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  • Sep 18, 2014
  • Updated: 5:45pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

How many deaths will it take before US passes gun laws?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 7:38am

American politicians are generally as sensitive as any to public sentiment. So what does it take to persuade most of them to fall in step with polls that show broad public support for tougher gun laws? With due respect to the 12 victims, it seems unlikely that the latest shooting outrage in the Washington Navy Yard will make a difference. If the slaughter of 20 first-graders and six staff members at a Connecticut elementary school last December were not enough to stiffen their spines against political threats from the gun-owners' lobby, it is hard to know what would be.

The latest tragedy has reignited the gun-control debate. Though this may again be futile, it prompts the question whether measures proposed earlier this year would have made any difference. They would have controlled automatic assault weapons - one of the guns used in the latest massacre - and online sales, and expanded background checks to stop the sale of guns to criminals and the mentally ill.

There was one positive in the background of gunman Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old IT employee of a defence contractor who was killed in a gun battle with police. He was a convert to Buddhism, which teaches peace, love, kindness and wisdom. But there were also contacts with law enforcement over shooting incidents, police references to anger management issues, and treatment for mental issues after service as an electrician's mate in the navy reserve.

If President Barack Obama had succeeded in getting gun control legislation passed, a background like that might have warranted closer scrutiny before the sale of weapons.

Had atrocities like those in Washington and Connecticut been committed against Americans on foreign soil, outrage would have outweighed the right to bear arms. Perhaps this is an opportunity to narrow the double standards. Last April a majority in the US Senate supported expanded background checks, but not the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural obstacles for further progress. It may be worth another try.


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The United States strongly objects to this blatant interference by the SCMP in the internal matters of the United States. The SCMP has hurt the feelings of the American people. This will damage relations between the SCMP and the United States. The SCMP should reflect upon its words and correct its behaviour.
Firstly, gun control is a rural vs. urban issue. People in rural communities, where police services are few and far away, favor gun ownership. They also own guns for sport. City dwellers, where guns are more likely to be used to commit crimes than provide personal protection, favor gun control.
Secondly, cities and states with strict gun controls (Chicago, Washington, D.C.) have much higher rates of gun violence because gun controls don't work. As trite as it sounds, mountains of incontrovertible data show that, "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns".
Thirdly, gun ownership is a constitutionally protected right in the United States. This fact can be changed via amendment to the Constitution if the citizenry so desires. Evidently, despite incessant mewling from newspaper editorial boards, the citizenry is not in favor of altering or abridging this right. Nevertheless, reasonable restrictions on conditions of purchase, such as presenting valid identification, waiting periods, and so on, exist in many states.
Finally, gun ownership in the U.S. is an outgrowth of the country's particular history. While it may be unfortunate that the pioneering nature of the country's founding and expansion included episodes involving the violent use of firearms, private gun ownership for personal protection, for sport, and as a means to forestall the predations of a tyrannical government, is woven into the fabric of the country and is unlikely to change.
The US does have gun laws. Every state has gun laws and in many states those laws are rather strict as the people in those states believe restrictions on gun ownership are justified. Other states do not take as strict a position. Connecticut for example has very strict gun laws, requiring registration and background checks. So does Maryland. New York has some of the most strict laws and still has more gun violence than most others. In many states there are mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed with a gun. Murder and assault are illegal in every state. The US Constitution, however, leaves the regulation of guns to the states, not the Federal Government and contains an outright prohibition on the government seeking to stop gun ownership. If the people want to change the constitution, they can do it. There is a procedure that assures that significant majorities at the federal and state levels agree.
Remitting Prosperity
So there are state gun laws. But if all I have to do is cross to the next state to buy a gun, then they are not worth much are they?
This is a US fetish- some of them seriously think that owning guns is all that stands between them and some terrible tyranny. No other country feels like this.


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