Friday, April 20, 2007

THE ECONOMIST ON GUNS AND (THE LACK OF) GUN CONTROL

This was one week when, after a very long time, I really wished that I did not own a computer or TV and had crawled into a cave.

But anyway, here are some perceptive comments from The Economist on the quagmire of hell that is the US gun politics saga.
"Cho Seung-hui does not stand for America's students, any more than Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris did when they slaughtered 13 of their fellow high-school students at Columbine in 1999. Such disturbed people exist in every society. The difference, as everyone knows but no one in authority was saying this week, is that in America such individuals have easy access to weapons of terrible destructive power. Cho killed his victims with two guns, one of them a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol, a rapid-fire weapon that is available only to police in virtually every other country, but which can legally be bought over the counter in thousands of gun-shops in America. There are estimated to be some 240m guns in America, considerably more than there are adults, and around a third of them are handguns, easy to conceal and use. Had powerful guns not been available to him, the deranged Cho would have killed fewer people, and perhaps none at all."

On a Commander-in-Chief who cannot get enough of waxing eloquent about peace, freedom and dignity:
"Mr Bush however, has done active damage. On his watch the assault-weapons ban was allowed to lapse in 2004. New laws make it much harder to trace illegal weapons and require the destruction after 24 hours of information gathered during checks of would-be gun-buyers. The administration has also reopened debate on the second amendment, which enshrines the right to bear arms. Last month an appeals court in Washington, DC, overturned the capital's prohibition on handguns, declaring that it violates the second amendment. The case will probably go to the newly conservative Supreme Court, which might end most state and local efforts at gun control."

On some simple, practical, measures:
"The assault-weapons ban should be renewed, with its egregious loopholes removed. No civilian needs an AK-47 for a legitimate purpose, but you can buy one online for $379.99. Guns could be made much safer, with the mandatory fitting of child-proof locks. A system of registration for guns and gun-owners, as exists in all other rich countries, threatens no one but the criminal. Cooling-off periods, a much more open flow of intelligence, tighter rules on the trading of guns and a wider blacklist of those ineligible to buy them would all help."

On why gun control is not a partisan issue and so probably won't ever be settled, and why the NRA may be the most senseless organisation that ever existed:
"Harry Reid, the Senate's Democratic majority leader, warned against a “rush to judgment. There is little danger of that. The blood-letting in Blacksburg is unlikely to shift the debate about guns...the Democrats are convinced that gun control helped them lose elections in 1994 and 2000. The reason is that, no matter how often the Democrats promise not to take away hunters' rifles, the NRA treats any curb on gun rights as a first step towards complete disarmament. And without their 240m guns, it argues, Americans will be defenceless not only against criminals but also against tyranny. The NRA draws on history to support its arguments. The first European settlers conquered America with guns; British soldiers tried to confiscate them, but the Americans revolted and shot off the superpower's yoke....This may be a selective view of history, but it is still relevant, for two reasons. One is that the notion of a right to bear arms is enshrined in the constitution. The other is that the NRA constantly exaggerates threats to gun-owners. Its sells books such as “Thank God I Had a Gun: True Accounts of Self-Defence”. It relentlessly publicises the fact that police in New Orleans, during the looting spree that followed Hurricane Katrina, confiscated some legally-held guns. And its chief, Wayne LaPierre, has peddled for years the absurd theory that the United Nations is plotting to take away Americans' guns."

It's unfathomable how the NRA will still pitch its drivel based on the 18th century American state of affairs, and this is an organisation which in addition has a crackpot chief. It's appalling how Americans will fall back on the Constitution as if it were really an objectively determinable God-given right, a sacrsanct book applicable in every time and circumstance.

And it's woeful how the standard argument that giving guns would enable citizens to protect themselves from deranged killers is a part of the greater lack of problem-solving ability increasingly prevelant in a moribund and militant society, where people's only vision for the future of their grandchildren is a world full of violence.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Nikhil K said...

The Economist never hides its opinions, nor does it mince words! Great article. Great magazine.
(It protects its contributors' names zealously though.:) ).
And I had a upclose taste of the paranoia gripping the Nation's campuses after some prankster left a note in the Chem bldg threatening to blow it up. Result: Mass evacuation and an impromptu holiday.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Nikhil, wow, that must have been scary. On the other hand, there's always people in the chemistry dept. who threaten to blow it up. They are called chemists :P

10:36 AM  

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