Bowling for Newtown (Guns, Guns, Guns)

The U.S. gun control debate seems to be as old as time.  Tragedy after tragedy after tragedy befalls communities across America, and yet nothing is done.  The recent murders of 20 children and six school employees at the hands of a 20-year old boy with a military-style assault rifle in Newtown adds to the already long list of unnecessary gun-related violence in the U.S.  In response to this tragedy, people seem to be questioning gun control laws in America more than they had previously, but getting guns off the streets still seems to be a distant hope.  Rather than realizing that hostility breeds hostility and violence breeds violence, many Americans are suggesting that it is not gun control that is needed to stop these tragedies, but rather armed guards in front of elementary schools.

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As shortsighted as this sounds, it is actually completely in keeping with the ideology surrounding the ‘right to bear arms’ in America.  The Second Amendment guaranteed Americans the right to bear arms because in the time of the Founding Fathers, citizens wanted to have the capacity to overthrow the government should it become oppressive or not responsive to the people.  Clearly in today’s modern world where governments and militaries have unbridled killing power, citizens would never attempt to throw off their government using personal handguns.  In the present moment, this ‘right to bear arms’ makes less and less sense.

Since overthrowing oppressive government is no longer a legitimizing factor for gun ownership, the ‘right to bear arms’ is now linked with the right to self-defense.  Many Americans believe that if people know that those around them have guns, they will be less inclined to commit crimes or threaten others.  Sadly, this is not the case.  Studies show that if someone owns a gun, they are far more likely to assume that others around them also have guns, and to feel hostile towards those people.  Hostility breeds hostility, suspicion breeds suspicion, and ultimately, violence breeds violence.  The ease with which people can get guns –for example, a 20 year old having access to a military-style assault rifle– makes people feel invincible, and gives them the opportunity to act violently if hostility, fear or anger takes over.

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The way in which crimes are reported in America also encourages would-be mass-murderers to go through with violent acts.  The shocking stories are plastered all over the media, and murderers become like celebrities.  Instead of telling the public about the lives of those who died in a quiet and respectful way, the media focusses on kill counts and on the murderer him/herself.  People are therefore taught that if they were to commit such a violent act, they too would receive the attention of the entire nation.

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This simply has to end.  The gun debate itself is tired and senseless.  Most Americans do understand that guns in every hand and armed guards on every corner is not a sensible way to reduce violence, but somehow owning a firearm has become representative of  ‘Americanism’ itself.  People imagine gun ownership to be part of their very identities as American citizens.  If everyone in the U.S. defined themselves by their inner qualities, values and virtues rather than by their imagined ‘Nationality’, this fierce loyalty to guns would not exist.  We must realize that we are all human beings, regardless of where we were born, and material objects can never define who we are, nor should they be part of ‘what we deserve’ as citizens.  What we deserve is a fair, just, safe and caring environment, and violent weapons have no purpose in such a place.  Instead of hostility, let us get rid of our weapons and learn to trust our neighbours, and let them know that we can be trusted and relied upon as well.  Let us protect one another instead of isolating and protecting ourselves against our fellow citizens.  This is truly the only way to go forward.

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