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Le Nouvel Observateur, France

The Newtown Tragedy: The US
Must Fight the Gun Lobby

By Zobel Belhalal

Translated By Meredith O'Connell

15 December 2012

Edited by Gillian Palmer

France - Le Nouvel Observateur - Original Article (French)

It is a sad report after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 28 people died, 20 of them children. For our contributor Zobel Behalal, a specialist in gun control, America's politics in regards to possession of firearms is no stranger to this tragedy and must be revised.

The Newtown Killing. The shooting in Connecticut dramatically references the unique and sensitive character of the arms trade. Above all it shows that the U.S. must impose strict laws both on a national and international level on the possession of arms to prevent those unfit to use them from accessing them.

Lax American Legislation and Past Murders

Colorado in July, Virginia Tech in 2007 and now the massacre in Connecticut give a perspective to these realities in the United States, especially in a country where all debate concerning guns is difficult.

The last presidential campaign certainly demonstrated this. Under pressure, candidate Barack Obama in effect had to go backward after having shown willingness to negotiate on the sale of arms.

Today, I recall a conversation I had with an American I met in New York in July. As the television screens paraded images of the Colorado movie theater shooting, I questioned him for my investigation on the bigger causes for these constant killings. He affirmed that it is the restrictions on gun possession that are the cause.

For Obama, if all those who went to view the Batman film had had a gun, the gunman would have been stopped before he committed his act.*

This analysis can only surprise and shock people as long as one knows that American legislation is known as one of the most lax regarding the sale and carrying of firearms. As proof, those behind these mass killings are generally psychopaths who had no problem obtaining an arsenal of weapons.

The deadlock on the question of guns in America firstly stems from the National Rifle Association's prominent pro-arms lobby. Its capacity to influence politics is tremendous. Even if it is the Republican Party's natural ally, the Democrats are not indifferent to it.

Barack Obama's step back during the campaign is illustrative of this. The National Rifle Association's influence contributed to pushing President Obama's administration to stop negotiations concerning the Arms Trade Treaty last summer.

Thus there is reason to fear that the voices gaining strength since yesterday from the heart of America calling for an overhaul on gun legislation will quiet down as soon as emotions calm down, as laxity and politicians’ lack of courage are strong. They do not yet seem ready to confront the lobbies and protect the general public.

This position that has registered dramatic consequences is found at an international level in the United States' attitude during the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations. Here too, economic interests win over the life of its own citizens; the arrangements a minina and realpolitik take precedent over the desire for more proactive control.

With several months until the next Arms Trade Treaty conference, the general public (especially America) should be conscious of the realities. They should equally recognize that without their own action evolution is not possible when facing the opposition, which is itself well organized.

*Editor’s Note: This is not a view President Obama has presented.



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