law? WTFK?

But even if the Senate can’t find 60 votes, for that matter they couldn’t find 60 votes after Sandy Hook. But Obama’s attempt to pass a bill (with the help of Joe Manchin, by the way) inaugurated the birth of a true, national, grass-roots GVP movement, which will only be more invigorated if a new gun bill is introduced this year.

That being the case, here’s my problem with the video meme produced by Changethe Ref which shows Keene and Lott supposedly talking to a bunch of empty chairs.

I don’t think we get anywhere explaining gun risk to gun owners by blaming the ‘other side.’ I don’t think that a narrative which focuses on anything other than the lethality of guns when they aren’t being used for hunting or sport advances the GVP agenda one, single bit.

The United States is the only country in the entire world which gives its residents free access to guns that were designed and are used today only for the purpose of ending human life. That’s right – it wasn’t just the AR-15 rifle whose design was specifically intended for military use. This happens to be how and why all those concealable, polymer, hi-capacity handguns made by Glock, Sig, Beretta, et. al., also first appeared.

That should be the message about gun violence put out there by all my GVP friends.

The Deadliest Pathogen: Guns and Homicide (Guns in America): Weisser, Michael R.: 9781792317866: Books