“If nothing changes, soon — far too soon — there will be another massacre. It’s inevitable.”
I wrote those words in a column published five months ago, after a gunman opened fire in a crowded Aurora, Colo., movie theater, leaving 12 people dead. In the aftermath of that massacre, many Americans suspected that something similar would happen again soon. Despite a lot of talk from politicians about the need for increased gun control, nothing was changing. Weapons were still easily accessible, and Congress remained fearful of restricting that access. It was only a matter of time.
On Dec. 14 Adam Lanza, 20, stormed into an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and murdered 27 people. Twenty of the victims were small children.
And here we go again. Lawmakers are making their usual pronouncements that something must be done — that, at the very least, more restrictions must be imposed on gun ownership. I have trouble believing them because they always say the same things after these shootings, yet they never act. Our politicians did not act after one teacher and 12 students were killed at Columbine High School in 1999. They did not act after a shooter murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007.
The sad fact is that they are too terrified to propose new weapons limits. Doing so would likely lead to a confrontation with the National Rifle Association, and for lawmakers, this would mean that the powerful organization might spend millions of dollars opposing them the next time they are up for re-election. So reforming current gun legislation in the United States requires the support of legislators who are willing to lose their jobs.
When it comes to gun control, proponents of the NRA and other defenders of the right of Americans to own any gun that they please, no matter what the person’s life circumstances or the state of his or her mental health, often argue that more guns means more security. Right now there are almost as many guns in the United States as there are people, and people living in one out of three households has access to a handgun or a rifle.
But are we really safer? No country in the world has suffered more school shootings than the United States. On the other hand, look at the experience of a nation like Japan, where guns are not available, except in rare instances. There, fewer weapons has meant that killings are extremely rare. In addition, the rifle Lanza used is very similar to those used by American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are not deer-hunting rifles; such weapons have only one purpose: to kill people. But of course, questioning the Second Amendment, which guarantees citizens’ right to bear arms, would be unthinkable — even radical — these days. Americans must come to terms with the fact that circumstances have changed drastically since the 18th century, when the Constitution was drafted, yet few congressmen have the will to even suggest that we rethink the Second Amendment.
Some politicians say that a ban on assault weapons would be an effective response. But even if brave lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum dare to put aside their differences in order to craft an agreement that restricts access to these guns, what about the hundreds of millions of weapons that are already available? Also, a ban would do nothing to change our culture of violence. We need fresh ideas.
In April 2007 I traveled to Blacksburg, Va., to report on the Virginia Tech massacre and was shocked by the notion that a college student could be shot dead while sitting in a German class. Not long after, I wrote about how easily a disturbed person like the Virginia Tech gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, could obtain assault weapons in the United States, and concluded, pessimistically, “Nothing is going to change.”
Unfortunately, the massacres kept happening, one after another. Now we are just waiting for the next one. Soon.
By Jorge Ramos Avalos.
(December 26, 2012)