Farewell to Arms

The tragedy in Newtown in the United States, where a silent and introverted youth got a hold of his mother’s firearms — she herself was a shooting fanatic – and shot her before going to a school and killing 20 children and six adults and finally taking his own life, can no longer simply be considered a tragedy in a country where anyone can have a gun and where so many similar incidents have occurred.

This time, the massacre of children that shook the country prompted President Obama to open up a debate over gun control. Hence his request that Vice President Joseph Biden lead a study group on the issue; the group must present its proposals in one month’s time. The president also asserted that “a culture that too often glorifies guns and violence” must be cautiously examined.

Despite Obama’s good intentions being set against the powerful National Rifle Association, which with its four million members and generous contributions from arms manufacturers and retailers is one of the most effective lobbying groups in the United States, it is very important that the president presses the point that his country’s culture “glorifies arms and violence.”

For the fact is that the protection in the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the right of all citizens to possess arms for their personal defense means that the United States not only generates 10,000 deaths every year within its own borders owing to the indiscriminate use of arms, but also that the state has killed millions of people with the argument that it has to defend itself. Take the war in Iraq, for example, where millions of human beings died: This was justified by the United States’ alleged need to protect itself from chemical weapons, which in the end Hussein did not possess.

The United States would do the human race a lot of good if it revised its policies and had the humility to look at successful examples beyond its borders, where the prohibition of carrying arms, more effective police intervention and some control over late night alcohol consumption has resulted in a clear reduction in the number of homicides.

In the case of Bogotá, murders dropped by one quarter in 2012 after the carrying of arms with safe conduct was prohibited and the police established a monitoring plan by quadrants. That reduction in homicides, which now stands at 16.7 per 100,000 inhabitants – compared with 98.7 in Caracas, 31.7 in Panama and 58.6 in Cali – began with the incumbency of Antanas Mockus, who put in place initiatives to discourage firearms ownership, such as allowing exchanges of firearms for credit to buy goods.

What if the United States looked at these examples and accepted that it could learn something from these countries, which it has always looked down on as its “backyard?”

I wish you, dear readers, a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2013! For our country to have this too, it is vital that we say goodbye to guns, that the government and the guerrillas reach an agreement and that a culture of peace is born and consolidated.

And so, dear Colombia, may 2013 be your happiest year yet!

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