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die Welt, Germany

America: At War with Itself

By Uwe Schmitt

Owning guns is as American as apple pie and baseball. The Newtown massacre has reignited the fight over gun ownership; nothing since the debate over ending slavery has been so contentious.

Translated By Ron Argentati

16 January 2013

Edited by Gillian Palmer

Germany - die Welt - Original Article (German)

Taken to its extremes, the internal fight over gun ownership in the United States is as hate-filled as the fight over ending slavery was. The pro-gun faction's credo and emotional state, their devotion somewhere between religion and libido, the longing for the righteous anarchy of the Old West, go against all reason, statistics, modernity and urbanity; it is a sign of minimal trust in government.

The principal difference between this fight and the one ending slavery: The American South fought to ensure the economic survival of its plantation economy. That difference alone is enough to create a hope that the civil war the pro-gun faction in America wants to ignite can be avoided.

Do More Guns Mean More Security?

To call it a war is neither a joke nor satire. The increased use of macho slogans of the “only over my dead body” variety is a declaration of war against what they perceive to be a tyrannical government. They claim European Jews would have been able to force Hitler to back off his desire to eradicate them had they only had guns. Such is their delusion that they think if the victims of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot had only had guns, they would have triumphed over the dictators. The National Rifle Association likes to picture itself on the side of the good guys, with their rifles always ready to do good.

That's embodied in the NRA's slogan that guns don't kill people, people do. More guns in the hands of the good guys means better security. They also like to talk about the urgent need for better psychiatric programs to facilitate earlier recognition of evil intent. The thing they never want to talk about is the guns themselves.

It's in this light that they say it's the lack of defenses that attracts shooters to schools. The NRA's dream is to have wild, Hollywood-style shootouts between the criminals and armed teachers. In their scenario, the good guys always win, the students are saved and the parents all applaud. Since the Newtown shootings, the NRA has seen its membership increase from 4.1 million to 4.2 million. Gun sales are booming, fueled by the conspiracy fairy tale that Obama wants to disarm respectable citizens.

Teachers enroll in self-defense seminars. God help America's children if these poor people are ever called upon to play the role of hero in the classroom. People don't even trust the police to do that, despite the fact that they regularly undergo training in shooting under stressful conditions and have accuracy standards they must meet. The dream of the armed citizen who keeps tyrants and criminals in perpetual check with his gun is foolish and, in reality, would be a nightmare.

A High Wire Act for Democrats

If guns are as American as apple pie and baseball, if a child's rights are subordinated to the right to keep and bear arms, then the wishes of the majority should determine how Americans want to live. A decision to stiffen gun laws would have no effect on that. Banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines and closing loopholes in the background check system are steps Vice President Biden has suggested be taken; the course that fight will take is already predictable.

Congressional Republicans will immediately announce their refusal to agree. A few Southern and Midwestern Democrats will join the protest against “radical activism.” In the Senate, it will be more civilized and although a 60-vote approval is perversely necessary due to the possibility of filibuster, no one really expects that to happen. No one knows that better than Joe Biden, who fought tirelessly but unsuccessfully for stricter gun controls in the Senate for decades.

As Senators Obama and Biden began their 2007 primary runs and laid out their respective positions on gun control, Obama deferred to the Second Amendment affirming the citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. As usual, Obama took the middle of the public opinion road. Biden tended more toward the left. He was one of those Democrats who was not cowed by the fact that other Democrats in Congress who supported stricter controls had lost their elections in droves.

The NRA vs. the Collective Elites

Opponents of stricter controls point to the fact that the assault weapon ban in effect from 1994 to 2004 resulted in no reduction in deaths from mass shootings. Gun opponents point out that the earlier ban was riddled with loopholes. Even the latest control law proposed by California Senator Diane Feinstein, still in draft form, contains more than 900 exceptions for guns like the Bushmaster AR-15 used in the Newtown massacre.

The NRA collected $20 million, predominantly donated by pro-gun Republicans, for the 2012 elections. It should come as no surprise that the lobby now wants to see some return on their investment, namely, opposition to stricter gun laws. Gun opponents, led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have no stomach for a protracted fight, nor do they have financial backing comparable to that enjoyed by the NRA. But Bloomberg has New York City statistics on his side as well as the support of nearly every police chief in the United States who has to deal with armed citizens on a near-daily basis. Prominent military leaders, educators’ organizations, the organized community of medical doctors and elites of every sort all support Mayor Bloomberg and Joe Biden.

The Cultural War over Weapons Equality

A recent National Institute of Health study came to the disturbing conclusion that American males have the lowest life expectancy compared to 17 other industrialized nations, and women rank second to last — all this despite the fact that Americans spend far more on health care than other nations. The main reason for the early deaths: Gunshot wounds.

It's pointless for foreigners to fret about America's obsession with guns. Examine the German obsessions with speed limits and their dogs and you will find a similar cultural war reflex. America should be neither lectured nor pitied when its right to the pursuit of happiness is defended with guns and the blood of their children.

The most successful battle Native Americans fought against the henchmen sent by the tyranny in Washington took place at Little Big Horn in 1873; it cost General Custer and his troops their lives. They died because hundreds of Indians had access to repeating rifles. They finally achieved gun equality. It was the lesson of a lifetime.



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