What has created such a monster of a violent, gun-loving culture that is so unique in the world? There are 270 million privately owned firearms in the U.S., the highest per capita gun ownership in the world
“When we got organized as a country, [and] wrote a fairly radical Constitution, with a radical Bill of Rights, giving radical amounts of freedom to Americans, it was assumed that Americans who had that freedom would use it responsibly...When personal freedom is being abused, you have to move to limit it” — Bill Clinton.
Is American society being torn apart at the seams by itself? Is the nation waging a war on itself? At times it certainly would seem so. Last week’s mass shooting in an elementary school in Connecticut seems to have been the last straw in the unacceptable tolerance by advocates of gun control. How does one even begin to comprehend the nonsensical, cold-blooded, sickening killing of innocent children from the ages of six through 10? It cannot and should not be comprehended. A recent Harvard study states that children from the ages of five to 14 in the U.S. are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries. Why should this be tolerated? Have the Columbine school shootings not taught us anything?
After each massacre, there has been an extreme demonstration of solidarity among supporters of the victims’ families. That is all wonderful and necessary but the deep-rooted, necessary and fundamental causes of how to tackle these extremely grave and significant issues remained on the back burner. Even during the presidential campaign, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney very carefully skirted the issues of gun control, to put it mildly. In fact, they downright avoided the topic in fear of opening a can of volatile worms with the electorate and the very powerful National Rifle Association (the NRA).
Even after the horrific shooting spree in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado in July of this year where 12 innocent people were killed, there was a strategic silence on gun control by the authorities, no doubt due to the fact that it was just too close to election time. The same happened after the mass shootings in a temple in Wisconsin.
It took a gruesome and inhumane incident against innocent children such as the one in Connecticut for politicians, the likes of Michael Bloomberg, the Independent Mayor of New York and Diane Feinstein, Democratic Senator of California just to name a few, to dare to stand up, to be vocal about the White House and Congress taking serious responsibility for strict gun laws. Thankfully, Senator Feinstein is going to be introducing a bill in Congress for a ban on all assault weapons. It is high time.
But how has the situation in the U.S. even come to this point? What has created such a monster of a violent, gun-loving culture that is so unique in the world? There are 270 million privately owned firearms in the U.S., the highest per capita gun ownership in the world. The gun-related murder rate in the U.S. is the highest in the developed world, with the exception of Mexico, where there is a continuous drug-related war that pushes murder rates up. What is the United States’ excuse?
Proponents of gun ownership will invariably quote their constitutional right to bear arms that they have interpreted from the famous Second Amendment in the Bill Of Rights of the Constitution which states: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
What gun lobbyists fail and refuse to accept is that the Second Amendment was adopted in 1791 and it refers to the National Guard. “The right of the people to peaceably assemble” and “the right of the people to be secure in their homes” refers to individuals and “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” refers to the state.
How did this get convoluted into what it has become today...individual citizens armed to the teeth to ‘protect’ themselves from each other? When and how did the Second Amendment get distorted to such extreme extents? Why are there still people out there who are convinced that gun control will lead to more crimes? There is no proof to back this. In fact, since gun control in 1996, there have been no mass shootings in Australia and one in the UK.
The U.S. has had 16 in 2012 alone. The number of homicides in Detroit in 2010 were 310. The number in Windsor, Canada, only one mile away, was zero. They watch the same movies and play the same video games. What is the difference? You guessed it...free access to guns.
As expected, all over social media sites there are comments from gun supporters and lobbyists now avoiding the main issues and saying (apart from the incredibly ludicrous “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”) that is it not a gun issue, it is a mental health issue. That is all well and good and point taken. Mass murderers are mentally ill but the situation is not so clear-cut and the argument hardly ends there. There are millions of people suffering from depression and mental illnesses around the world. However, nowhere else in the world can mentally ill people have such free and easy access to weapons as in the US. In the case of the elementary school shooter in Connecticut, his mother with whom he lived owned several high-powered weapons, which were obviously in reach of her mentally ill son.
Some have argued that during the shooting spree in the movie theatre in Aurora, had the victims been armed, they would not have been killed. Taken to more ridiculous but chilling levels, in this recent incident, points have been raised as to why not arm teachers to help them protect their classrooms in times of attack? What next? Arm the children?
The one positive outcome is that very uncomfortable silence that was experienced after Aurora has ended. The extremely tragic violence on such small children and their teachers who defended them to the last breath was just more than anyone could bear. Even the National Rifle Association has been silenced by this. Enough is enough. In President Obama’s speech during his visit to Newtown, Connecticut on Sunday, he has stated, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. Surely we can do better than this.”
We hold you to your promise, Mr President. Stand up to the NRA. Make sure you keep the gun control debate alive no matter what the Republicans say. Fight until the bill passes in Congress. Make us believe in “Yes we can” again.
(Sabria Chowdhury Balland is a wrtier for Pakistan’s Daily Times where this article was published on Dec. 20, 2012)