Our recent editorial about filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and the negative impact his ultraviolent movies have had on the national culture sparked a tremendous amount of responses, some of them heated. Fark.com, a humor-themed news aggregator website, labeled the piece "stupid" and derisively claimed that the Deseret News had taken the position that "we all know that if we stopped killing each other in movies, then death would just take a holiday."
Would that it were so.
If there were a way to end the tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook once and for all, then this newspaper, along with all people of good will, would do everything possible to make it happen. The harder, messier reality is that no such simple solutions exist. If they did, they'd already be in place. Instead, we're left to muddle through and try to cobble together piecemeal approaches to an intractable problem. That's not nearly as emotionally satisfying as a one-size-fits-all magic fix, but that's the only way to make any progress.
Ironically, the Fark.com logic is that it exposes the fallacy in many of the arguments being used by people on all sides of the gun control debate. If we just banned all guns, would death then take a holiday? Conversely, if everyone had a gun, would that end all the massacres? No and no. Anyone who tries to peddle easy answers on this issue isn't being helpful. But too many people who recognize the inconsistency in their opponent's arguments don't recognize the same errors in their own.
For example, many in Hollywood ridicule gun owners for pretending that legal accessibility to firearms has no impact on gun crime. But they are the first to protest that their cinematic glamorization of violence means absolutely nothing and doesn't influence behavior in the slightest. That's ridiculous. Sponsors pay billions of dollars each year in the hopes that their short messages interspersed with televised entertainment will change the behavior of potential shoppers. If what we watch doesn't have any impact on what we do, then every advertiser in the world is wasting money.
Our editorial, then, was not a call for the repeal or even the modification of the First Amendment. And it was most certainly not a claim that if the Quentin Tarantinos of the world were silenced, then violence would go away. Instead, it was an attempt to spur a discussion on one component of a complex problem without a simple remedy.
On that score, it seems we succeeded.