Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Guns don't kill people

Expect that phrase to crop up many times in the near future as America comes to terms with the latest disaffected, tooled up youth going on the rampage.
It's a bad one and of course it's sad, tragic and all that and the waste of young lives is something to mourn.

Here comes the 'but'.

But is it really that shocking or surprising any more? It has been a while since there was a massacre like this and it takes a very strong will not to suggest that one was due. And for all the hand wringing over the coming days and weeks, it's highly doubtful that anything will change. The USA has approximately five times the population of the UK and yet has around 5000 times the number of fatal shootings. And yet Switzerland has many more guns per capita than the US and fewer gun related deaths than the UK, which makes it clear that mere gun ownership is not the sole factor. There's something rotten in the States of America - in the American psyche, moreover. Restrictions would be welcome, but while the culture of gun ownership remains then nothing will change. So often we hear in the fall out of these incidents that the parents of a disaffected youth decides the best way to deal with the child's slightly sociopathic tendencies is to arm them with an arsenal some countries would wince at.
One organisation has the answer - the Virginia Citizens Defence League (look it up if you must, but I'm not linking to them and giving them web traffic for free) who have been quick to blame the university authorities for the tragedy because they don't allow staff and students to carry arms. In a marvellous example of twisted logic, the argument says that if everyone was armed, it wouldn't have happened as the potential shooter would be caught in a hail of bullets the moment he threatens to open fire. Genius. No, really.
It turns out that the shooter in this case was a South Korean lad. I hope something positive comes out of the whole incident, otherwise it will have been a complete waste and the tragedy will turn into a travesty, but I can envisage it being blamed on a foreigner and it all being quietly brushed aside in the face of a too-powerful gun lobby.

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