Listen to the Americans
Who Don’t Have Guns
By Zhong Xueping
Translated By Elizabeth Cao
27 December 2012
Edited by Lauren Gerken
China - Huanqiu - Original Article (Chinese)
After the awful school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in the U.S., an American friend of mine told me that although her daughter, who is a teacher, did not teach at that school, her daughter did live near the school and even knew some of the families of the shooting victims. My friend said that although these vicious shootings are often heard about, this particular one was the closest to home and the closest to her family, making it feel even more shocking. And that this time, because most of the victims were no older than 10 years of age, the cries for gun control felt different than usual.
My friend is skeptical about whether there will be any kind of change with respect to gun control, but not because she supports gun ownership. On the contrary, she has a clear understanding of the politics behind the issue of guns and even the difficulties behind changing the relevant laws. My friend's reaction to the shooting was the most typical of my American friends: stunned, but unable to do anything about it.
In the U.S., just as a dog biting a man is not news, gun-related casualties due to conflicts between normal people occur every day; although the number of these cases is not decreasing, these small-scale conflicts have long not been considered to be news. People only need to refer to the statistics regarding deaths by guns (which doesn't even include the figures for gun-related injuries) to see that. Interestingly, the number of deaths is different according to different sources. In the same year, there were numbers for 30,000 deaths (sources on the internet), 20,000 deaths (an American guest on the CCTV show "Dialogue") and 10,000 deaths (Obama's speech after the Newtown shooting). And although it is unknown which figure is the most accurate, even 10,000 casualties is a shocking number.
Over the years, vicious and awful campus shootings have made headlines. And yet, people still feel shocked every time they hear such news. Even if this news now feels as common as a dog biting a man, it frequently remains nothing more significant than just “news.” Moreover, the numbness and helplessness society feels when these events occur reflects society's numbness and helplessness with respect to these issues. At least so far, the reactions to these events about have not been able to bring about the most basic changes or have any impact on these issues. Indeed, those who are familiar with this cycle of events know that the calls for gun control begin immediately following shootings but, regardless of appeals and attempts at reform, politicians are purely putting on a show and soon everything will return to normal. That is, until the next tragic turn of events occurs and the cycle repeats.
I heard that there those in the U.S. who interpret gun ownership as an integral part of their freedom, stemming from the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Indeed, CCTV and Shanghai TV announcers have said that without a doubt, the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to bear arms. But in reality, over the years, the correct meaning and interpretation of the Second Amendment has been heavily disputed in circles studying American law. Those who are interested are welcome to add their understanding of this subject.
In the U.S., many of the people I know do not own guns and are highly critical of gun ownership and the issue that surrounds it. This, of course, probably has something to do with the kinds of people with whom I interact, who either are members of the Democratic Party or who lean toward the left. Many are also highly educated or scholars. Most scholars look toward the history and political vision of the country to try to study the U.S. and its problems. They understand the relationship between gun interest groups and political groups in gun culture. They know the ridiculousness of the phrase, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." They fully understand that the idea behind the need for an individual to bear arms to defend against the government is "libertarianism," not "liberalism." They clearly understand that all the shootings over the years (not including the ones related to injuries) have been a way of exacting revenge upon another individual or society and have been an issue directly related to society, not a revolt against or a critique of the government. A smaller number of these critics also understand that under the influence of various political groups, these shootings will continue to be covered in the mainstream media as the result of personal behavioral problems and continue to cover up deep-rooted societal issues.
What is most interesting is how these members of the "cultural elite" who fully understand all of these issues voice their thoughts on them, while shootings and gun violence, due to the political imbalance between the groups for gun control and groups for gun ownership, continue to happen over and over again. In the face of this reality, more and more people feel this sense of powerlessness toward the issue of gun laws, as did the friend I mentioned at the beginning. Although these events are unbelievable and shocking, "experts" on the issue do not place much faith change because the situation seems so hopeless that they don’t even dare to hope for change.
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