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El Universal, Mexico

Arming for Self-Defense

By Lydia Cacho

Translated By Alan Bailey

17 December 2012

Edited Peter L. McGuire


Mexico - El Universal - Original Article (Spanish)

According to the annual report on American weapons manufacturing, 5,391,311 firearms were manufactured in the United States in 2010. Each time a student massacre happens in the U.S., the families remain devastated and the leaders make declarations about the severity of violence and insist on the fact that a "deranged youth" or "one possessed by evil" committed an atrocious crime. Immediately afterward, the civil debate on gun control starts. But Obama's declaration, using euphemisms to avoid confrontation about prohibition, makes us doubtful. What lies in the future for buying and selling weapons in the U.S.?

Even when the media and populace reiterate that the NRA invests large sums of money in political campaigns to silence debate, academics assure that the main investment does not go to campaigns but rather to the lobbyist groups that negotiate with congress against a ban or for a NO vote to paralyze legislative debate. Other specialists insist that a ban will be impossible.

Further, even though 47 percent of gun owners are Republicans, meaning conservatives in general defend gun ownership, 23 percent are Democrats (progressives are thought to be commonly opposed). We know that American society has established an almost unbreakable link between violence and patriotism. The issue is steeped in a discourse that systematically validates the use of force in the mock negotiation of domestic and foreign conflicts.

Those who defend gun ownership in the U.S. argue that guns don't kill people, people using guns kill people. In support of the right to bear arms, American society cites the Second Amendment of the Constitution, where the right to bear arms for self-defense is declared a constitutional right. In 2008 and 2010 the Supreme Court affirmed that right, while clarifying the ban for the mentally handicapped and felons and prohibiting possession in schools and public buildings. We cannot forget that the arguments that gave birth to the amendment included repelling an enemy invasion, providing the natural right to self-defense and helping with law enforcement. All of which are based in distrust.

The leading magazine of the weapons industry, Shooting Magazine, published an enlightening article by Russ Thurman in July. The article states: "The industry has entered a golden era, a renaissance of gun ownership that transcends a dedicated segment [...] The American citizenship has got it — gun ownership is OK! Gun ownership has gone mainstream." He asserts that, fearful that Obama would ban guns, Americans have bought them to assure their right to self-defense. He says "TV has had a huge impact. Viewers are enjoying many more programs featuring firearms that go beyond hunting ... Another major influencing factor of gun ownership is America’s modern military veteran ... who served or is serving in Iran [sic] and Afghanistan. They are respected and admired. They carried firearms to protect our country. That factor, that imagery, has had a huge positive impact on how firearms are viewed in our country."

This is, from my point of view, the central theme of the debate: American society, in general terms, continues to think that the enemy lives at home and surrounds them, that nobody can defend them and that only by having a weapon can one protect their family and their property. Considering itself the world police has made the United States helpless to view, understand and resolve their own internal conflicts.

It will be almost impossible for politicians to use the Connecticut case for gun control, since they are not only fighting against the NRA and the huge arms industry, but rather the cultural values of a nation that is unified in a nationalist and warlike fervor. It is a nation that reacts with more violence and revenge every time a violent act occurs, a nation established on the basis of fear of the unknown, where those that believe in conflict negotiation and social integration are in the minority.



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