Guns and violence
There is a killing spree going on in many countries where the police, vigilantes and others settling scores are out in the open to kill anyone suspected to do anything illegal like selling a stick of cigarette or a CD.
They are called on 911 and they show up in the wrong house to gun down someone innocent who politely asks them what they want. They say everybody makes mistakes.
A 22 year old sweet innocent girl who was a choir leader and a good student was shot dead by the police and left in the gutter in Manila just because they thought she was selling shabu which is a drug. Such killers are not brought to justice and no compensation is paid to the family. They say it is just the collateral damage in the war on drugs. You have heard that line many times before from the Pentagon people who justify any atrocity in the name of war. They convinced Truman to drop the A bomb on innocent people in Nagasaki and Hiroshima but Truman was never brought to justice.
This culture of impunity exists everywhere and the wrong doers keep on killing knowing that they will not answer to anyone for their crimes.
I was confronted by a heavily armed policeman in California who roughly asked why our goat was making so much trouble. The neighbors complained who did not like students living next door and called the police. Our poor goat had just arrived from Mojave Desert and was terrified and lonely so she cried a lot. Don’t they have better things to do than checking on a goat?
In the United States they insist on their right to carry arms so the gun makers defeat any attempt to restrict gun sale and ownership by spending millions in lobbying and big donations to politicians who support the gun makers. It is business after all.
But many countries including India and Australia have successfully introduced laws that protect citizens from the gun violence by making it very difficult for nearly anyone to buy a gun for whatever the reason.
The Australians offered money to anyone to come forward to give up their guns and destroyed thousands of guns publicly thus having a great impact socially. They hunt down illegal owners and makers of guns and prosecute them fiercely.
In India the policemen are only allowed batons or a long bamboo pole called lathi so no one gets killed for selling a cigarette or CD like in the States. They do not target any ethnic group or minorities like in the States. Only some policemen are allowed to carry guns that are a part of special task force looking for terrorists or drug smugglers
But in other countries it is an epidemic of murder by guns just like in the USA or Mexico and elsewhere. I am not writing about the war torn countries in the Middle East but in countries where there are no wars where peaceful people go about their daily business of living and earning a living and still get killed due to gun violence.
A crazy fellow shoots down tens of people in Virginia Tech just because he felt alienated and thought people looked down on him because he was Korean. Another went to a school in Sandy Hook where children were singing and mowed them down with a machine gun and another went to a movie house and killed many just because he felt enraged that they were just having fun watching movies while he had no fun in his life. Why such people were allowed to buy guns so easily?
The old refrain that guns don’t kill people, people do and everyone has a right to defend himself, it is in the constitution etc. sounds so stale but I suspect the main reason behind gun sale is purely business because gun makers make a lot money so they are not about to give it up just because someone gets killed by the guns they sell.
It is like saying that poisons do not kill people so the makers of poison continue to make poisons and make it easy for anyone to buy it. What they use it for is none of their business.
There is a place in western Pakistan where there are over 5000 gun smiths just in one village .They will copy any gun in the world at 1/5th the cost in their sophisticated shops equipped with lathes and other such machinery and they openly sell all kinds of guns they make. If you go there, it will feel like a war zone because the Pathans, Baluchs, Pushtuns and Afghans or anyone else shoot in the air to test these guns before buying and occasionally each other to settle scores but that place remains a favorite source for illegal gun trade that fuels the war in that region.
In their culture gun ownership is a must because it is needed to settle long standing family feuds, honor killings and for protecting their illegal heroin trade or smuggling. You could get killed there just for looking at the eyes of a person or just because you look like a stranger in those parts and cause some suspicion or unease.
But what justifies gun ownership and the violence it causes in other countries where people are not smuggling or trafficking and are just plainly living their normal day to day life?
The social consequences:
Now imagine living in a country where no one is really safe from gun violence and where people shoot at you just because they do not like you or you are at the wrong place or at the wrong time and get caught in the cross fire between the rival gangs that roam free and protect their territories with guns and goons that often result in bloodshed and you will begin to understand what fear is.
Imagine that you are watching a movie and enjoying it with pop corn in your hand and all of a sudden someone comes in and takes your life.
The social consequences of such random violence perpetrated on innocent people are just too terrible to even contemplate. It tears up families who lose their only son, father, brother or daughter and are left destitute with no hope for justice if the shooter happens to be a white policeman. They always justify by saying that the fellow was resisting arrest or was acting threateningly somehow so the policeman shot him in self defense. He is not prosecuted because policemen’s union comes to his defense and the case never prospers because the judge and the jury are white. If he is a black policeman then maybe he will face a trial but still get away scot free later. Of more than 22000 such cases in the past decade or so, only a handful ever were tried and even fewer found guilty .But that happens in America.
Now let us examine the consequences of gun violence elsewhere like in Mexico or Brazil where the drug cartels regularly shoot it out in public to execute their rivals or policemen who are searching for them and the ordinary folks getting caught in the cross fire suffer. They kidnap people for ransom because it is a good business and kill them if ransom is not paid or not enough. They kill ordinary people who do not want to join them, do not want drugs in their neighborhood or inform the police about their activities. So the common people suffer and their lives are shattered because the bread winner is killed leaving them destitute.
In Brazil the vigilantes kill the poor street children who try to survive by selling cigarettes or flowers because they don’t want the world to know that their country has such a severe problem of poverty , abandoned children and orphans who live like vagrant animals or worse.
The activists who write about the illegal logging, trafficking of women and children for prostitution, graft and corruption in the government, pollution caused by chemical companies dumping poisonous waste in their waters or land etc. are all very vulnerable. They are killed just because they protest and write about wrong doings.
In some countries the news paper writers, journalists, TV anchors who openly condemn wrong doings are targeted and killed off by people who make a lot of money doing illegal things and do not want to be exposed to scrutiny. Just try to expose the nefarious activities of Mafia and see where it gets you. There is no one to protect you from them once you are on their hit list. The mafia exists everywhere.
Jimmy Carter once said the US government is beholden to the powerful businessmen who donate for their political campaign and exact a bountiful dividend in return so no government can go against their interests. Protecting their interests is what they pay for.
Remember the tobacco tycoons who said in congressional hearings in the US that tobacco does not cause cancer in spite of mountains of evidence to the contrary? They were big donors to the political campaigns of congressmen so they got off scot free.
The impact of media on gun culture:
If you watch TV a lot meaning several hours a day, you cannot avoid watching shows that are explicitly violent. It may be Jason Bourne movie or Clint Eastwood shooting it out somewhere but the fact remains that a great deal of violence is shown in TV shows or movies and even in cartoon films. Children watch these shows all the time and often cannot distinguish the reality from the fantasy. They become immune to feelings of pain or shock or dismay because their senses are bombarded with violent contents every day.
Did anyone know that more people die of gun violence in the United States each year than any other similar country? It is a country where a five year old child picks up his father’s gun that he left in plain sight and shoots his baby sister and says “bang bang” just like what he watches on TV. To him it is just fun and he is imitating the TV shows not knowing that the blood pouring out of his sister is real and she is dead or what it means to be dead.
He cannot be arrested and tried for murder just because he is a child and remains a child even at an age of 17 when he knows what he is doing. He will reach a legal age later when he can be tried or killed for selling a stick of cigarette or a broken tail light or just because he is black or Hispanic or somehow looks foreign.
It is when war footage is shown everyday live from the battle fields, people cannot feel any empathy for the victims because they are told over and over again that only bad people are getting killed just like in Vietnam War or any other war. They are commies or jihadists or plain worthless people who deserve it.
I like to live in a country where I feel safe all the time and not some of the time. I like to feel that our loved ones are safe when they are out watching a movie or going to a mall but who doesn’t? Who takes away our right to live safely?
But it takes tremendous political will to go against the established gun makers to come up with laws to prohibit them to make guns available to anyone just to make money. It takes a moral government to enact laws that protect the people from gun violence done by the criminals or the police. It takes a serious government that is dedicated to protect lives by taking guns off the hands of those who abuse it.
Why do they have to arm the policemen in America to the teeth when in other countries they have only a baton and can’t kill anyone with it? It is quite doable and reasonable. Australia, India and many other countries have done it with good results and can be emulated.
Why can’t the governments force people to surrender their guns and then publicly destroy them just like in Australia? It is quite doable.
Why can’t they regulate the gun makers and make laws that prohibits the sale of guns to private people like any reasonable government ought to?
But you and I know that sanity goes out the window when money is involved. They have tried many times to reform the campaign financing but have gotten nowhere.
Still there is hope that someday a sane president who is not beholden to anyone except the people who elected him will do what is right for the people. Only then the slogan By the people, for the people and of the people will make any sense. Until then we all are in danger.