American Gun Control: Like a Camel
Through the Eye of a Needle
Translated By Chase Coulson
17 January 2013
Edited by Kyrstie Lane
China - Sina - Original Article (Chinese)
American President Obama’s planned Jan. 16 announcement of the “strictest” and most all-encompassing gun control measures actually only pushes Congress to reopen the idea of a prohibition on gun sales and extensive background checks in connection with gun sales. But before these actions were officially announced, wave upon wave of American public opinion opposing the measures had come crashing in. Analysts believe that gun control measures in America will be extremely difficult to implement, and gun prohibition will be next to impossible.
At least stricter measures of control over the purchase of firearms are underway. For the U.S., the urgent need for this is as self-evident as a louse on a bald man’s crown. Reports of over-the-top shootings in the U.S. keep coming in rapid succession. Data has shown that there are 30,000 shooting deaths per year in the U.S. — much higher than the death toll suffered in the Iraq War. There are nearly 300 million firearms currently held by citizens in the U.S., very nearly equivalent to every man, woman, senior citizen and child in the country with their fingers on a trigger.
Those who are armed in the U.S. have much freedom, which has to do with the country’s historical tradition of being an immigrant state. In earlier years, immigrants mainly relied on self-defense for safety, and this kind of “gun equals safety” mentality has continued all the way up to today. But times are changing. America’s Second Amendment right to gun ownership was written into the Constitution 200 years ago. An environment conducive to armed citizens has long since gone the way of the dodo bird. Not only has an American leader by the name of Obama already stirred up the notion of gun control, but American society also has an extremely diehard apathy toward reformation. Pushing for gun control is risky behavior that could possibly be damaging politically.
The right to bear arms is very powerful in the U.S., and we cannot simply evaluate it as “good” or “bad,” even though the problems it creates are all the more shocking as time goes by. Since the White House already believes it should do something to tighten gun control, this means that the U.S. administrative authority acknowledges the extreme seriousness of the situation; however, it is difficult to push for it, which means American society is seriously lacking the power to promote positive change. The American president is no exception. In the U.S., to make a major decision that would go against the office of the president, even if it would be beneficial for society at large, is extremely difficult to set into motion.
American gun control is a mirror. To China, first of all, it illuminates the great differences between our two countries. For every citizen of China to have a gun would be simply inconceivable. Despite the constant proliferation of shooting incidents in the U.S., with close to 300 million weapons, even supposing that a small amount of these are used for evil, this issue shines a spotlight on America's fundamental capacity for autonomy that is enough to make us envious in this country.
But even if it is the U.S. we are talking about, a government lacking the authority to push for reformation will nevertheless leave behind a myriad of negative consequences, which has become a flaw in the American system. There is ample debate going on in the U.S., for while it has purged “dictatorial rule,” it has come to an impasse in breaking through some key problems. Because the American leadership's primary concerns are votes and popularity ratings, this phenomenon causes those in power to shy away from taking on any great responsibility, and at the end of the day, when facing an election, they will yield.
Seeing America's hesitancy on this gun control issue, Chinese citizens should be wary to some extent: Regardless of how reforms and social transformations alter Chinese society, this absolutely cannot become a process of the constant erosion of power. While China may be unreasonable in some ways, every time there is reform it must be accompanied by an adjustment of interests and benefits, and the voices of protest are inevitable. Reformers must have sufficient strength to handle the backlash, and they cannot be constantly looking over their shoulders. At critical times they should have the courage and the strength to stand their ground against the tide of opinion and make decisions that are in the best interests of the population at large.
Chinese reform has been like this from day one. In the middle there have been some winding roads and missteps, but the overall direction has been correct, and the accomplishments have been overwhelming. China is far from having reached the end of reform. From today forward we need to work constantly toward the furthering of a political democracy, while at the same time we need powerful policy mechanisms and vigorous policy makers.
The thing that is different about gun control is that it is difficult to see any clear-cut examples with which to contrast our two great nations’ opinions about what is right or wrong. It does tell us that China needs to keep a close watch on the world, to collect experience and lessons from a great quantity of examples, while at the same time we must go the way of development that is right for the material conditions present in our nation. To think that everything about America could be the template and standard for our nation is simply political naiveté and cultural romanticism.
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