Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gunning for a bloodbath

You really have to wonder how many more massacres need to occur in the US before the country finally gets serious about gun control.

The fact is that guns don't kill people - the bullet exploding in people's skulls kills them. Cho Seung-Hui could not have stabbed, bludgeoned or decapitated 33 people in 2 hours without being stopped - but he could have shot that many, and did. Just as Martin Bryant shot 35 people at Port Arthur in 1996.

John Howard, in one of his few genuinely commendable, positive long-term achievements, took on the gun lobby and enacted rigid uniform national gun laws. It was a shame it took a massacre to spur him into action, although in his defence he had only just come to power - the reforms should really have happened on Keatings, Hawke's or even Fraser's watch. The reform was not cheap - $500,000 million to buy-back 600,000 semi-automatic and other types of guns - but it was a necessary investment, and the 11+ years we've since enjoyed massacre-free in Australia are testament to its effectiveness.

But Port Arthur, mercifically, is a one-off gun tragedy in Australia in terms of the number of casualties. In the US, Virginia Tech is not. They'd already had Columbine, which should have been where it ended - not a preview of worse things to come. Instead, Bush has allowed the ban on assault weapons to expire - and I'm not holding my breath that this latest bloodbath will spur him to action, given that at the time Bush was speaking about the issue, his spokesman was reinforcing the fallacy that people have a right to bear arms so long as the law is followed.

The Republican Party has always been a sock puppet of the NRA and the Democrats aren't much better. And why not? With 35% of American homes containing guns, it's a big cash industry. Bringing constitutionality into the equation gives the 'right' to bear arms an unfounded sense of authenticity. But what about the constitutional right to life and liberty? The right to expect that you can go to university without fearing that you'll be mowed down because some psychopath can too easily get his hands on an assault weapon?

Easy access to guns will continue unabated in the US so long as its residents bask in their collective paranoia of constantly being under threat, and while the sale and distribution of guns remains a big money-spinner. If citizens don't generally have easy access to land mines, ready-made bombs or nuclear warheads, why do they expect easy access for this particular WMD?

It's simply not a case of 'guns don't kill people, people kill people', but rather, 'people kill people at a much faster rate, and with a much greater final body count, with guns than any other weapon'.

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10 Comments:

At 18/4/07 2:31 pm, Blogger nash said...

Thanks Sam,
I was thinking the same thing about Howard's action on Aussie gun law reform - his one worthwhile deed.

I've been aware of the huge problem in the States since I was at High School (over 20 years ago) and wonder if things are ever likely to change over there. I'll be interested to know the thoughts of any American bloggers...

 
At 18/4/07 5:44 pm, Blogger James said...

So the 11+ years massacre-free are due to the new gun laws. The ~200 prior years massacre-free are due to...

 
At 18/4/07 5:46 pm, Blogger James said...

Okay, that previous statement may have contained just the smallest hint of hyperbole. Seriously though, I can think of one prior mass-shooting (Strathfield Plaza) - are there others that I'm forgetting about?

 
At 18/4/07 6:00 pm, Blogger James said...

To answer my own questions:

check wikipedia.

 
At 18/4/07 6:07 pm, Blogger James said...

Unrelatedly, I object wholeheartedly to having to mess with your word verification dooverlackey even though I'm a logged on blogger[1] user. For anonymous users, sure, but why for logged-in users?

[1] Well, google account, anyway, but it's the same thing..

 
At 18/4/07 9:13 pm, Anonymous Bill said...

The Virginia tragedy is being used by the gun lobby in a campaign to weaken gun control. If students had been allowed to carry their own guns, the argument goes, the gunman could have been killed earlier. They'll never learn.

 
At 19/4/07 1:20 am, Blogger nash said...

There was a great interview on Lateline tonight with Tom Mauser, a father whose son was killed in the Columbine tragedy. Sorry I can't do a link right now (and the transcript probably isn't up yet anyway), but check it out when you get a chance

 
At 19/4/07 10:10 pm, Blogger Wamut said...

just being nitpicky here, but lots of people, including just about all Indigenous Australians, would be pretty reluctant to call the 200 years before Bryant 'massacre-free'.

I know what you meant, but no harm in being accurate...

 
At 20/4/07 8:52 am, Blogger Sam said...

Er, but I didn't wamut - I referred to the post-96 years as massacre-free.

 
At 21/4/07 12:36 am, Blogger Wamut said...

Not you sam. That James fella.

 

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