A Critical Review Essay of 'Shootings' by Adam Gopnik

Published: 2022-09-21
A Critical Review Essay of 'Shootings' by Adam Gopnik
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Gun control Gun violence
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1310 words
11 min read

In an article titled 'Shootings' published in The New Yorker on 30th April 2007, Adam Gopnik delves into the issue of gun violence that has plagued the United States for decades. His article came against the backdrop of the Virginia Tech Massacre the same month in which 30 students and faculty members lost their lives to bullets from a lone gunman's firearm. It is essential to analyze Gopnik's point of view from the angle of gun ownership and legislation rather than the state of mind or circumstances surrounding gun holders. The Second Amendment in the U.S. Constitution allows citizens to own arms (The Legal Information Institute), however, according to Gopnik, access to military grade, semi, and automatic weapons have created a societal problem in the form of mass shootings.

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The author makes use of imagery in the introduction to appeal to pathos by painting a mental image around the retrieval of victims' bodies. His figurative language, coupled with facts and statistics, successfully captures the emotions of any reader. The author employs this technique to seek the attention of political leaders and state officials with the ability to legislate over gun control as well as citizens who have a say in the country's laws. His reasoning attempts to point the reader to the fact that semi-automatic weapons are specifically built to kill people and not to hunt, which should nullify the self-defense narrative.

The use of logos exists in the manner the author employs the analogy of discussing smoking in the aftermath of cancer-related deaths. He argues that although control of semi-automatic weapons does not eliminate potential mass killings by the widely accepted rifles, the essence of lawmaking should focus on preventing repeat crime rather than punishing past offenders. He asserts that the American system tends to focus on the symptoms when tragedies happen rather than treating the cause; which is the unrestricted access to military grade weapons. In essence, the government reacts by arresting offenders when shootings occur instead of disarming other gun holders who still reside in society. He raises a valid concern by questioning how a mentally disturbed student was able to be in possession of a machine built specifically for killing people.

In Gopnik's opinion, tightening laws around gun ownership is a more rational approach to reduce the number of victims occasioned by gun violence. He supports his school of thought through statistics which indicate that overall, nations with restrictive gun laws experience fewer cases of such shootings. The author's stand is that madmen need opportunities to show their true colors, therefore denying them the environment to do so goes a long way in curtailing would-be disastrous occurrences. Similarly, when control measures make it extremely difficult to acquire a firearm, few people will be willing to go through the trouble. Gopnik's argument hinges on the Social Control theory which asserts that the propensity to commit a crime is reduced when society establishes a framework to stop people from offending (Children.gov.on.ca.)

He goes further to look at how other countries approach the issue of gun control, presenting data which shows that the United States claims half of the fourteen worst mass shootings in Western democracies and that other countries hardly have repeat performances as severe as the initial one. He attributes the seemingly successful war against gun violence in those countries to legislation, like in Britain where already restrictive gun laws were further tightened in 1996 after a gunman killed 16 children plus their teacher in Dunblane, Scotland. Subsequently, private citizens in the United Kingdom are not allowed to own the type of firearm Cho Seung-Hui used during the Virginia Tech massacre, the reason such killings have reduced. In Quebec, survivors of a school shooting in which fourteen women lost their lives started a gun control movement that saw the regulation of gun ownership which has since reduced the scale of shooting sprees in Canada. Further afield, the killing of eight people at a meeting in Nanterre, Paris in 2002, catapulted gun control into a critical issue in the year's Presidential election. France has not experienced a repeat of such an occurrence.

Statistics by Selkowitz (793) support Gopnik's assertion by indicating that in 2006 alone, roughly 31,000 people lost their lives to gun violence in the United States, and a further 71,000 were injured. Additionally, the country lost a total of 1,250,803 people to gun-related deaths between 1965 and 2004. Gun violence in the United States affects civilians and high ranking state officials alike, for instance, the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963 (Jfklibrary.org) and the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 by the mentally unstable John Hinckley Jr. (www.history.com). Despite such high profile occurrences, the American law system is reluctant to tighten the noose on gun ownership. Gopnik underpins that contrary to expectation, weapons are easily accessible even in states like Virginia where the National Rifle Association is powerful.

Gopnik's solution is realistic given that society has little control over people's actions, therefore disarming them is a sure way of averting insanity moments that end up with lives lost. Eleven years since the article, incidences of mass shootings have increased in the U.S, the most recent being February 14 when a former Florida High School student opened gunfire killing at least seventeen adults and children (Grinberg, and Levenson). Igielnik and Brown pose that two out of every three adults in America have at some point lived in a household with a gun, and seven out of every ten have fired a gun.

The weakness in Gopnik's argument is that he gives little credit to the fact that there are individuals with stable minds and self-control who can own semi-automatic weapons without using them for mass murders. In his closing remarks, he is categorical that there exists no reason for any private citizen in a democracy to own a handgun. Most holders of such weaponry use it for target practice and self-defense. His overall view is that all military grade and semi-automatic weapons in the hands of citizens are disasters in waiting, therefore, should be taken away. The article would have had a more balanced approach if the author specified that restrictions to firearms apply to only individuals with a history of mental instabilities or a rough upbringing.

Overall, facts, experiences and recorded statistics afford credibility and validity of Gopnik's deductive reasoning, which solidifies this essay's position that it is logical to enforce legislation over gun ownership. This analysis is in support that the government should lift the expired ban on assault weapons so that there are restrictions on the acquisition and ownership of military grade firearms.

Works Cited

Children.gov.on.ca. "Social Control and Self-Control Theories." Children.Gov.on.ca, 2016, http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/professionals/oyap/roots/volume5/chapter12_social_control.aspx. Accessed 26 Oct 2018.

Gopnik, Adam. "Gun Control and The Virginia Tech Massacre." The New Yorker, 2007, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/04/30/shootings. Accessed 26 Oct 2018.

Grinberg, Emanuella, and Eric Levenson. "At Least 17 Dead in Florida School Shooting, Law Enforcement Says". CNN, 2018, https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/14/us/florida-high-school-shooting/index.html. Accessed 26 Oct 2018.

Igielnik, Ruth, and Anna Brown. "Americans' Views On Guns and Gun Ownership: 8 Key Findings". Pew Research Center, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/22/key-takeaways-on-americans-views-of-guns-and-gun-ownership/. Accessed 26 Oct 2018.

Jfklibrary.org. "November 22, 1963: Death of the President". Jfklibrary.Org, https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/jfk-in-history/november-22-1963-death-of-the-president. Accessed 26 Oct 2018.

Legal Information Institute. "Second Amendment". LII / Legal Information Institute, 2018, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/second_amendment. Accessed 26 Oct 2018.

Selkowitz, Jonathan E. "Guns, Public Nuisance, And The PLCAA: A Public Health-Inspired Legal Analysis of the Predicate Exception". Templelawreview.Org, 2012, http://www.templelawreview.org/lawreview/assets/uploads/2012/02/83.3_Selkowitz.pdf. Accessed 26 Oct 2018, p. 793.

Www.history.com. "President Reagan Shot". History, 2009, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/president-reagan-shot. Accessed 26 Oct 2018.

Xu, Jiaquan et al. "Deaths: Final Data for 2016". Cdc.Gov, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_05.pdf. Accessed 26 Oct 2018.

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