What can we learn from, and what is the least we can do after, the massacre in Newtown?
There is a belief that every civilization in the world holds and must hold: The belief that all children are innocent and must be protected from evil, that even the most brutal and most sadistic murderer takes his finger off the trigger to spare the lives of six-year-olds.
We know how delusional this belief is. Children die in wars and are victims of crimes. Yet, this taboo meant to civilize society is seldom broken in the West, even with America’s terrible history of mass shootings, especially in schools. Never before has someone in the U.S. mowed down an entire first and second grade class at an elementary school. Such a tragedy extends beyond America’s borders.
Therefore, it is not enough to rant in quick resignation about the crazy gun culture of “Americanism” and to declare the National Rifle Association all-powerful and American society archaic. First, the obsession with guns is relatively new. Second, the foolish gun enthusiasts are only as powerful as their opponents allow. This simply means that attitudes toward guns were once different and they must change again — not only for the comfort of Americans, but the comfort of the rest of the world.
Guns Are the True Weapons of Mass Destruction
As long as U.S. government administrations, either Republican or Democrat, continue to kowtow to the National Rifle Association, they also block international efforts to halt the spread of small arms, a nice-sounding technical term for contemporary weapons of mass destruction. These small arms, not nuclear warheads and chemical agents, are used to inflict most of the world’s devastation. The UN’s attempts to interfere with the small arms trade make them enemies of the National Rifle Association, which asserts the right of everyone to bear the arms of a sharpshooter.
Whether or not Barack Obama manages to strengthen gun laws in the U.S. (and he wants to try), he cannot stop the next massacre. In the U.S. there are about 300 million firearms owned by about a third of all American households. Among these gun owners are not just mass shooters, but also drug dealers, gang members and the average Joe who ends their family arguments with just a pull of the trigger.
According to current statistics, guns will kill about 50,000 people during Obama’s second term. So why go through all the trouble to keep a couple hundred thousand guns from being sold?
Because historical reforms — as disarming America would be — begin with a battle of wits. According to the National Rifle Association’s logic, arming teachers is an appropriate solution to the Newtown massacre. To declare this logic of a modern society which calls on unending armament would be the first step to avoiding more massacres like Newtown’s.
Mass shooters are not American phenomena. And any society penetrated by pure evil must deal with it in its own way. Norway found itself in a painful public trial against Anders Breivik, which upheld its constitutional and legal principles even after the massacre in Utoya. In Great Britain, concerns after the 1996 Dunblane elementary school bloodbath led to an expansive policy banning guns. In Germany, after the school shootings in Erfurt and Winnenden, it was revealed that a frightening number of people owned guns. This prompted some thousand gun owners to hand them over.
By no means is it certain that the mass shooting in Newtown will have a cathartic effect on the U.S. But it is possible. Back in the 1990s, a protest movement declared America’s love affair with guns unpatriotic and the Clinton administration passed stricter regulations. But after 9/11, any plea to regulate guns was actually considered treason.
Now, 10 years later, this ideology is becoming less popular. The tea party, which advocates unrestricted gun ownership in its platform, faced a setback in the last election. Hispanics, the fastest growing minority, largely consider guns to be a threat rather than a household appliance — if for no other reason than that in the inner cities, their children are often victims of gun crimes. On the municipal level, over 700 mayors from both parties have created a coalition against the crazy gun culture. Obama has the historical opportunity to achieve disarmament: First in the heads and gun racks of his countrymen, then worldwide in the battle against small arms.