Protecting our children seems to be a question that boggles the mind of every parent out there. But, what exactly does it mean to protect our children? Is it through entrusting another human to wield a gun to protect them? Or is it by raising our children to believe guns are responsible for the violent acts that terrify society? In the last three years, there has about 1,275 mass shootings in the United States and in 2017, there has been 427 mass shootings–the most devastating event took place in Las Vegas on October 1st–fifty nine people were killed and 441 were wounded. Wayne LaPierre writes his speech in response to the tragic gun-shooting incident that occurred in Sandy Hook Elementary School, which resulted in the deaths of 26 students and school staff members. LaPierre entered the conversation about gun laws in the United States during a time where people wanted stricter laws due to Sandy Hook’s tragedy, however, he wanted to convince people that instead of banning guns we should use them to increase our ability to protect ourselves. LaPierre wrote his address in order to question, if an armed guard was present at the school would it have prevented the deaths of 26 victims? He attempts to accomplish his goal to persuade his audience by using several demagogic strategies to make them reconsider the possible “benefits” of having armed guards in schools to prevent future shootings.
This paper will explore LaPierre’s claims and evidence in order to determine that his argument is successful by analyzing his use of the following demagogic characteristics: scapegoating, polarization, and oversimplification. One of LaPierre’s claims is that the media industry in the United States is “callous and corrupt” because it promotes violence and murder as a joke and a way of life, through harmful video games and movies that they call “entertainment.” LaPierre stated that “through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers…
and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life” (LaPierre 14-15) all encourage violence and criminal acts in society. Additionally, he emphasized that the media industry has been hiding violent video games such as “Kindergarten Killers” because they believed it had too much negative influence to the public. LaPierre utilizes scapegoating when he talks about the media industry in the United States as being a “corrupting shadow industry that sells, sows, violence against its own people” (LaPierre 13). He blames the media industry for promoting violence to society and believes that its harmful video games and films that “portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life” have lead to tragic acts of violence in America. As a strong supporter of gun use, LaPierre blames the media industry instead of discussing the harmful impacts of gun use and he does not take into consideration other aspects that influence violence among people. LaPierre’s goal is to convince his audience to agree that the cause of the acts of violence is due to the media industry’s promotion of content that has a negative influence on others, in which he is successful.Despite the negative influence the media industry has on people, another claim that LaPierre discussed was that most acts of gun violence are caused by people that are mentally ill.
LaPierre states that “…our society is populated by an unknown number of “genuine monsters” —people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them” (LaPierre 9). By polarizing society as having individuals that are “genuine monsters,” LaPierre establishes an in and out group when he views those who aren’t “sane” as being inferior, while ingroup members (like him) are seen as normal people who are morally correct. He states “they walk among us” in reference to the mentally ill in order to invoke suspicion within his audience and begin to start doubting the people that walk among the streets. LaPierre’s goal was to sway audience’s perspective on mentally ill people as dangerous members of society. However, LaPierre ignores that not all mentally ill people are harmful and the reason why they conduct acts of violence towards others is due to their mental health condition. As he convinces his audience that the mentally ill are the out group of society, LaPierre begins to embed his concept that Gun-Free School Zones, have had minor impacts against gun shootings and instead provide every insane killer a place where they can inflict maximum damage with little to no risk.
He then explains that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has tried to defend gun use within schools by stating that ” the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” (LaPierre 22). LaPierre fails to acknowledge that Gun Free School Zones have made a difference by preventing armed individuals from entering schools and providing a safer environment for children. He also does not provide the audience with any negative consequences of gun use, LaPierre primarily uses this strategy in his context to benefit him, by making the mentally ill seem as dangerous people while making the NRA seem very concerned about the safety of children in the community.