Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Va. Tech Shooting

First and foremost I offer my heart felt condolences to the families and well wishes for those involved that escaped the shooting spree.

As I scan the head lines here in Europe (Ireland to be exact) what was genuine interest is turning to opportunism and poorly constructed criticism. Not one week ago Britain was dealing with a rash of knife crimes. Scotland has dealt with the same and France has youth riots every hour on the hour. Yet the calls for the US to deal with its "gun culture" are beginning to drown out the well wishes and heart felt concern.

A new issue in which to assail the US has caught the imagination of the anti-American crowd here in Europe. To these folks I say "sweep under your own doorstep before you sweep under mine." When you have licked domestic issues at home and are living in the worlds first Utopia then I will humble myself to listen. But until then I suggest you look into the mirror and concentrate your will and abilities on issues like youth violence that is on the rise in England and France. Concentrate on the issue of discrimination in England and France. Perhaps concentrate on efforts to enfranchise young second and third generation Muslim males so they don't feel compelled to murder 50+ people on a bus and in the Tube.

We all have our problems. The availability of guns in the US is a problem. But it is not the availability of legally bought guns it is those illegally gained that present the lion's share of the problem. Legally bought, licensed and carried weapons are rarely involved in a gun crime.

What has made America so great and a stand out amongst other nations is this nations ability on a rare occasion to look at an issue and make an honest attempt a solving the problem rather than attacking a symptom. The problem is not guns. It is people who would kill another person. Now, you can attack the symptom of the problem and do away with guns and we would then be dealing with knife crime as they do in Britain. As well the next logical step as is the case in some of Europe you would then license knives with an aim of eventually removing them. Next big rocks or heavy blunt objects and finally dirty looks would have to be licensed.

There is a cost associated with recognizing the slippery slope of gun control. That cost is gun crime. Is the alternative better? I don't think so. But I know the alternative is not feasible. I come from a part of the country that would see law enforcement quit their jobs or create insurrection rather than go door to door removing firearms from citizens. There is NO WAY to remove guns from American society. We do have a gun culture. That gun culture rarely contributes to any murder. Rather it is a culture of privileged entitlement that skews values and judgments. Add to that the glorification and desensitization of violence and you begin to see the problem.

Unfortunately these real problems require introspection and it requires change in order to fix the problem. You won't be able to pass legislation that makes enough marked improvement between now and the next election cycle to make this a cure that politicians are interested in. Rather, an easy slow moving inanimate target... "Guns".

Why attack a problem when you can attack a concept. We need to control guns. Not control our emotions, our desires, our children. Not learn the difference between what is earned and what is entitled. No we need to blame and attack guns. "Guns" spares us as a society of any blame. Certainly I am not responsible for killing 33 people in Virginia. How could I be. I am in Ireland. It must be Guns that did it. A lack of control of Guns. Guns run rampant. I can't be involved because I support the distribution of violence to kids by action or omission. I can't be involved because I support teaching kids by action or omission that they are entitled to any action or desire that feels good. My hands are clean. I am in Ireland. Now I must end this post to go see Jack Bauer torture someone and later I must remember to check and see if the government will give me anymore money to go to school.


T.R. said...

Hey Ben,

first I must say that I agree with you that the Europeans are always too quick to critize America and point the finger at American problems instead of dealing with European issues first. And I read some really unquallified comments in German online newspapers, that were just way out of line. But I feel qualified to comment on your blog, if you don't mind.

Of course, an incident like the one in Virgina can happen anytime, and nobody can prove that stricter laws on guns would have prevented it. It is true though that some Americans are obsessed with the "Right to bear Arms", which can be traced back to the War of Independance, I suppose. But times have changed since then. The King (or Queen) of England is not going to claim back the 13 colonies. And as much as a gun-owning American might enjoy to see himself in the tradition of the Minutemen, it just doesn't make sense anymore. After 9/11, people ran into gun shops to buy even more guns, as if that could have stopped the 19 high-jackers. How logic is that?

Europeans (and as a matter of fact, I'm proud to call myself European) strongly believe that the state should have the monopoly on violence. Policemen and soldiers are allowed to use guns, for they act on behalf of the state. Security personel is armed as well, and so are hunters, because their profession requires it. Everybody else who wants to buy a gun, needs a good reason to do so, for example sports or self-defence. Does this make European societies safer or not? Well, in the US there are on average 80 people dying EVERY DAY by gun-wounds, in the UK it's 200 PER YEAR. Even if the UK is much smaller than the US, the comparison still makes sense, even if we correct for that.
You might argue, that people who feel the urgent desire to kill somebody, would do that anyway and just use a different weapon, if guns weren't available. I don't agree with that. Taking firearms away from people makes sense. Obviously, there will still be some killings, but certainly fewer than before. It makes a BIG difference to kill somebody from a distance, with a rifle for example, than killing somebody in close combat with a knife. It's costing people quite an effort to kill with a knife, psychologically. But it is very easy to pull the trigger when you're 30, 100, or even 500 meters away. That way the victim remains anonymus, like a person in a video-game. Also, killing with a knife requires some skills, dexterity for example, especially if the victim fights back. But everybody, even the weakest, can pull the trigger of a gun. It's like they said in the Wild West: "God created men. But Colonel Colt made them equal." Therefore, reducing the number of firearms in circulation will reduce the number of dead people. Even if only rifles were banned, but revolvers were still allowed, the argument remained valid. Killing someone with a revolver is still more difficult than shooting someone with a rifle. A rifle is much more accurate, as you might know. A good example of what I mean was given by a German student in November 2006. He ran amok and wounded 5 people, but he only killed himself. He had bought 2 rifles and a pistol on Ebay, but since the laws on gun-ownership are very strict in Germany, he only managed to buy antiquated guns, which would rather belong into a museum. So he never achieved what would have been possible with modern equipment.

The gun-lobby in the US frequently argues that every citizen has the right to defend himself (against criminals, for example). That's fair and square. I cannot argue against self-defence. But wouldn't a revolver do the job? Is it necessary that people own machine guns and assault rifles? The word 'assault' already suggests that it is an offensive rather than a defensive weapon. So what I want to say is, that as a first step, the government should consider banning military equipment from private use. That would comprise machine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles and these nasty sub-machine guns, that people can hide underneath their coats. Even if everybody is allowed to keep one revolver for self-defense purposes, the death-toll per year would go down if there was no military weaponry in private hands. I am not saying that this would prevent such events like the one in Virginia the other day. But it would make a difference overall.

It might be true that legal guns are usually not involved in crimes. But during your discussion you completely ignore, that guns cause accidents. Guns are not always stored appropriately. Some people store their guns within the reach of children, or don't remove the ammonition. This causes many unnecessary accidents. So even if legal guns are not involved in crimes, they certainly are involved in accidents. This is actually a Catch-22: If you want to use your gun for self-defence, you have to keep it within reach and loaded, otherwise it wouldn't make sense. But if you keep it within reach and loaded, accidents are more likely to happen. So if you lock up your gun, the self-defence argument doesn't work anymore and you could as well get rid of the gun completely (before anybody gets hurt).

In the end, the European record on guns isn't as clean as you might think. Switzerland has a militia army, which requires everybody who ever served, to store his assault rifle at home. They are reconsidering this policy now, because these legal weapons kill 300 people a year. So, yes, we should be sweeping under our own doorsteps first. And afterwards, we are going to sweep under American doorsteps, but this might require a bigger broom.

Benjamin Cook said...


Glad you took the time to respond. It looks like you did your homework. Unfortunately you are victim to the "Hollywood" brand of gun violence in the US.

Rarely is any ever killed with an automatic weapon. The control of automatic weapons in the US is very good. It is easier to "rig" a semi-auto weapon than it is to buy and license one. This includes machine guns and assault rifles.

The difference between an assault rifle and a deer rifle is the stock, length of barrel and the copacity of the magazine. Being an "assault" weapon does not make it more deadly unless "assault" tactics are employed with it.

Sniper rifles are deer and big game rifles. There is NO appreciable difference. You can't ban sniper rifles without banning big game hunting.

Again, gun crimes in the US are mostly done with illegally gained small arms. Not rifles or bird hunting shotguns. If you look at a police impound you will find the sorriest looking lot of guns you have ever seen...old and broken. You find the occasional nice pistol and sawed off shotgun. But mostly it is $20 pitiful street weapons sold "underground". Not a $400 Sig Sauer.

Contrary to hollywood no one gets gunned down by a machine gun.

The broader issue is that of gun responsibility and proper enforcement of gun laws already on the books. Not the removal of guns. 1. it is against the constitution because the US does not believe in the Government having a monopoly on violence. That attitude invites oppression. I think Iraq has shown how successful guerrilla warfare can be and that a well armed populace is in fact a threat to the government no matter how well armed it maybe. 2. removal of guns from US society is impossible. you can't do it. It just won't happen. Too many guns and too few people willing to go door to door risking life and limb to arrest the weapons from the owner.

In America we think it is worth the lives lost to gun crimes to protect our rights. We do at the same time wish to limit the number of lives lost. But it is not a wholesale trade. If we don't protect our rights what good is there in having a life in the first place.

We are not a nation men we are a nation of laws that protect the rights of men. Guns are a very important part of protecting those rights. Be it from an aggressor in your home or revolution guns are an indispensable part of that protection.