When to talk gun control? (5×8 – 10/2/12)

Media navel gazing in wake of Minneapolis shooting, when neutral is taking a position, the bike matador of Minneapolis, that’s one for the ‘band kids,’ and throwing the book at airline passengers.

Note: I’ll be live-blogging the presidential debate in Denver tomorrow evening, starting just before 8 p.m. (CT). I hope you’ll join me here.


Predictably, and, perhaps, too soon, we’ve reached the media navel-gazing stage of the Minneapolis workplace shooting story. It happens with most mass shootings. When the suburban Milwaukee temple shooting didn’t get as much coverage as the Aurora theater killings, some claimed it was because of racism.

Minneapolis’ horror, apparently, didn’t get as much coverage as either of those two tragedies in a few national publications, and Media Matters for America has determined it’s because America is now desensitized to gun violence.

As I’ve noted in the past, the press often covers shooting sprees the way it covers violent acts of nature: One day news stories where all people can really do is try to stay out of the way. Sadly, the press seems to have embraced the old NRA mantra that guns don’t kill people, people do. From the media’s perspective, the mass murder stories that they pay increasingly little attention to don’t add up to any kind of larger, newsworthy trend.

But they do. A two-month investigation by Mother Jones recently highlighted that the “rate of mass shootings has increased in recent years–at a time when America has been flooded with millions of additional firearms and a barrage of new laws has made it easier than ever to carry them in public.”

Following the Aurora massacre, I criticized the press for leaving out so much of the gun-violence context behind the rampage, and lamented the fact that so little of the coverage acknowledged the disturbing truth about America’s long, active line of shooting sprees. Far from happening in a vacuum created by an isolated villain, the Colorado mass murder was connected to a sweeping cultural and criminal problem, one that gun proponents and conservatives don’t want to address.

There’s certainly a discussion to be had on gun violence in the United States, but it’s a questionable methodology that assigns attitude to 311 million people on the basis of cherry-picked evidence, while ignoring data to the contrary. The group assigns motive on the basis of flawed national coverage. It points out the relatively scant coverage on nightly TV news, while ignoring it was the lead story on every major TV network last Friday morning, for example.

If we are desensitized to these stories on a national scale, it follows that the local scale would equally be met with a shoulder shrug. A letter to the Star Tribune today notes — correctly — that the story has dominated the news; it’s the gun-control context that’s missing.

The deadly office shooting in Minneapolis took up approximately one and a half pages in Sunday’s paper (“When terror comes to work”). Not once did I see the fact addressed that a gun had as much to do with this occurrence as did an angry/deranged person.

Has it become socially unacceptable to talk about guns as a common factor in these rampages? Are we too timid to step on the toes of the gun-rights lobby? Are we so blind that we can’t see how ours is becoming a culture of violence?

Violence, often committed with guns, is often what drives the main theme and action of way too many movies and TV shows. To remain mute suggests that this repeated carnage is acceptable. Let us speak out — yes, in anger — demanding dialog and research and unity in finding some solution.


The organization’s claim ignores another reality of national — that is to say: New York-based and Washington-based — media: The shooting didn’t happen there; it happened in flyover country, which has never gotten the same attention.

Check the Times coverage, for example, of the August 3, 2010 workplace shooting in Connecticut. It was on page one, and not because the newsroom in New York was more sensitive to workplace violence way back two years ago. It’s because it happened close to the media’s home.

It may be that we’re becoming more desensitized to gun violence. It may also be that people know politicians don’t touch the issue because it’s a “third-rail” issue.

At the same time this is being debated, however, we’re becoming more sensitive and aware of another reality from the shooting: the mental health care system is in bad shape when it comes to getting help for people who don’t think they need it. It also revealed while mental health care is important to people who might not personally need it.

More gun control: One of the victims of the Aurora, Co., shooting is appearing in ads to pressure the presidential candidates to talk about gun control.


Companies all over Minnesota are under pressure to take a stand on the same-sex marriage ban amendment to the state’s constitution. And there’s often a backlash when they don’t.

City Pages reports that two past winners of the the John Wesley Award at Hamline University, have asked their names be stricken from the school’s records. Hamline has decided not to take a position on the ballot question. The award is given to the student “who best demonstrate[s] a commitment to leadership and service that lies at the heart of Hamline University.”


Why would a Minneapolis ad agency send a guy out, dressed as a bullfighter, to take on the city’s bike riders? Why not?

It should catch on.

(h/t: Enrique Olivarez)

In other advertising news: Advertising is dead.


In many ways, the band kids are harder workers than the jocks. In Roseville, for example, by the time school stars, the “band kids” have been practicing for eight weeks, three-and-a-half hours a day.

“When we talk to the kids, prospective students, we compare it to going out for a varsity sport,” Steve Olsen, band director at Rosemount. “Because it’s not an MSHSL sport, we can start whenever we want in the summer. Our season’s a little longer, but we’re kind of done before the football season is done.”

Former Stribber John Millea at the State High School League has a terrific article on the kids who don’t get anywhere near the recognize the athletes do.


We may be seeing the latest strategy of airlines to squeeze a little more money from the passengers by attacking the third-party sites — Travelocity, for example — that they’ve used to try to get the cheapest fare.

The Cranky Flier blog says Frontier Airlines is trying to get passengers to book directly with the airline by penalizing those who don’t. If you book through a third-party site, passengers won’t get seat assignments until they check, change fees will be higher, and only half the frequent flier miles will be awarded.

It could catch on, but it’s risky, the blog says:

But what’s the risk here? Well, in their usual fashion, third party sites don’t disclose much beyond price and schedule. It’s useless for doing an actual comparison. I went to Travelocity to try to book a ticket on Frontier and it didn’t tell me any of this stuff. All it said on the seat selection screen was “Seat Selection Unavailable. Contact the airline to request your seats.” Right, but when you call the airline, you will be told you can’t do it. (At least Orbitz shows a seat map that shows all seats as being “priority” and not for basic assignment.) And nobody said anything about earning reduced frequent flier miles.

The risk is that there will be customer service issues for those who find that they aren’t getting some of these benefits they could have had if they booked directly. Those people might be mad when they find they can’t reserve a seat in advance. But for Frontier, an airline that is really pushing forward as an ultra low cost carrier, this is a necessary change. It can’t keep paying the incredibly high GDS fees, but it also can’t afford to just turn that spigot off immediately. Instead, it can use this plan to encourage people to book directly, slowly shrinking the number of people who don’t.

Bonus I: A brief history of John Baldessari. Because it’s narrated by Tom Waits, that’s why.

A Brief History of John Baldessari from Supermarché: Henry & Rel on Vimeo.

Bonus II: Want to feel like a slacker? Read these profiles of the 2012 MacArthur Genius Grant recipients.

Bonus III: The “fiscal cliff” explained.


The White House announced Monday that it was giving the Southwest light rail project fast-track status, a move that was expected to shorten the project’s schedule by several months. The announcement said the project will improve access to transit in the Twin Cities area. Today’s Question: What do you think of the transit options available in the Twin Cities?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: How important are the presidential debates?

Second hour: Author Louise Erdrich.

Third hour: The ethics of sex-selecting children.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times journalist Hedrick Smith, speaking at the Commonwealth Club about his new book, “Who Stole the American Dream?”

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – What Russia wants. Plus, a look at the baseball playoffs.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Musician Waylon Jennings was 64 when he died in 2002. Now, 10 ten years later, we’re hearing his voice again in tracks he recorded a few years before he died. NPR provides a conversation about that recording with both Waylon’s wife and his pedal steel and bass player.

Crews are working this fall to wrap up prep work on the new St. Croix bridge between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The bridge is still several years from becoming a reality and officials continue to refine the design and other details. MPR’s Jess Mador provides an update update on how the project is going.

Laura Yuen will have details of opening statements in the trial of Mahamud Said Omar, charged with facilitating a second wave of young Twin Cities men who traveled to Somalia in 2008 to join the extremist group al Shabab.

  • BJ

    #1 guns – I also think the blogger was lazy ” the press seems to have embraced the old NRA mantra “.

    They spit out the words as if NRA equals evil.

    Surprisingly, to myself, I now think of the NRA as an aggressive version of ACLU, just only focusing on one right.

  • Tim

    #4 is interesting in light of the recent discussion about how much the Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO musicians are paid. I don’t think a lot of people who haven’t been in music, theater, etc. realize how much work goes into it when performing at a high level.

  • essjayok

    I was very moved by the letters of those Hamline alumni and applaud them for their integrity.

    They also highlight what this issue is really about better than many I’ve seen: do we want discrimination written into our state constitution?

    Gay people already can’t get married in this state. They won’t be able to if the marriage amendment passes. But what changes if the marriage amendment passes is that we will be a place & people that changed our constitution so that it is discriminatory.

    While I proudly have a “Vote No” sign in my yard, I wish the messaging were better. I wish it said “Vote No: Don’t write discrimination into our state constitution.”

    I applaud these Hamline alumni for making that message clearly, articulately. I think they frame the issue in a powerful way that could actually change minds.

  • Peter

    In stories yesterday there was mention that MN laws don’t allow police to state whether anyone has a valid conceal-carry permit. That seems like an effort to tamp down the gun-control questions in situations like this.

    Should the public be able to find out when a permit-holder does something illegal with their gun? Should an employer be able to check whether their troubled employee has a permit?

  • Robert Moffitt

    “Note: I’ll be live-blogging the presidential debate in Denver tomorrow evening, starting just before 8 p.m. (CT). I hope you’ll join me here.”

    Silly question. Are you going to Denver, or covering it from here?

  • MikeB

    These workplace gun incidents are covered like extreme weather events, something horrific and completely outside of our control. We gather around the electronic water cooler, commiserate, appreciate it didn’t happen to us, then move on.

    Re the mental health aspect – at our weekly pickup game we discussed the shootings. 2 different guys shared their experiences about having a brother with paranoid schizophrenia and the challenges the family goes through. Incredible stories to hear but it impacts more families than we realize.

  • Bob Collins

    // 2 different guys shared their experiences about having a brother with paranoid schizophrenia and the challenges the family goes through. Incredible stories to hear but it impacts more families than we realize.

    Great obsevation. When someone brings up mental illness, it’s amazing how many people feel compelled to share personal stories that they otherwise wouldn’t bring up.

  • Jim Shapiro

    BJ – ” I now think of the NRA as an aggressive version of ACLU, just only focusing on one right.”

    That’s an interesting insight.

    Both the NRA and the ACLU protect the rights of citizens to make statements or take action that the majority of the population might disagree with.

    The main difference is that while the ACLU protects the right of each of us, even the most repugnant, to use words,

    the NRA protects the right to use military grade weapons.

    On what planet is that the same?