Wednesday, December 19, 2012

News or News Cycle?

  I didn’t think it would take long for the Javon Belcher murder/suicide of two weeks ago to be old news and I was right. The day after the shooting was dominated by the feel good story of the Chiefs historic comeback victory over the Carolina Panthers the day after their teammate committed suicide. Well, it really wasn’t a historic victory by any standards except by the abysmally low bar the Chiefs have set (their second win out of 14 tries this year) and given the fact that they’ve scored exactly seven points in the past two games it is quite likely to be their last win until the fall of 2013. Two weeks after the Belcher incident, the big question posed to coach Romeo Crennel after Sunday's 15-0 loss to the Raiders was how he would rank his team’s inept offensive performance among the games he’s coached.

  Last week, defensive lineman Josh Brent of the Dallas Cowboys was arrested for intoxication manslaughter for the car accident that killed his teammate and friend Jerry Brown. The day after the death and arrest, the Cowboys beat the Cincinnati Bengals on the last play of the game in an emotional victory and followed that with an equally dramatic overtime victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brent would have been an afterthought except he was on the Cowboys sideline during the game.This caused some controversy (even though Brown’s mother asked the Cowboys to support him in any way possible), but the current news about the Cowboys is focused on whether they can win their last two games to make the playoffs.

  On the heels of the two NFL player-related murder incidents came the murder of 26 children and teachers in the school in Newtown, CT on Friday that has taken over the news media attention. This is the second highly publicized mass shooting in the United states this year, the first being the shooting in the Aurora movie theatre for at the midnight premiere of ‘Dark Knight Rises’. Because the victims in the Newtown shootings were children, there is much more outrage among the public than the Aurora theatre shootings and the calls for a ban on the type of assault rifles used in the shooting (and firearms in general) have been overwhelming this week. The crime was so horrific that even the staunchest gun ownership advocates have gone into hiding until the next big story takes some of the spotlight away from the issue.

  I didn’t know that there were 270 million guns legally owned by US citizens. Given that number, I would have expected these sort of massacres would be a daily occurrence and I was surprised to see that the Newtown shootings was listed by the Associated Press as one of the worst mass shootings in history. This makes me think that gun owners are very responsible for the most part and the gun owners I’ve known into are not only fanatical about their second amendment rights, but are alsot fanatical about having locks on their guns and having their locked guns in a locked gun cabinet and having their locked guns and in their locked gun cabinets in a locked room that only they can get into. The nut job that killed these kids in Newtown stole his weapons from his mother and she was his first victim.

  It’s conceivable that the Newtown shootings will lead to a ban on firearms like there have been in Britain, Australia, and Scotland but I doubt it. The gun lobby is powerful and well-funded and very experienced at blunting gun control legislation. President Obama is trying to sound as if he will be pushing some legislation, but I heard the same sort of speech from him after the Giffords and Aurora shootings to believe that he is doing much more that attempting to strike the correct tone.

  While a ban on weapons would reduce the massacres of the kind we saw last week, it wouldn’t put an end to this nut job sort of violence (see the ‘Harry the Human Bomb’ crowd in the Middle East).I don’t think that banning guns would even remove them from American society. The last I looked, meth was illegal yet I see plenty of meth business going in Marshalltown despite the occasional high-profile bust. There are millions of illegal immigrants – I mean undocumented aliens – in the country but any law that even hints of verifying residential status for enforcement purposes is decried as racist and stricken down by the higher courts. I don’t think Americans as a whole are very good at following laws (including me when it comes to speed limits) and banning firearms would just make criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

  I’m interested in how much news time the massacre will be getting on December 29th (two weeks after the shootings). Will people still be up in arms about preventing this from happening again or will we have moved on to the next hot current event topic? ESPN went overboard in trying to find the right tone in the shooting aftermath, placing a ban on their commentators using social media, references to violence, and even prohibited the use of the term ‘Pistol’ when describing the Nevada offensive formation during this past weekend’s New Mexico Bowl. The ban was over by the Monday Night Football game as the commentators noted that the Jets were in the ‘Shotgun’ formation numerous times.

  Any gun control legislation as a result of the massacre will take a lot of time, but there are many things that towns can do to protect their schools in the meantime. Schools should be a regular part of the police officers’ rounds. Instead of stationing state troopers and policemen at speed traps to write parking tickets, why not station them near schools? Politicians are constantly talking about hiring veterans - why not hire veterans to patrol the outside of schools? Then we would have trained professionals protecting our children. In almost 30 years of programming, I’ve regularly had customers ask me to make a program change to meet some unforeseen problem or new business requirement. Many times the change will take some time and I will suggest an alternative process the customer can use in the meantime to accomplish the same goal. When the customer implements the alternative process I know they see the program change they requested as the solution to a real problem because they are willing to take steps immediately without waiting for a program change, but when the customer says they can wait I know they have more of an inconvenience than a problem. Time will quickly tell whether the Newtown massacre is seen as a real problem worthy of immediate action or just a temporary feel-bad moment for anyone not personally involved.