Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gun control: When will someone say "Enough's enough"?

20 children and 7 adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the second worst school shooting ever in modern US history. Is it too soon to talk about gun control? Absolutely not.

"Guns don't kill people - people do."

Yes, with guns. And here are several statistics that make crystal clear the relationship between guns and high murder rates:

* The US has the world's highest rate of private gun ownership, around double that of the second highest, Yemen. It's gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world. Predictably, it also has the highest murder rate in the developed world.

* Compare Japan, a nation of 127 million people, to the USA's 311 million. In 2008, the USA had over 12,000 firearm related homicides; Japan had 11. The difference is that there is no widespread belief in a "right" to own a gun in Japan, and thus their ownership is extremely limited and restricted.

* If you are thinking that perhaps in other countries people still commit murder, only using things other than firearms, consider this. This week, China experienced its own school attack, when a man wounded 22 children and 1 adult with a knife. Wounded is the operative word here. Had he a gun, we would be looking at some quite different statistics.

Yet gun culture is so deeply embedded in the psyche of a huge swathe of the US population that it is likely that nothing substantive will happen any time soon.

An example: former Governor of Arkansas and a man who was almost a Republican presidential nominee, Mike Huckabee, said today that:

"...stricter gun laws would not have prevented the shooting that killed 20 children and seven adults.
'We ask why there's violence in our schools, but we've systematically removed God from our schools.'"

Huckabee might be interested to know that around 65% of Japanese people identify themselves as not believing in God. Whereas "atheist" is virtually a dirty word in the US.

Huckabee, it should be noted, is both staunchly "pro-life" and staunchly pro-gun ownership. If you can't see the flaw in that logic, you are likely to be an American right-winger; these are people who view the lives of fetuses to be paramount, yet think their country is safer with more and more guns, which are expressly designed to kill people who have actually been born.

Huckabee again:

"Ultimately, you can take away every gun in America and somebody will use a bomb," he said. "When somebody has an intent to do incredible damage, they’re going to find a way to do it." 

Sure. Except there is no amendment in the US constitution that stipulates a right to bear bombs. You can't buy a bomb over the counter at Walmart.

Why not? What's the difference? A bomb is just a tool, right, just like a gun or a car... bombs don't kill people, people do...

The underlying reason for the USA's out-of-control gun culture is of course the constitution, specifically the second amendment stating the right to bear arms. And for many Americans, particularly on the conservative side, their slavish belief in whatever the constitution says would put religious fundamentalists to shame. (The same people usually tend to be religious fundamentalists, coincidentally.)

But the men who drew up the US constitution were living in different time and place - a more rural, frontier society, with guns that did not have the same lethal potential as today's semi-automatics. I can't imagine they would still support the universal right to bear arms if they could understand the damage they are causing today.

Conservative- and libertarian-minded people continually beat the drum about the need to stop governments from telling the people what they can and can't do. And to a point, they are right. But if there's anything a government should be able to strictly regulate, it is the possession of a high-powered killing machine.

Barack Obama clearly knows that gun ownership is the root cause of the problem. But is he the right person to lead the charge to tighten gun laws? There is already a strong correlation between passion for the right to bear arms, and believing that Obama is a Satanic Muslim Socialist Manchurian Candidate who is intent on destroying America. He has not yet taken a single step in either of his terms to tighten gun ownership, yet the gun lobby are rapidly opposed to him. If he does take action, he will face a massive backlash from the far right, and probably an assassination attempt or two. Yet in his final term with no need to seek reelection, and with the Republican Party in relative disarray, he may in fact be the perfect person to take this decisive step.


  1. And here is a good writeup to support the argument -

  2. I'm hoping he takes that decisive step. This has been going on far too long.