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March 25th, 2017

Insight

Post-Orlando: Debunking the Memes

Laura Hollis

By Laura Hollis

Published June 16, 2016

In the aftermath of yet another atrocity apparently committed by a crazed adherent of a warped interpretation of Islam, here we are, prepared to do precisely nothing. Again. It seems like an exercise in futility to devote 850 words to recommendations that this government has zero political will to enforce. So, instead, I have decided to simply rebut a few of the many post-Orlando internet memes that are making the rounds.

Here goes:

Meme number one: It's easier to get a gun than to get an abortion.

You say that like it's a bad thing.

According to the Congressional Research Service, there are over 300 million guns owned in the United States (but some writers think there are many more — and others say the number is inflated). Admittedly, any number is a guess, since private gun sales, gifts, and inheritances don't necessitate background checks or registrations. That said, in 2015, there were more than 13,000 gun-related fatalities. Even assuming that every fatality was caused by a separate gun (which it wasn't — many of these were multiple homicides by the same shooter), this would translate to roughly 4 percent of the total guns in the country. The actual percentage of guns owned by Americans that are involved in fatalities is even lower. In other words, 96 percent of the guns owned by law-abiding American cause no deaths.

So, here's the truth of it: Everyone who owns a gun doesn't kill another human being. But everyone who has an abortion does.

Meme number two: There are 3.3 Muslims in the United States. If we were a threat, you'd know by now.

Makes sense to me. Love the "Meet a Muslim" video from Refinery29 that is making the rounds. But the same can be said of gun owners. If 150 million Americans — or even half that number — own a firearm, then most of us are clearly not a threat.

Meme number three: You can't punish all Muslims for the acts of a few.

Again, a perfectly rational argument. And equally applicable to law-abiding Americans who own firearms, as is their constitutional right.

Which brings us to ...

Meme number four: It's time to repeal the Second Amendment, because AR-15s didn't exist when the Founders wrote the document

We can thank Rolling Stone magazine for the latest — or at least the most visible — iteration of this particular sentiment. Author David Cohen admits that there are parts of the Constitution that he happens to like — the Second Amendment just isn't one of them. And besides, there were only muskets, cannons, bayonets, and bows and arrows when the Second Amendment was written.

The problem, of course, is that much of what we now have — technologically speaking — didn't exist when the Constitution was written. And any of the freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights can be abused. Take social media for example. It didn't exist in 1789. Consider all of the bullying and shaming and defamation that take place electronically. How many suicides are attributable to abuse of electronic media? Clearly, none of the drafters contemplated the ability to publish something damaging and/or untruthful and have it be read by millions of people in a split second. Why should we tolerate that? Time to repeal the First Amendment.

Seem implausible? Why? For every David Cohen, you can find someone equally passionate about the need to dispense with the Fourth Amendment's protection against illegal searches and seizures. Or the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination. Or the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. If it gets in the way of the world you want, it goes, right?

If we are going to allow the actions of a few to result in deprivation of the rights of the many, then there's no magical reason why any of the other rights outlined in the Constitution are immune from repeal.

And this is without mentioning the dozens of instances in modern history of disarmed populations who were overrun by dictators or oppressive regimes. But we're supposed to conveniently overlook all that. Because guns in the hands of private citizens are bad, while guns in the hands of government can only be good.

Meme number five: Religion causes hate.

This is a particular pet peeve of mine, as (a) there are plenty of Muslims who do not advocate for — much less perpetuate — violence, and (b) no, all religions do not cause hate. In fact, a good number of them preach against it, and work tirelessly to overcome the results of it. Islam is not the only target of such statements; Christianity is a popular bogeyman as well. But those who try to lump Christian opposition to gay marriage (for example) with ISIS' brutal executions of homosexuals are deceitfully comparing two vastly different things — as gay conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos has noted — and displaying their own brand of hatred.

Perhaps it's time for a new meme: "It's H8 to Confl8 and Equ8."

Catchy.

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Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in business law and entrepreneurship. She has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education.

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