All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday and I’m writing the mailbag just a couple of hours before I’m leaving for a Star Wars Disney Cruise with my family. Yes, it’s seven days on a cruise ship with people dressed up as Star Wars characters. My three boys are probably going to love it, but I honestly think Disney may have an assassin dressed up as Boba Fett knock me into the ocean and my body will never be found.

So if I die, I want you all to know that Disney CEO Bob Iger did it.

But if I don’t die, good news, I’ve got a new book coming out this fall! I’ll give you more details on the new book in the weeks ahead, but for now just know that you’ll love it.

Okay, on to the mailbag and, as you can imagine, there are a ton of questions about the Florida school shooting.

So I’m going to start with my basic thoughts on it and then I’ll respond to a few of your specific questions.

First, I think we should all begin from this premise — no one wants kids to be murdered by psychopaths.

Every reasonable person in America is against this outcome. The person to blame for this shooting is the psychopath, no one else. Not you, not me, not parenting, not any of the circumstances surrounding this kid’s life, an individual made the decision to buy a weapon and use it to kill innocent people. He, and he alone, is to blame for his direct actions.

Society didn’t make him do this and the bill of rights and the second amendment didn’t make him do this and neither did anyone else. He did it. I feel like everyone skips directly over this in a rush to blame everyone else for what one psychopathic individual did. So what I’d ask of all of you is this — resist the desire to blame someone else in order to make yourself feel better about your own culpability in this situation.

You and I are not responsible for any of this.

I feel like this is important to say because every time there is a shooting people immediately move past the specific shooter and focus on blaming everyone else for the shooter’s actions. And everyone goes to their comfortable political corners filled with their usual biases and cliched arguments. Guns get blamed and defended, the NRA gets blamed and defended, Republicans and Democrats get blamed and defended, the president gets blamed and defended, someone’s Tweet is outrageous and unacceptable and this entire story descends into one big media jerk off circle that leads nowhere.

So here’s my thought, how about advance the conversation beyond the usual simplistic and flawed debates on guns — debates, by the way, which always overlook the legal underpinnings of the second amendment, which is kind of important — and focus on a constructive goal that you and I can directly undertake. Rather than broad arguments and blaming which do nothing, I believe in people making individual decisions that can be collectively powerful.

So let’s do it.

Right now it is pretty much uniformly agreed upon by psychologists and criminal profilers that one main reason mass shootings occur is because the shooter desires fame. (Or infamy.)

Here is that argument succinctly made:

“Because many attackers explicitly admit that they want fame and directly reach out to media organizations to get it, it has become essentially indisputable that as a society, we have been helping them achieve their goals,” Dr. Adam Lankford said. “And, unfortunately, the offenders who kill more victims to get more publicity appear to be accurately exploiting predictable patterns in media behavior.”

Lankford proposes news media:

-Do not name the perpetrator

-Do not use photos or likenesses of the perpetrator

-Stop using the names, photos or likenesses of past perpetrators

-Report everything else about these crimes in as much detail as desired

Some of these measures have been implemented by news media in other countries, and there’s precedent for exceptions in coverage, like refraining from showing fans running across the field at sporting events and not publishing the names of victims of sexual assault.

Lankford said potential challenges of information leaks, offender self-promotion and the rarity of escaped suspects in mass shootings shouldn’t discourage nationwide implementation of his suggested news standards. He, along with 140 scholars, professors and law enforcement professionals have signed an open letter encouraging news media to incorporate the changes to their coverage.

“Many actors, authors, composers, inventors, musicians, reporters and journalists would be far less motivated—and might simply give up and try something else — if they knew that no matter what they did, no one would ever know their names,” Lankford said. “So under similar constraints, how many prospective mass shooters would give up their attack plans and do something else instead?

“It may be impossible to forecast an exact number, but even a small reduction in mass killings would make a big difference to the victims who avoid tragic deaths, and their friends and families.”

So why can’t members of the media like me — and readers like you — take a pledge that they will not write the shooter’s name or share his image with their audiences? (Subject to certain reasonable exceptions. Such as, the shooter is loose and the police are trying to find him).

In fact, that’s my pledge to you right now, I will not share any image or article, or share the name of a mass shooter, to my audience from this day forward. Instead, I’d direct you to consider the heroes who stood up to this shooter. Men like this assistant football coach who gave up his life defending students in the high school.

And for those of you out there who will immediately scream, “But you’re a First Amendment absolutist and you want to restrict what the media (or a private individual) is saying!” I’d respond thusly: The First Amendment isn’t just about speaking, it’s about choosing what to speak about. I believe that by sharing the stories and the names of the heroes combatting these shooters instead of the mass killers, I can make killing less likely.

So that’s what I’m going to do and I’d encourage all of you, as well as the media members who might be reading the mailbag today, to do the same.

Okay, on to a few of your specific questions.

Jacob writes:

“As archaic as it might seem do you think bringing back public hanging or death by a firing squad would prevent these school shooters looking for fame? In the event that a person causing this much harm is caught and confesses or is caught in the act what kind of precedent does skipping a trial and hanging him in public create?”

Skipping a trial is a horrific precedent so I oppose that completely.

Plus, study after study has shown that the deterrent effect of the death penalty doesn’t work.

Furthermore, a public execution actually brings more attention to the perpetrator. The better option is a quiet trial and then life in prison with no media ever covering or mentioning him again.

Costa writes:

“Why aren’t the people pushing for gun control also pushing for breathalyzers in all vehicles manufactured now? DUIs also kill thousands of innocent people a year yet no one blames the car.  It’s a slight inconvenience that would save lives. 

Is it because 99% of people are safe smart drivers and don’t want their liberties infringed? Same with guns.”

I don’t think breathalyzers in cars is a bad idea, honestly. In fact, many people who have had multiple DUIs have them installed on their vehicles already.

The problem with comparing guns and cars is that cars have become infinitely safer each year they have existed. The death rate from car accidents in the 1920’s is staggering compared to the death rate today. Think about the addition of seat belts and air bags, for instance, and how many lives those technological innovations have saved.

And we’re potentially heading towards self-driving cars, which would theoretically drive our national death in automobile accident rate down to potentially microscopic levels.

Having said that, I totally understand why responsible gun owners don’t want to have their rights taken away because of criminal miscreants. NRA members are not, and I repeat, not, the people who are showing up at schools and mowing down innocent people.

NRA members — and gun owners in general — are mostly responsible stewards of their second amendment rights.

So I’m not sure how to balance this exactly, but I do wonder whether, in the case of school shootings for instance, that raising the age to buy weapons might help. Sure, there will always be a black market for guns, but if you have to be 25 to rent a car and 21 to drink a beer, why wouldn’t it make sense to raise the age for purchasing a gun to 21 or 25?

Typically the people committing mass shootings at schools are young men. This particular young man legally bought the weapon he used to kill people at the school. (The FBI failed to follow up on a specific tip that he might commit a school shooting, by the way. Which represents a failure of existing law enforcement.) The Charleston church shooter made his purchase illegally — the background check failed — but, again, he was a young man. (This is why I’m also generally skeptical that we need new laws. If existing laws were implemented correctly most shooters wouldn’t be able to commit mass shootings).

As someone who used to be a young man, I think it’s fair to say that young men regularly engage in stupid decision-making. As I’ve said for a long time, no women’s final two words are, “Watch this.” It happens to young men all the time.

Young men are dumb and take rash risks.

Every single guy reading this right now can point to two or three times when he was a teenager or young adult and could have died over doing something stupid.

We have a legal drinking age of 21 because if the legal drinking age were 18 you’d have seniors in high school buying alcohol for younger kids in school all the time. So why not apply a similar rule for guns. Are there that many people who would be opposed to requiring you to be old enough to buy a beer or rent a car to buy a gun by yourself?

I’m not saying it’s a perfect answer — young men could still buy guns illegally or steal them from their parents or others — but I do think it’s an interesting concept to consider. (There could be clear exemptions to the rule if you’re in the military or a police officer, for instance.)

Regardless, again, I think the important point to consider here is that reasonable people of all political persuasions are all opposed to gun violence.

Everyone in America wants less gun violence.

And no one reading this right now, not even the FBI agent who blew off the tip about this shooter, is responsible for what this shooter did. He is.

Will writes:

“The cities in the US with the strictest gun laws have the highest rates of violent-gun crime. There are some places (Midwest/South) that almost have more guns than people and don’t have these problems.
How is it that the idea “guns are the problem” is still so popular?”
Guns don’t cause violence, but guns make violent people more violent. For instance, committing a mass assault using knives — as recently happened in Britain — is much less violent and deadly than a gun. If given the choice between a violent person having access to guns or knives, knives are better. (Bombs, when accurately constructed, are actually the worst and we saw that happen in England too).
But we also don’t live in a country where we can eliminate guns so that argument is nonsensical. Despite the opinion of some, the Constitution still matters. And so do how our judges interpret the constitution.
Here’s an interesting fact which isn’t shared very much, our rate of mass shootings in this country isn’t increasing, but the number of victims of those mass shootings is increasing. So the mass shootings aren’t more common right now, they’re just more dangerous when they happen.
We pay a ton of attention to these mass shootings — again, see my point above about not publicizing the shooters — but we don’t notice when 19 murder victims occur one at a time over the course of a day as opposed to happening all at once. (It’s similar to the way we cover car accidents. If 100 people die every day one or two at a time — as happens every day on our nation’s roadways — we don’t really pay much attention. But if a bus of school children drives off the side of a mountain and 35 kids die at once, everyone takes note and the story is lead news).
The media does a poor job, I think, covering violence in this country. It’s why, for instance, the illusion that police are indiscriminately killing black people has taken root. Did you know that a police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be shot and killed by a black person than an unarmed black person is to be shot and killed by a police officer?
Probably not, because that’s a politically incorrect stat to share.
We hear all the time about how scared a black motorist is when he gets pulled over by a police officer, but from a statistical basis a police officer has 18.5 times more reason to be scared of a black motorist than an unarmed black motorist does to be scared of him.
Similarly, our rate of national violence is declining precipitously regardless of what our gun laws say. While the murder rate has gone up the past couple of years — I believe it’s specifically because police officers have been demonized in the media — the overall trend lines are fantastic. Less people are dying violently in this country.
What we need to focus on is trying to decrease mass shootings. Which is why I’ve made the pledge to stop sharing info about shooters.
Okay, new topics.

Russell writes:

“What are your thoughts on the reports that Triple H has met with Fox Sports executives about the TV rights to Monday Night Raw & SmackDown Live and/or a possible sale of WWE to Fox? Do you think a marriage between Fox Sports & WWE would work? Would an FS1 benefit from having WWE talent appear on opinion/talking head shows like Undisputed? Do you think WWE programming is a bargain at $250 million a year?”
I have owned WWE stock for several years and have put lots of my own money into the company. And I’ve been telling you guys to buy it as well for several years. Hopefully you’ve listened because the stock is at an all time high right now.
I believe WWE will get bought out by a major media company, Fox, Comcast, Netflix, Disney, Amazon, Apple or otherwise, and I’d encourage you to buy the stock right now and hold out for that possibility over the next couple of years.
If I were running any of the companies I mentioned above, I’d buy WWE and make its programming a substantial part of our overall network offerings.
And, yes, I think putting WWE on FS1 would be brilliant. I’ve been arguing that exact point since FS1 launched. Rather than pay hundreds of millions of years for the programming, I’d buy the company outright.
Mark writes:
“Interested to see if you’ve been keeping up with the Michigan State ESPN OTL story. I have a lot of problems with how ESPN has conducted this report. ESPN continues to insinuate that MSU has “secrets beyond Nassar” without any factual proof of a cover up, etc. They continue to link Izzo and Dantonio with that freak Nassar and it’s a complete joke of reporting.”
As I’ve read up on this case, I believe there’s been a clear attempt to use the outrage surrounding the Larry Nassar case as a way to bring pressure to bear on Mark Dantonio, Tom Izzo and Michigan State. And the more I read about these cases and the reporting surrounding them, the more convinced I am that ESPN sought to take advantage of mob anger to bring down any powerful person at the university.
Does Michigan State have issues with the way they’ve handled allegations of sexual assault involving football and basketball players over the past decade?
Are those issues in any way connected to Larry Nassar?
I think ESPN clearly attempted to connect the two and I think that angle of their reporting has been completely unfair.
Wes writes:
“So this Karen McDougal and Donald Trump thing — why do liberal media think this will impact him politically or have some big effect on the country? If anything, this humanizes him even more. I didn’t vote for Trump, but I knew prior to the election that he had his share of beautiful women in his day. Now, by creating even more public awareness for his trysts adult actress Stormy Daniels and, now, the 1998 Playboy Playmate of the Year prior to his political entry, do the media think this will damage his approval rating with the vast majority of straight men in this country? If anything, this proves that Trump is the closest POTUS we’ve had to Kennedy since Kennedy. Trump’s knack for outkicking his coverage makes Bill Clinton’s efforts with Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky, neither above a 5.5 on a 1-10 scale, look like child’s play.”
The media still has not learned that attacking Donald Trump only strengthens his bond with his base. Donald Trump isn’t president in spite of his flaws, he’s president because of his flaws.
Trump isn’t vulnerable because of his personal foibles, his Tweets, and his past indiscretions, he’s vulnerable because of his decisions as president. Anyone who beats Trump will beat him on ideas, not by descending into his media circus and trying to tar and feather him with shame.
The fact that Trump’s foes still don’t understand this is why I think he has a good chance of winning again in 2020.
You have to beat Trump head to head on his ideas, not by trying to personally destroy him.
Thanks for reading Outkick and hope y’all have fantastic weekends.
I’m off for a Disney Star Wars cruise for the next week.
Pray for dad.

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.