Saturday, December 15, 2012

Guns and Smallpox

The widespread reaction among my friends to news this morning of yet another mass shooting in Newton, Conneticut, USA is one of utter horror followed by “not again”.

One of my friends, Ralph, commented on FB

How many more mass shootings, how many more heartbreaks, will it take for US society & leaders to end wide access to such lethal guns?

To which I replied
You didn't need to qualify your description of "guns" with "lethal". Guns are designed to kill. That's what they do. They have no other purpose. Being "lethal" is what occupies the totality of being a gun. That's why responsible governments strictly control their availability and use. Or, they ought to.

But, you know that already.

No doubt, this killing will prompt much hand-wringing in the US over gun control. I wish all the best to those campaigning to increase it. However, they are up against a number of powerful adversaries, including the NRA. The right to carry arms is prescribed in the US constitution, though it was written in a time when village militias needed to defend themselves against attack by the Redcoats. Then, there’s the fragmentation between Federal and State government, so before you say “the government has to do something”, you have to say which government.

There's also a profoundly visceral side to this, which, I am sure, the NRA and it’s allies play to the full. It’s to do with the process of disarmament and a heightened sense of self-preservation. Put simply, it says that if the US implements a process of disarmament, then all the good guys will hand their weapons in first, leaving the bad guys with all the guns. How then do you defend yourself from the bad guys? By getting a gun, of course. By the way, it’s your constitutional right, there’s a chain store down the block, and you’re supporting American Industry. Like all good temptations, there are a thousand (apparently) good reasons not to refuse.

It strikes me that the situation is rather like an infection. Once it has taken hold, it’s incredibly difficult to dislodge. Just like eradicating individual smallpox viruses, you have to remove or adequately control every gun in every State. Allow just one back in, and it will bring ten more with it. Before you know it, you'll have an escalation and you'll be back to where you are now.

I am not irreconcilably opposed to guns. I know that people kill people, not guns. I also know that farmers need guns to kill animals. But we don't currently live in an era in which our villages can be attacked by King George III's stooges, and there's a quantum of difference between the damage a madman can do with a kitchen knife and a semi-automatic rifle. However, it never ceases to shock me that, in the US, my neighbor has the right to carry apparatus that is perfectly designed to kill me, or 20 kids at an elementary school, if he so chooses.

It will take a massive effort to pacify the gun-controlling population of the US. But, if we can eradicate smallpox, surely we can improve gun control.

No comments:

Post a Comment