Rhetorical Analysis Essay
The Nuge’s Nudge Against Gun Control
The Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 brought on text alerts and tightened security but also brought up many questions. How could this happen? Why would someone do this? How was he able to commit such crimes? Inevitably, gun control soon became one of the questions raised. Many people, such as writer Adam Gopnik, called for stricter gun control. However, others remained adamantly opposed to such laws. Ted Nugent was one such person. In April 2007 he composed an essay in response to the massacre, citing gun control as a problem and giving many examples of how citizens with legally owned guns have become heroes. While Nugent’s essay is effective with certain audiences and is an overall fitting response to the exigence, he becomes constrained by the degrading language incorporated in the essay.
Gun control has always been a point of controversy. In a society such as ours, guns are everywhere. Anyone can go into their local Walmart and find firearms and ammunition for sale. As of 2010, an estimated 40-45% of United States households have a gun for protection, target shooting, or hunting. (“Gun Control”) However, this only applies to households with legally owned guns. When a gun is bought through a private dealer, the buyer does not have to undergo a background check, lessening the restrictions of who can buy a gun. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg cites the rise in the distribution of illegal firearms as the cause for the increase in police shootings holding groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) responsible for the amount of firearms available, even stating in a recent interview that the NRA has no interest in public safety and should be ashamed of themselves (“Bloomberg Blast NRA”)
The obvious solution would be to place restrictions on who can buy a gun. However, such systems are already in place and failing. For example, a photo-identification issued by a government entity is necessary in order to conduct a background check, but Government Accountability Office investigators had a 100% success rate in five different states using fake IDs with false names. (“Gun Control”) When the item being purchased can end a person’s life with the pull of a trigger, failures such as this can be fatal, as seen in the Virginia Tech shooting.
Seung-Hui Cho, the student responsible for the massacre, was declared mentally ill (“Chapter IV”) and should not have been able to purchase any firearms. However, he legally purchased two firearms due to a lack of communication between the state court, which declared him mentally deteriorated, and the federal government, which conducted the background check. Therefore, in order to prevent incidents such as the Virginia Tech massacre, there are some who call for the ownership of handguns by private citizens to be outlawed.
Ted Nugent is by no means one of these people. Although he established himself as a musician in the 1970s and still continues his musical career, today Nugent is better known for his bold statements and incendiary opinions. He has over 42,000 twitter followers and has most recently paired up with another extreme conservative, Glen Beck, to “celebrate truth &logic The American Way.” While he has always advocated against gun control, Nugent came out with a particularly scathing essay addressing gun control after the Virginia Tech shooting. He begins by pointing out that many places where shootings occurred were gun-free zones, then discredits the “mindless puppets” of the Brady Campaign and other “anti-gun cults” by describing them as evil and in denial. He continues by listing several examples in which ordinary citizens were able to stop shootings or “Columbine wannabes” with their own legally owned guns. Nugent then references the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” idea by stating that no one campaigned for “steak knife control” after Richard Speck went on trial for mass murder. He concludes by stating that those who are for gun control “demand unarmed helplessness” and “tramp on the Second Amendment” and calls for the elimination of gun free zones because they will never be gun free, only “good guy gun-free.”
In this essay, one of the components not explicitly stated, but still critical, is his intended audience. Essentially, he is targeting anyone who will listen, whether they are for or against gun control. From his obvious use of persuasion, it is clear that Nugent is trying to influence those who have not taken a stand on the gun control issue because they are either uninformed, do not feel strongly about either side, or have conflicting opinions. Through his put downs of the Brady Campaign and other anti-gun groups, it is evident that he is trying to discredit them, therefore giving himself credibility and hoping to sway people to his side. Those who are already opposed to gun control would certainly be part of Nugent’s audience as well, but he does not target them because they are already convinced. Therefore, he does not need to persuade them further. He can simply allow his incendiary language to replenish their belief against gun control.
Overall, Ted Nugent has a very fitting response to the situation, using language and references to influence others. The Virginia Tech shooting calls gun control into question, giving Nugent exigence, or a call to action, in order to defend his beliefs against gun control. His aggressive language is able to excite those who are also opposed to gun control, igniting a response from them. Nugent is able to further persuade others with his illustration of everyday citizens with legally owned guns. He gives himself credibility by pulling from real life examples of how people became heroes using their firearms, such as an assistant principal stopping a shooter from massacring other students and two law students who retrieved their weapons, therefore neutralizing a “madman” on campus.
In addition to these examples, Nugent includes strong reasoning coupled with further examples in his essay to support the widely known “guns don’t kill, people kill” concept. He states that no one blamed hardware stores or kitchen utensils for the actions of other mass murders that used more commonly distributed items as their weapon of choice. This connection helps readers see that the weapons themselves are not to blame, but rather the people holding them.
However, there are several self-imposed constraints Nugent faces through his language in his essay that limits his possible audience. While the use of phrases such as “brain-dead celebration of unarmed helplessness” and “spineless gun control advocates squawking like chickens” might whip his followers into an anti-gun control frenzy, it is likely that it will anger others against him. Such insulting phrases detract from his point and lessen his credibility. They leave readers focused on his tone rather than the message he is sending. Also, insulting language can offend those who are already on his side, causing them to regard him differently and question his beliefs.
Furthermore, the Virginia Tech shooting was, and still is, a sensitive topic. However, Nugent does not acknowledge this, and instead makes many comments that would be construed as offensive. For example, Nugent states that “it is their own forced gun-free zone policy that enabled the unchallenged methodical murder of 32 people,” suggesting that the school is to blame for the actions of a mentally unstable student. Also, near the end of his essay, Nugent uses the massacre as a sounding board to promote his belief that schools should no longer be gun-free zones. Whether this is true or false, right after a shooting is not an appropriate time to suggest that guns be allowed on campus. Therefore, his blatant disregard for the sensitivity of the topic limits further limits his audience.
In conclusion, Nugent’s response to the Virginia Tech massacre is an overall fitting response to the exigence, but components of his speech form constraints on his possible audience. While his language is offensive to some, it is important to remember that what might offend some people, excites others and rallies them the cause. Therefore, the positive components of his speech, such as the examples and his defense of guns using basic reasoning, far outweigh the constraints he faces.
"Chapter IV Mental Health History of Seung-Hui Cho." Virginia.gov. Web. 28 Feb. 2012. .
"Gun Control." Just Facts. Web. 28 Feb. 2012. .
“Bloomberg Blasts NRA Over ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws." ABC News. ABC News Network. Web. 02 May 2012. .