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Local View: Show the disturbing images to help stop gun carnage

From the column: "Pictures of the Nazi carnage changed the narrative about the Nazis. We need to see what the weapons of war do to children and innocents."

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Dave Granlund/Cagle Cartoons
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How often do we see this message across the TV screen after a mass shooting: “The following pictures may offend some viewers”” Yet when we are shown photos after a domestic mass shooting with war weapons, there is nothing to see, just flashing lights from patrol cars and police standing around (sometimes hundreds of them, as in Uvalde, Texas), some in SWAT gear.

Recently, New York Times columnist Charles Blow demanded, “ Show the Carnage .” He wants us to see what the wounds from war weapons look like.

So, keep your pistols and shotguns to hunt pheasants, but outlaw automatic war weapons that can kill people — and that increasingly are killing kids.

The Los Angeles Police Department explained in June how “bullets fired from an AR-15 are powerful enough to pierce soft body armor,” as RawStory reported . “Then, footage was shown from a ballistic lab where bullets were fired into a gelatin substance meant to mimic human flesh. When a handgun was fired at the substance, it created a single cavity through the substance and the bullet exited from the other side. A bullet fired from an assault rifle broke apart inside the substance and the damage was much more explosive. ‘It basically goes into the body and creates an explosion inside the body,’ Wayne University ballistics expert Cynthia Bir said."

Digging through history like Blow did, I came across something similar which he did not mention: horrific scenes from the Nazi concentration camps and the Holocaust. We have images of what happened there, but right after the war little of it filtered out. Sure, German dictator Adolf Hitler was an SOB, but no one knew the extent of his inhumanity. One person did, and that was Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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The saga started after Eisenhower went through the Ohrdruf concentration camp in Thuringia, Germany, in April 1945. He had to let the world know. America was suffering from combat fatigue, and newspaper headlines alone would not roust that much attention.

In my research, I came across Eisenhower’s comments to Army Chief of Staff George Marshall: “The most interesting — although horrible — sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp. … The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp, I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. … In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to propaganda.”

After visiting the camp, Eisenhower cabled Marshall declaring that everything that appeared in the press so far about the sites was an “understatement.” We seem to have the same attitude in understating the dangers with having weapons of war.

On April 19, 1945, Eisenhower again cabled Marshall with a request to bring members of Congress and journalists to the newly liberated camps so that they could bring the horrible truth about German Nazi atrocities to the American public. Then Ike made German citizens walk through the camps to see Nazi barbarity with their own eyes. Documentaries were made of this, which eventually led to the Nuremberg war-crime trials.

America was suffering through mass-murder headline fatigue like we are now. Instead of yet another headline, we need to present the idea that the best way to prevent gun violence from weapons of war is by showing the disturbing images of the bloody carnage resulting from the use of these weapons. Politicians would think twice about parading around with an AR-15 for a photo op.

Show what firing the AR-15 can do to a small child’s body. Gruesome pictures are worth a thousand words.

Pictures of the Nazi carnage changed the narrative about the Nazis. We need to see what the weapons of war do to children and innocents — and then try to say that this somehow protects our democracy.

John Freivalds of Wayzata, Minnesota, is the author of six books and is the honorary consul of Latvia in Minnesota. His website is jfapress.com. He owns three guns: a .38, a 270 hunting rifle, and a .22 rifle. He wrote this for the News Tribune.

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John Freivalds
John Freivalds

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