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Lyons: Gun irrationality often clouds judgment

Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

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When you run an image of a series of handguns on Page 1, there’s a tinge of concern about a backlash from some readers. That’s because Americans are somewhat irrational about guns.

Like abortion, guns are one of the most polarizing issues we have. The extremes are drastic, and people at your own backyard barbecue could have an otherwise lovely evening together while holding vastly differing opinions on the subject of gun control.

There are plenty of high-profile media cases to fan the flames on all sides. Contrary to what many believe, they aren’t cases invented by the media. They rise to national news coverage because some news consumers are consumed by the story.

Until the George Zimmerman verdict was reached, I don’t believe we ever played the story on Page 1.

But people like Nancy Grace shrieked over the Zimmerman trial for one reason: ratings. You can get mad at the evil media all you like, but the evil media, and I use the term loosely with regard to Grace, are responding to their viewership demands.

Those who rant and rave the most ferociously about the evil media’s coverage of (insert shooting story here) are the biggest consumers of the story. It’s like lions complaining about feeding time at the zoo.

Sandy Hook. Aurora, Colo. Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Not all major human vs. human tragedies involve firearms, but enough do that the big ones get our attention.

Without getting into the perceived racial components of the Zimmerman trial, there was plenty of meat for those who believe handguns should be illegal – and certainly not allowed to be carried by citizens – and plenty for those who believe Zimmerman represented exactly the reason why citizens should have the right to protect themselves in public with a handgun.

The verdict reaction was to be expected. Having covered self-defense murder cases, I can tell you they can be tough to disprove. Violence begets violence, and what happens in between is often hard to navigate.

In the frenzy to their respective corners to proselytize about gun control or the right to bear arms, people often didn’t sound terribly intelligent in the wake of the verdict.

According to common sense, the key facts are that Trayvon Martin did not deserve to die and that George Zimmerman had a right to defend himself when eventually attacked. There are many other choices that Martin and Zimmerman could have made that would have resulted in just another night in Sanford, Fla.

Soon we’ll have concealed-carry permits in Illinois. For those concerned about a rash of vigilante justice, you shouldn’t be. People committing acts of handgun violence are by and large those who carry handguns without regard for the laws in place.

While I’ve fired guns recreationally, I don’t consider myself a gun person. Like most people, a concealed-carry permit won’t sweeten the deal. I’m fortunate to live in a nice neighborhood where someone is far more likely to shove a cold beer in my face than the cold barrel of a Sig Sauer. In another place, circumstances might be different.

As long as we have guns in this country, which I suspect will be at least as long as my lifetime and likely my children’s lifetimes, many Americans will remain irrational about guns.

What’s frustrating about news events such as the Zimmerman verdict is that such irrationality clouds the judgment of so many people that this was both a reasonable and unlikeable result of a very tragic incident.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH.

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