In my contribution to Variety's special report on media and violence, I discuss two unwitting elements movies and news introduce to the problem: Creating the perception of a scary world, which makes more people feel like they need a gun for protection; and "Dirty Harry" syndrome, where, as the NRA so eloquently put it, all it takes to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun -- even if said "good guy" is just an ordinary citizen.
The blog Talkingpointsmemo, however, has an additional facet that is worth noting -- what a reader refers to as the "'Red Dawn' Fantasy," citing the 1980s era (and since remade) movie in which a group of plucky Americans defend themselves from foreign invaders.
Quoting from the site: If you ask those who insist they must own one or more assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols with high capacity magazines, the answer you’ll hear over and over again is: I want to be ready to defend America against the Commies, the terrorists, the immigrant invaders, the United Nations, and yes, even the government of the United States of America. That’s the Red Dawn fantasy.
As someone who once had a guy in Valdosta, Georgia, tell me how he needed his guns to fight off the government or terrorists, I think they're on to something there. (Valdosta -- with a population of 56,000 -- seems like a less likely target than Los Angeles, but I sensed pretty soon trying to reason with him wasn't going to make either of us any happier.)
Of course, to hear the most ardent 2nd Amendment advocates tell it, the need for guns right now includes the ability to overthrow a U.S. dictatorship, which is certainly ambitious, given that even AK-47s are no match for tanks, missiles and nukes, which is a point "The Daily Show" also made in its brilliant coverage of the issue since returning from its holiday break.
The point is there is all sorts of mythology and romance surrounding gun ownership, much of it stoked -- in some ways subconsciously -- by the very media the NRA has targeted as a cause of violence in society that merits more attention than guns.
As I stated the first time around, the media are a factor. It's just not in the way many people like to think.