One of the many things that befuddle the rest of the world, and I presume some Americans too, is why a civilized nation like the US allows its citizens to own guns. Not just a hunting rifle or a pistol but military-grade weapons. And continues to do so despite the almost yearly litany of massacres, which is even the more ironic for a culture that otherwise puts great value on safety and the lives of its citizens in general.
For many in the US, the very fact that bearing guns is a right granted by the constitution (The 2nd Amendment) makes the issue not open for discussion. This stems from a rather fervent belief in the infallibility of their constitution and the “founding fathers” , a worship that borders on almost religious fanaticism. Removing something codified as a constitutional right is the American equivalent of drawing the prophet, a political quagmire where even the bravest of those who seek to get elected will not tread. It does not matter, in the least, that the historical context in which the Second Amendment was formulated, namely America’s War of independence and consequent great political instability, has ceased to be relevant centuries ago. The justification for the 2nd Amendment is that it allows the citizenry to defend themselves against the government, should it turn on them, as expressed pithily by the bumper sticker seen frequently on the back of pick-up trucks: “A man with a gun is a citizen. A man without one is a subject”. Of course, if we are to really follow that principle, today’s “citizen” needs to possess tanks, drones, anthrax, chemical weapons and well, even nukes, since the government, should it turn on the citizens, would definitely use some or all of them, in which case possessing a gun will help jack squat. Logic however is futile. Since guns to many in the US are objects of faith. Guns protect them in real life and God protects them in the after. End of story.
Those gun-worshippers who want to proceed beyond the “Don’t touch ma freedom” rhetoric or accept the ridiculousness behind trying to justify that “Guns are needed to fight the Feds”, will construct other justifications. Bad guys will always have guns, regardless of whether possession is allowed by the law or not. By keeping firearm possession legal, the country allows the good guys, the law-abiding citizenry, to maintain an equilibrium of strength. Hence, the solution for the gun-problem is not less but more guns. The reason, they say, schools and malls are targeted is because shooters know there are no guns there, that the balance of force there does not exist. So the solution, following their logic, would be to have every teacher and store manager carry a gun (and the most powerful gun possible, since no sense in coming to a gun-battle packing a pea-shooter) and by extension, every citizen to keep a firearm right next to the iPhone case. Only then would the equilibrium of strength ?be pervasive and violence stopped. A truly brave vision of society this, where a shoot-out is only one heated word, one short temper, one tequila shot away.
Then there is, of course, the “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people with guns” argument. This line is usually accompanied by an identified agent of evil, with the identity of this agent varying based on your ideological position. For the liberal gun-owner, it is the poor state of mental health in the country. For the Bible-thumper, it is the general Godlessness of our times that is responsible. For the parent sick and tired of buying PlayStation Games, it is the desensitization to violence wrought by media, both games and films, that is to blame for the massacres. If it’s not guns, they say, it will be something else.
Problem is, it is always guns. There is more gun-violence seen in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where people don’t play computer games that much but have free access to firearms due to the absence of a working legal system (this holds true for parts of India too) than in Japan and Korea where things are exactly the other way round. US states with greater gun control have fewer gun deaths. Japan has as few as two shooting deaths per year because of so-called draconian gun possession laws. The gun buyback program reduced homicide rates in Australia.
The simple fact remains that if you take guns out of the equation, someone who is unhinged, whether due to playing Mass Effect 3 or from not being hugged enough as a child or from not going to Church, will be able to inflict less damage.
In a recent incident, a Chinese man took a knife and slashed twenty-two school children, injuring them. If he had a gun, they would be dead.
In this world, one can never stamp out evil. The best that can be done is to limit its malevolence.
And not allowing people to buy guns legally and thus limit their evil/second is one way of doing exactly that.
This sounds simple. But it is not. Not in the US where gun-ownership, like almost everything else, is so tied to big money and donor-politics that nothing meaningful is ever done. First of all, the shills, and they are everywhere on popular media and in politics, will prevent any meaningful conversation on gun-control. Try to talk about gun-control after an incident like the Connecticut shootings and you will find the gun-puppets come on TV and scream “This is politicization of a human tragedy” and “It is too soon to have this conversation. People are still grieving”, which is kind of funny when you remember that these were the same people, who post 9-11, were beating the war-drums on 9-12, exhorting revenge on “those who had taken American lives”. Even if the conversation is had, it will be severely limited in scope—”Can we revive this partial ban we once had on assault weapons?” and suitably diluted because the sponsored party-line is that somehow once you take away the Second Amendment, it is a slippery slope from there to taking away the First Amendment and from there to banning super-sized fries, triple burgers and flashing for beads during Mardi Gras.
And so we will keep on seeing the same old—the US government will spend billions to make sure that no one carries anything that could be conceivably used as a weapon abroad a plane (a death from anything that explodes would be an act of terrorism/breach of national defense and because, for some reason, the “equilibrium of forces through the universal possession of guns” argument somehow is not that popular once you are in the air) while allowing semi-automatics to be freely brandished on the ground, more bars will allow people with guns on their premises, more crocodile tears will be shed, more innocents will die from and be maimed by gun violence and more families will carry exit wounds never to heal.