The Breakfast Table

The Uses of Littleton

Hi Margaret:

I found myself watching the Sunday shows looking for a story for us, and finding only that everyone is so, so predictable. Everyone uses Littleton for their own cause, and, of course, if you believe in the cause, then you think they’re right, and if you don’t … well, you think they’re pandering and exploiting.

But since I think I’m right about guns (and was once an expert on guns, when I worked for John Lindsay when he was mayor of New York City, and was the first person to track guns taken from criminals and found that 90 percent or so of them taken from arrested people in New York came from four easy-gun states in the South and were sold in New York on the black market), I do believe that worrying about guns is a solution. But I also think that the gun control people haven’t seized on the best, simplest argument–which is that we should just treat guns like cars: register them and license those who would use them. These kids clearly have an easier time getting access to guns than to cars. That’s insane. And that’s the simple argument that should be made.

Then I found myself all conflicted about the violence-in-media arguments. I keep liking Bill Bennett, in part because I love the idea of holding media executives responsible for what their minions sell and like Bennett’s approach that embarrassment and even boycotts can and should take the place of government regulation. (It’s kind of the point of my magazine.) Of course, he’d probably like government regulation but knows it’s unconstitutional; I just don’t like it; but we end up in the same place. Then again, if 99.9 percent of all kids can resist the “influence” of some stupid song or movie, don’t we muddy things up by blaming the song or movie when 0.1 percent of kids don’t “resist”?

Your last paragraph about writing vs. television hit home. It’s why most reporters shouldn’t go on television as pundits. It’s why most television people shouldn’t go on television as pundits. Having edited magazines and newspapers and a television network, I can tell you that I love print, because it’s precise, because it can convey complicated ideas, and because it sticks.