For those of us who leave the state for winter break, it can be difficult to keep up with current events in Wisconsin. So while I wasn’t surprised to find I was behind on the news when I came back after break, I was pretty shocked I had somehow missed something like this:
On Jan. 10 Gov. Scott Walker was asked if the tragedy at Sandy Hook had affected his stance on gun control (Walker holds an A+ rating from the NRA). Walker demonstrated too much of the discussion after a shooting revolves around the weapon – rather than the factors that contribute to a person wanting to go on a shooting spree in the first place – when he responded, “We just had someone last week in Neenah near a school kill someone with a bow and arrow.”
This is certainly a valid and much-used argument against increased gun control – guns don’t kill people, people kill people. If we outlaw guns, then people will find other ways to kill people, like knives or, in this case, bows and arrows. Humans managed to kill one another for millennia without the help of guns. What makes us think that taking guns away will change anything?
However, our governor left out one ever-so-minor detail: THIS DIDN’T HAPPEN.
As Capt. David Mack of the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department told Politifact Wisconsin (which rated the statement a “pants on fire” lie), “No one got killed. I know because I was there.”
In reality, the altercation was a domestic dispute between a father and son. The 21-year-old son shot at (and missed) his dad with a bow and arrow in their home. I won’t waste space going over details, but Politifact Wisconsin has the full story on their website should anyone be interested.
Now, the wonderful irony here is Walker used this situation as evidence against gun control, when in reality, it could illustrate quite well why many believe stricter gun control measures should be put in place. Although I’m no expert in these matters, it’s my understanding that compared to a bow and arrow, a gun is easier to aim with and generally easier to kill someone with. If this young man had used a gun instead of a bow and arrow, this situation could have very easily resulted in patricide. Instead, everyone escaped unharmed.
This argument becomes more powerful when one considers mass shootings. If the killer at Sandy Hook had a bow and arrow instead of an AR-15 and two handguns, would some, or even most, of the victims still be alive now?
However, this incident as a whole illustrates the central problem with the current discourse surrounding gun control (along with a whole host of other political issues). As long as the debate centers on stories and anecdotes – including ones that aren’t even true – it’s going to be very difficult to come to any sort of reasonable compromise. Politicians and pundits going back and forth on TV aren’t going to do anything besides further polarizing people. What we really need is a discussion that revolves around actual facts and research. After all, a little technocracy never hurt anyone.
Of course, this is easier said than done. But it is far from impossible.
We need to hold our elected leaders to a higher standard. It is simply unacceptable for a governor – regardless of party – to make statements as totally false as the one Walker made. And while all politicians make mistakes, this was not a simple slip of the tongue. Walker did not misspeak. He used something that was patently untrue to support his argument. Our governor should be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Joe Timmerman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sophomore majoring in math and economics.