Another day, another mass shooting by a man with access to an awful lot of firepower. They seem to happen with depressing regularity in America these days. Naturally, people on the Socialized Media, to use the words of Sarah Palin, had plenty to say about event in Santa Monica, and I was no exception.
Why do I care about guns in the United States? I am not a permanent resident and I am not directly affected by US gun laws. Yet we spend considerable time and energy arguing over it on Twitter and Facebook, among ourselves and in the comments facilities of news websites.
Having tried to make sense of why I care, and watched the debates around me, these are some of the factors I think motivate us:
Not controlling civilian access to assault rifles is demonstrably stupid. The Second Amendment at the heart of this debate dates from 1791, when reloading a musket was tedious and difficult. Fast forward to 2012, when it’s possible to fire several rounds a second and causing maximum damage without having to try very hard at all. Can there be any legitimate reason for a civilian living in in the suburbs to own a semi-automatic rifle, body armour and extended magazines? As one Newtown hunter observed in the wake of the shooting, “We live in a town, not a war.”
Second, instead of cutting the root of the problem, gun supporters choose instead to focus of the individuals claiming that guns do not kill.
Well guns don’t kill people, people kill people goes the tired cliché beloved of the pro-gun crowd, but there is no doubt that guns increase the risk of fatalities significantly, even when the gun involved is legal and there is no immediate external threat.
And on blaming TV and movies, this is what someone had to say regarding the blame on movies and TV shows:
“I was brought up watching The Roadrunner – never once have I even considered dropping an anvil on someone. I am a great horror movie fan but I’ve no desire to take a chainsaw to someone. I was brought up with the hell and damnation preaching but it didn’t ever make me want to burn someone at the stake. My favourite way to let off steam is to play Mortal Kombat but the idea of ripping someone’s head off in real life is not my idea of fun.”
Here’s the awful, simple truth: the law, and the state, can’t be everywhere. Human beings are complex and flawed, and human relationships exponentially so. You can legislate against bad decisions, stupidity or just plain irrationality but you can’t prevent them from happening — we don’t always think of the consequences, we just act, and the law can only act with hindsight. Something must be done beyond the talk.
The author has asked to remain anonymous. She/He is writing from an African country interested in the debate.