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Prensa Libre, Guatemala

The Business of Weapons

By Carolina Vasquez Araya

Translated By Brian Perez

17 December 2012

Edited by Natalie Clager

Guatemala - Prensa Libre - Original Article (Spanish)

It happened again in the United States. Adam Lanza slaughtered 20 children and seven adults in an elementary school. He used a rifle similar to those used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to reports in the Spanish newspaper ABC, he shot his mother several times before turning Sandy Hook Elementary School into a gruesome scene.

The issue of gun control arose immediately out of the tragedy. A weapons ban could reduce the likelihood of these chilling acts happening again against innocent people. Expectedly, jumping into the fray is the NRA, a powerful organization whose philosophical basis is the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Second Amendment includes: "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

According to some related studies, this amendment protected at the time (1791) the right of states to have a militia and defend their own territory during the post-revolutionary period. This wasn’t supposed to mean that any citizen could have the weapons they want and use them at will; rather, it was meant to avoid leaving the states at the mercy of outside forces in a period shaken by popular uprisings. There are many interpretations by those who have advocated and opposed this constitutional right. The reality is that while the U.S. arms industry is an important source of income for the country, the protection of its citizens’ lives is a fundamental obligation and the priority that should prevail.

The regulatory framework in the United States allows any citizen to own guns, except convicts and the mentally ill. With this right already established and the added cultural reaffirmation regarding the concept of heroism, personified by cowboys and soldiers skilled in the use of high-powered weapons, warmongering is almost an expression of the highest patriotism.

The situation is very different in Guatemala, whose number of those killed by gunfire is proportionally larger than in the U.S. In this country, gun control is a precarious situation and much of the guns circulating on the streets are illegal, without a license or registration.

It is also assumed that many of the legal weapons, apart from those belonging to the security forces, are in the hands of criminal organizations. Others are in the hands of companies with private security services whose employees are typically underpaid and are poorly trained individuals.

In this discourse of gun control there are obviously interlocking interests; some are political and others economic. The discussion in both the United States and Guatemala will end reasonably if the idea that the people are first and every human life must be protected, as mandated by the Constitution and ethics, prevails in the circles of power.



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