Guns galore not just killing US citizens

Monday, February 26, 2018

Without in any way belittling the tragedy of the Florida high school massacre, or for that matter any of the other multiple shootings in the US, the issue should not be seen as a purely domestic one.

The easy access to firearms in the United States, including semi-automatic weapons and so-called bump stocks that allow hundreds of rounds to be fired a minute, is a major factor fueling the drug-related violence that blights large swathes of Latin America. As the narcotics cross the border heading north, the guns and ammunition pour into Mexico and from there spread to other parts of the continent. Preventing access to such armaments in the US would make a significant contribution to curtailing not only the drug cartels but also the gang violence so prevalent in the region, most noticeably in Central America.    

Such a move would, of course, also help to reduce the number of mass killings in the US and the homicide rate in general. Perhaps it shouldn't be necessary to state the obvious, but apparently it is. If the guns aren't there, people wouldn't use them. Of course, it's people that kill rather than guns, but the people couldn't use the guns to kill if they didn't have them. A knife attack, for instance, is much less likely to result in the kind of carnage we see all too often in the US.

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Regrettably, it may not be politically feasible to introduce serious gun control, even the modest proposals suggested by Donald Trump after the latest massacre, despite indications that most Americans would favor such measures. On the other hand, arming teachers, as Trump has also proposed, is sheer lunacy. What does he and the National Rifle Association want? For teachers to end up shooting their own students, either in an attempt to repel an attacker or in a moment of madness? It's well known that access to fire arms increases the likelihood of the holder, and the holder's family, friends and associates, of being shot.

But it's part of our culture, the gun lobby cries in unison, and the right to bear arms is enshrined in the second amendment. Yes, but that right dates from 1791, since when times have changed. The days of the Wild West are over (or should be), and culture isn't static but constantly develops.

But the irony is that whatever the iniquities and impracticalities of building a wall along the US-Mexico border, and whether such a structure could really prevent undocumented migrants entering the country, it might just contribute to curbing the flow of weapons crossing into Mexico and from there to other countries in Latin America.