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Le Nouvel Observateur, France

The Killing In Newtown Will
Not Start The Debate On Guns”


By Alexis Toulon

Translated By Sacha Christianson

15 December 2012

Edited Lau­ren Gerken


France - Le Nouvel Observateur - Original Article (French)

Historian André Kaspi returns to the weight of the Second Amendment and to the difficulty of regulating the sale of arms. Interview.

This new massacre could allow Barack Obama to restart the debate on the Second Amendment, which allows each American citizen the right to bear arms. The killings that took place Friday, Dec. 14 in a school in Newtown, Connecticut, is part of a long series. The media has not missed the opportunity to point to the weakness of gun control as one of the causes of these massacres. Can the legislation change? André Kaspi, professor emeritus of U.S. history at the Sorbonne, does not think so.

Will this recent massacre allow Barack Obama to return to the Second Amendment, which guarantees all citizens the right to bear arms?

No. In the United States, it is easy to procure firearms. The second amendment is part of the fundamental text for Americans. It is an important element that guarantees their freedom in a constitutional manner. Barack Obama can try to start the debate, but public opinion will quickly turn to something else. And if the debate goes all the way to Congress, it will probably be vetoed.

This will not start up the debate on guns. I will add that this killing is neither the first, nor the last and the debate has not been revived. In 1981, Ronald Reagan was the victim of an assassination attempt [69 days after his election during a speech at the Washington Hilton Hotel in the US capital]. His press secretary, James Brady, was severely wounded and his wife fought for 12 years to obtain very weak gun control.

What can Barack Obama do to fight against these killings?

One has to understand that this was an irrational and isolated act. We cannot, within a population of 315 million, avoid the fact that some people become criminals. In France, there was the Merah affair. He, by himself, committed mass murder. The difference is that Merah had political convictions. However, the fascination with death was the same. Therefore, the solution is not just gun control, which already exists in France.

Another point, we cannot use logic to rationally explain irrational acts. Of course, we will find reasons: son of a divorced couple, suffering, etc., but this is not enough. When we look for social or societal reasons for these crimes, we fall flat because we cannot take into account the motivations of the killer. Only medicine will be able to act…if at all.

Is the United States condemned to relive these mass killings?

I fear so. There were a dozen killings in 2012. This year has been really bad, we are talking about a record. This could stimulate the competitive spirit of other disturbed people. And America will relive the tragedies.


Discussion with André Kaspi collected by Alexis Toulon Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.



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