Tom Brokaw characterized the Aurora movie theater shooting in three words: “It went away.” Within weeks of the rampage on that July night, he said, mentions of the shooting disappeared from the media. But last Tuesday, the newscaster sat down with four men in front of a packed auditorium in the Logan Arts Center at the UofC, and made it clear that he yearned to do the opposite for Newtown. Moderating a panel discussion on the politics of guns in America, Brokaw’s questions forced a dialogue that refused to let the consequences of the Sandy Hook tragedy fade from public consciousness.
On the political side of the panel were Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Steve Latourette, a retired, NRA “A” Rated Republican Representative from Ohio. Joining them were Jens Ludwig, director of the UofC’s Crime Lab, and Steve Chapman, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and staunch gun advocate.
Watching these individuals was like watching Congress; polarized perspectives, mildly condescending comments, but ultimately, a deep concern for America’s well-being. While Mayor Emmanuel ridiculed the lack of unity in Congress by joking that in Chicago, “we actually come back to bipartisanship” and poked fun at the Republican panelist–who did retort by questioning the validity of the non-partisanship of an institute run by David Axelrod–the banter between the two became only a minimal part of the discussion.
The heavy tone of Brokaw’s questions reminded the audience of the presence of guns in American and Chicagoan current events. For residents of Chicago’s South Side, issues of gun control and violence hit close to home. When Chapman stated that the use of guns for violent crimes was “very, very low” and that “99.5 percent of guns” weren’t used for criminal activity, it seemed at odds with recent history.Â As Brokaw mentioned in his introduction, there were “500 homicides in Chicago alone” in 2012. Regardless of political affiliation, members of the panel strongly agreed for the need to close loopholes and increase background checks to purchase guns, a monumental reconciliation in the evening’s discussions.
Guns have been catapulted into the national conversation for the past few months, but more than anything, this discussion proved that Sandy Hook wasn’t an anomaly. Public shootings in the United States have become nearly cyclical. As Brokaw mentioned in his introduction, many still remain “utterly vexed” on the lack of comprehensive gun control legislation.