Articles

The Right to Maim and Murder

In opinion on April 18, 2007 by karan

It’s something that I would have considered only a matter of time – and it did happen, tragically. And it’s not like it’s unprecedented, either.

Australia suffered something similar, nearly 10 years ago now. 35 people died in the Port Arthur massacre, and Australia, horrified that such an event could happen in this country, reacted: semi-automatic weapons, weapons which have no role outside of warfare and its horrors. If there’s one thing I’ll grant John Howard as Prime Minister, it’s that he reacted well and quickly, banning the weapons that could cause anything like the massacre again.

But the American President? He still supports the right to bear arms, and among many others focuses on the escape line: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Right, because people have been killing people for millennia, yeah? Sure, but guns make it a helluva lot easier.

There’s no need for me to be over-zealous, as the evidence speaks for itself. Gun fatalities in the US far outnumber that of any other country, and it does ultimately come down to the 2nd Amendment, the principle entitling such deadly devices to any resident. Why must the horror be allowed to continue? What reason remains such that Americans must arm themselves to a man? The amendment enshrined in the constitution served its purpose, when militia played an active role in the defence of the country, but has lost its relevance.

If the US hopes to prevent these tragedies in future, and to reduce the gun crime on the streets, the only way is to put in place measures such that these weapons which make it so easy to kill are controlled.

I don’t want to hijack the tragedy for the debate over gun control and the gun culture of the US, but the fact is that, were the gun laws stricter, this wouldn’t have happened. If nothing changes, again, the power of the gun lobby in US politics, and the value given to it over the lives of citizens, should be quite telling.

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4 Responses to “The Right to Maim and Murder”

  1. I know what you mean… my country, after all. You might have seen Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine”? If not, it’s worth it.

    The taglines I always heard from people go along the lines of:
    “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.”
    “An armed society is a polite society.”
    I actually thought that people weren’t legally able to buy semi-automatic weapons, but I never studied up on the law. All I know is that by 18 you can get a rifle here and by 21 a handgun… with the corresponding license and training of course. And you can never buy a single bullet.

    I agree that if the gun laws were stricter we’d have less Virgina Techs & Columbines… but at the same time, gang/street violence, from which I’m sure most of the gun crimes come from, operate completely outside of these laws. It would be like the “Drug War” (i think it was clinton?), people always get what they want somehow. But I suppose it would at least make things harder. On the other hand, the horrible environment in inner cities is part of a bigger problem.

    Blah. Are gun restrictions the real reason why this kind of thing keeps happening in the US? Or is there something terribly wrong to make young people are so violent…

  2. Gun restrictions (or lack thereof) aren’t the only reason – there’s aspects of the gun culture & history in the cowboys of yore, and of course the people are usually those at the fringes – but it is very enabling. From Bowling for Columbine, I understand that bullets are pretty cheaply available from Wal Mart even (I suppose it does depend on state-by-state laws too). In Australia – again, to bring the contrast that I know of – I wouldn’t even know where to begin looking for a gun, let alone bullets (though I guess they’d be in the same place =D).

    After Columbine, the Clinton Administration in America enacted legislation to stop high-powered weapons being imported, and limiting rounds of ammo per clip – I think the maximum size of clips was restricted to 10, when they were getting up to 30. Either is entirely ridiculous, when one can easily kill! And armour peircing bullets – what reason is there to have those available to the public, especially in a peaceful country? It’s things like this that mystify non-Americans. The legislation however had a time-out clause, at the end of which the Bush administration chose not to renew. It’s questionable what effect it would have had, but it’s symptomatic I think.

    Gun violence again depends on availability. If you can get a gun through legitimate channels, it’s usually cheaper and far easier to do so – crime charges a premium. Gun violence occurs here, too, but why is it lesser? The illegitimacy of guns is a clear factor.

    When you think about it, the American culture and the factors that could be said to influence people to such violence are prevalent in other societies – Australia is basically got the same movies, the same TV shows, the same music on the radio. But there hasn’t been any major events like Virgina Tech, and there’s never even been a suggestion that something like Columbine could occur. What would be the differentiating factor? Availability of guns, and the view that they have in the psyche of the people. Americans? It’s ok to have a gun, and you’re only using it to defend yourself, aren’t you, because if you didn’t have a gun and the other guy did then you’re stuffed right? Australians? Guns are for police and criminals. That’s what needs to change in America.

    Violence without a gun is only one-to-one, but with a gun, it’s suddenly very easy to be one-to-many.

    (I could write another whole post about this, and pretty much have!)

  3. I agree – I wouldn’t know the need for armor piercing bullets or any sort of military grade weaponry available to the public. And I really don’t know why some people are such die-hard defendants of our second amendment to the constitution. Well I suppose it might be lack of trust in the government — if the public gives up its right to bear arms, then the police & military (i.e. the government) controls everything. Not that I see things getting so crazy (China-style) here… but I suppose if the wrong people were in power…

    Looking at police abuse of power here in the US (from that guy who got tasered at my school library to the Rodney King incident) it’s not really surprising that people are scared. Scared of the government (minorities mostly) and scared of each other. In general I’ve only seen publicly available guns used for criminal things, such as the minutemen (not actual border patrol – although I don’t know much about them) who take it upon themselves to patrol the US-Mexico border and shoot people who run over.

    I’m sure the school shootings would die down if guns were made less available, since they seem to mostly be suicidal but otherwise very average people at the end of their rope…. as for drive-by’s and retaliations in the ghetto I doubt it.

    It’s worth a shot though (no pun intended). If only we could get something like that passed and make guns unavailable for at least a time. However, then you’d have the problem of the people who already have them… well, nothing is ever easy is it.

  4. The first point regarding the police – this is a cultural attitude issue, and it is linked to gun control in my mind. If everyone’s got guns, the police are well within human nature to be wary and more trigger happy – you don’t get shot so quick if you fire first. That is unfortunately an ever escalating cycle, and can only lead to paranoia. The incident that disgusted me the most was a recent one, where an innocent black man out on his bucks night got shot 50 (!) times by a team of police merely on suspicion of having a gun. Wrong place, really wrong time.

    The issue of people who already have them – when gun controls were tightend here, there was a buyback scheme where the government offered at market value to buy the guns back from the owners. It was effectively an amnesty period, and also all licenses in the newly banned category were cancelled, with the license holder notified to bring their gun(s) in. It might not have been perfect, but since most were law abiding it by and large worked.

    I can’t see it working in the States, though, to be honest =)

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