4The shooting at Newtown, Conn., which took the lives of over 28 innocents, including 20 children all under the age of 10 is a tragedy that caps a year full of mass shooting.
This particular incident, in its savagery and scale, will likely be the tipping point for an honest political conversation about gun control laws has been reached. This is a moment of crisis and as in all crises, it offers a chance for the country to reshape this discourse and hopefully, take steps to ensure that such massacres do not occur again.
I believe this is the time for stronger gun-control laws. The U.S. leads the world in the number of people who die from gun-related violence. As a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says ”Pooling the data from all the countries, 86% of all firearm-related fatalities in children under the age of 15 occurred in the US. The overall firearm-related death rate among U.S. children under the age of 15 years was nearly 12 times higher than among the children of the other 25 nations combined.”
This is shocking and should be shameful, considering that the U.S. prides itself on being a model to many countries around the world.
And here are a few other reasons why I believe that gun-control laws in general must be made tighter:
1) I am writing this op-ed from Blacksburg, Va., home to Virginia Tech University, which witnessed the worst shooting that the U.S. has seen so far, in which 32 people died in April 2007. While the memory of the incident is still fresh, the sentiment in the South seems to be one of wanting more “freedom” to own guns. As this insightful article by a former teacher at Virginia Tech points out, the culture of the South prevents any serious conversation about gun-controls from taking place. Lobbies such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) have deep-vested interests in keeping the status quo on gun control. The roots of this notion of “freedom” lie partly in the Civil War and also in the notion of not letting the federal government “take-over” one’s state /home. Not a very sound argument in 2012, is it?
2) The United States tops the list of the number of people killed from guns and homicides. With over 310 million non-military firearms circulating in the country, it is only a matter of time before some of these slip into the wrong hands ... like an Adam Lanza or a Seung-Hui Cho (the Virginia Tech shooter).
3) Gun-free zones are a disaster? Not really. This argument by the NRA and pro-gun lobbies places the debate in the same chauvinistic tone, ignoring the fact that there have been four major shootings in the recent past, and thousands continue to die, not because we have “gun-free” zones, but because there are way too many guns floating around. This article by Ted Nugent uses the all too familiar racist and scare-mongering tactics that many pro-gun lobbyists use.
4) Time to re-define American popular culture? Perhaps this may be asking for too much, but is it time for America to redefine itself, and critically look at what it stands for? Does it stand for aggressive chauvinism, as demonstrated by unwanted wars around the world, as in Afghanistan and Iraq and a culture of belligerence or one of compassion, humanity and peace?
The correlation between greater availability of guns and homicides is not hard to see. As this Brady Center fact-sheet points out, “Higher household gun ownership correlates with higher rates of homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings.” Besides, why would a normal person want to carry around a semi-automatic gun or an AK-47? I believe President Obama said it eloquently and there is no better way to put an end to this argument by saying: ”We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change."