When Americans talk about gun control, as, thankfully, we're back to doing after the horrific murders of twenty children and six adults at an elementary school in Connecticut, plus the killer's mother at her home, two irritating features of political discourse in this country bug me.
First, too many people approach social problems with a religious sort of attitude.
Meaning, they cling to supposed transcendent principles without grounding them in here-and-now reality. Example: talking about the Second Amendment and gun rights as if these were unalterable sacred truths, rather than choices made by fallible humans.
Second, too many people refuse to look at how other industrialized countries have successfully dealt with social problems. Example: the United States has a much higher rate of gun deaths than Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and other nations -- which have much stronger gun laws.
It's ridiculous to talk about American exceptionalism in the abstract. There's no such thing. We're better than other countries in some regards, worse in other regards.
When it comes to providing health care to our citizens, and protecting them from gun violence, we're way worse. As I read on someone's Twitter feed, we make health care into a privilege and unrestricted gun ownership into a right.
E.J. Dionne correctly says that after this latest gun massacre, "This time has to be different."
Twenty children and seven adults are dead in Newtown, Connecticut. This time, the cowardice, the fear, the evasion and the political convenience must end.
We have had enough. American politics is plagued by timidity and paralyzed by opportunism whenever we even consider talking action to curb gun violence. No other developed country in the world has these massacres on such a regular basis. In no comparable nation do citizens have such easy access to guns. On no public question other than gun violence are those who demand solutions after an ungodly episode accused of “politicizing tragedy.”
There are plenty of good ideas about how to reform our gun laws.
Likely our politicans don't have the guts to do what really needs to be done to protect our children, and ourselves, from gun violence. But a good first step is realizing that other countries -- and they aren't weenie ones -- get along just fine with strict gun ownership regulations.
Israel is one.
Seemingly if any country would want its citizenry to be heavily armed, that'd be Israel. It's surrounded by unfriendly neighbors. It has a history of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks. But Israel tightly regulates firearms, along with Switzerland.
For instance, in Israel, they’re very limited in who is able to own a gun. There are only a few tens of thousands of legal guns in Israel, and the only people allowed to own them legally live in the settlements, do business in the settlements, or are in professions at risk of violence.
Both countries require you to have a reason to have a gun. There isn’t this idea that you have a right to a gun. You need a reason. And then you need to go back to the permitting authority every six months or so to assure them the reason is still valid.
... Israel is not a peaceful society. If there were a lot of guns, it may be even more violent. Israeli schools are well known for having a lot of the kicking and punching type of violence. I don’t know that Switzerland has that reputation.
But Israel does, and it seems that the lack of guns promotes the lack of firearm violence rather than there being some nascent tendency toward peacefulness and cohesion. That cohesion may or may not exist, but not having guns prevents guns from being used in violence. People do still commit homicide and suicide but they do it with less lethal means.
John Howard, who served as prime minister of Australia from 1996 to 2007, is no one’s idea of a lefty. He was one of George W. Bush’s closest allies, enthusiastically backing the Iraq intervention, and took a hard line domestically against increased immigration and union organizing.
But one of Howard’s other lasting legacies is Australia’s gun control regime, first passed in 1996 in response to a massacre in Tasmania that left 35 dead. The law banned semiautomatic and automatic rifles and shotguns. It also instituted a mandatory buy-back program for newly banned weapons.
...So what have the Australian laws actually done for homicide and suicide rates? Howard cites a study (pdf) by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfrid Laurier University finding that the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent, in the decade after the law was introduced, without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides. That provides strong circumstantial evidence for the law’s effectiveness.
It's clear. Guns kill people; people don't kill people.
Meaning, people are much less likely to kill other humans if guns aren't readily available. This is a fact, no matter the oft-heard unfounded assertion that someone who wants to kill will find another way to do so if a gun isn't at hand.
Statistics from the United States and other countries bear this out. The time has come for the United States to learn from countries that are more exceptional than we are when it comes to gun control. Like John Howard said:
"I don't want Australia to relax," he said, citing the toll of widespread gun ownership in the US, and the stifling there of any debate on reform.
"We should strive to avoid aping the Americans. There are some things in America we would do well to copy, but this is not one of them."