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Guest opinion

It's time to rename KGUN

As hundreds of thousands participated in the March for Our Lives over the weekend to honor the Parkland victims and demand stricter gun control laws to end violence in schools and communities, here in Tucson we got news of the protests from our local television station and ABC affiliate: KGUN.

We can do better, Tucson. It's time to rename KGUN.

In saying this, I am not maligning the role that the TV station plays in our local community, nor the work of its dedicated reporters and staff. And I'm not impinging on anyone's legitimate Second Amendment rights.

But it's time to stop celebrating guns as an emblem of social identity.

I laughed when I first tuned in to KGUN, right after I moved to Tucson in the fall of 2002. I'm in the "Wild West," I thought. But it was almost charming in a folkloric way, as if metro Tucson could be likened to a modern-day O.K. corral.

I wasn't laughing a few weeks later, when a heavily armed student shot and killed three professors at the University of Arizona, where I work.

Many of us can recall the wail of ambulances across the city on January 8, 2011, right after the shooting at Congresswoman Gabby Giffords' meet-and-greet, which killed six of our community members and injured fifteen.

These two events stand out, but everyday gun violence in Tucson is even deadlier. Out of all states, Arizona ranks number three in firearm death rates, 23 percent higher than the national average, according to the CDC.

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Some may say that renaming a television station will have no impact on gun violence. Clearly, we need other policy changes. But names are important. Symbols matter. They show us who we are, and what we value.

I suspect few of us have ever thought about how KGUN got its name. The station's web archives tell the story. Back in the mid 1950s, the station went on the air as KDWI, named for the initials of its founder, rancher and lumberman D.W. Ingram. When the station was sold soon after, the new owner, H.U. Garrett, thought that DWI would have negative connotations (the station manager was quoted as saying, "where I come from, DWI don't mean nothin' good"). Garrett was also an avid gun collector, and KGUN's new name reflected his personal hobby.

Currently, KGUN's owner is the E.W. Scripps Company, a media conglomerate based in Cincinnati, which also runs the National Spelling Bee.

With young people leading the way, perhaps finally we have reached a point of gun saturation. This is no longer just a "liberal" concern. Last weekend, the New England Patriots, owned by Trump supporter Robert Kraft, loaned its team plane to Parkland students and their families traveling to the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C.

Here's what conservative political commentator and George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum tweeted about that: "Risk-averse corporate entities making highly visible contributions to formerly controversial causes is exactly what profound cultural change looks like."

Thousands of people marched in Tucson against gun violence this past weekend. Having one of our local TV stations emblazoned with the call letters GUN is no longer folkloric. It's not reminiscent of a romantic, bygone frontier age or a timeless "Wild West" identity. It's an embarrassment.

According to the FCC, changing a commercial station's call letters can be done by submitting an online request and paying a fee.

Let's tell the Scripps Company: It's time to rename KGUN.

Elizabeth Oglesby is a resident of Tucson, associate professor in the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona, and a Public Voices fellow with the Op Ed Project.

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have your say   

3 comments on this story

Apr 9, 2018, 6:41 am
-1 +0

Except for the date I would have thought this was an April Fool’s joke.

Mar 28, 2018, 6:36 am
-3 +6

Are people so weak minded and offended they can’t see the gun and not be “triggered.” Seriously, if you don’t like the station call sign KGUN 9, don’t look at it or watch it.

Mar 27, 2018, 5:13 pm
-0 +3

A bit of history: In 1957, a year after the Tucson TV station began broadcasting, a new owner changed the call letters from KDWI because of the potential negative association.

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