Lessons from US Difficulties
with Gun Control
By Gao Wang
Concerning the United States’ hesitation on gun control, the Chinese public is sure to have a wake-up call: No matter what social reform China takes on, China must not lose its authoritative process.
Translated By Meghan McGrath
17 January 2013
Edited by Lauren Gerken
China - Huanqiu - Original Article (Chinese)
On January 16, U.S. President Barack Obama announced his plan for the most severe package of gun control initiatives. In fact, he is pushing Congress to resume the ban on the sale of assault weapons and to deepen background checks before gun purchases. However, before he had officially announced these initiatives, there had already been a torrential rush of opposition. Analysts believe that it will be very difficult to ban guns in the U.S., if not impossible.
The urgency of the topic of gun control in the U.S. is as obvious as head lice on a bald head. With one shocking shooting after another, data shows that nationwide 30,000 people were shot and killed in one year—that’s like the death tolls from the Iraq war. American folks have a total of nearly 300 million guns, almost enough for one for every man, woman and child.
Americans have such free access to guns because of their deep historical ties to the immigrants who founded the country. These immigrants mainly had to rely on self-defense to ensure their own safety, and this mentality has continued ever since. However, times have changed. The Second Amendment of the Constitution which protects the right to bear arms was written over 200 years ago, and the current climate of gun ownership is not the same as it was then. Not only is Obama trying to make changes to gun control, but American society is quite stubbornly against reform and promoting gun control is likely to hurt come election time.
There is a very large number of U.S. citizens who are legitimate gun owners. We cannot simply evaluate what is bad and what is good, but the gun manufacturing issue is outstanding. Since the White House is already considering stricter gun control, they have obviously realized the severity of the problem. However, it is difficult to promote gun control, as American society seriously lacks the authority to make such a push, and the president’s authority is no exception. This is a major decision that conflicts with tradition, and even for the benefit of the whole society, it is difficult to launch this in the U.S.
Gun control in the U.S. is a mirror. For China, first and foremost, it shows how different our country is from the U.S. In China, it would be completely inconceivable for every person to have a gun. Despite the unceasing shootings in the U.S., only a tiny portion of the 300 million guns are used for evil acts, which shows that the grassroots of American society are capable of self-government, which makes us envious.
But even in the U.S., the lack of authority to create reform is harmful to many. This has become one of the deficiencies of U.S. system. The U.S. is full of debate, it excludes dictatorship, and yet during key moments a decision cannot be reached. Because U.S. leaders must first focus on elections and support rates, rulers dare not take on important, heavy tasks and will ultimately yield come election time.
Concerning hesitation on gun control, the Chinese public is sure to have a wake-up call: No matter what social reform China takes on, China must not lose its authoritative process. Although there are some aspects which are unreasonable, every decision China makes is inevitably beneficial to all, and yet opposition is inevitable. Reformers must have sufficient strength to control society's views on the conflict and cannot always look around. During critical moments they must have the strength to stand their ground against opposition and make decisions that benefit the majority.
China's reform has come a long way, but has had detours and made errors along the way. However, the general direction of reform is right and the achievement is overwhelming. China is far from having reached the end point of reform—we need a set political democracy—but also still need a strong decision-making mechanism and powerful decision makers.
Their differing views on gun control are a vivid example of the comparative merits and demerits of these two great nations. It tells us that China should conscientiously observe the world, gathering experience and lessons learned from a large sample, while continuing down its own path of reform and development. To believe that the U.S. can become a template and standard for China to follow, well, that is just naivety and cultural romanticism.
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