Monday, June 13, 2016

The Gun Trap

By Patrick

I cannot even count how many times we have been shocked and saddened by horrific mass shootings in the USA during the previous years. At the same time, nothing has happened to prevent these massacres.

Many, if not most of the US citizens have easy access to high powered, military grade weapons. Sometimes there are "background checks." However, they are not strict enough, they cannot prevent massacres, they do not work:

The truth is that politicians from all sides have failed the US citizens. Unfortunately, it is not just the Republicans who are to blame for the current situation. This might be an unconvenient and unpopular truth, but in my opinion, it is still the truth.

The "Daily Show" brutally exposed in 2013 the unwillingness of the Democrats to seriously push for effective gun control, The Democratic strategists concluded (correctly) that some voters might not like it. I included the three video clips of this brilliant "Daily Show" segment in my "Happy New Year" post for the year 2015. This "Daily Show" report was hitting a mark, and never before or afterwards have I seen a better summary of this terrible disease the plagues America: The USA is caught in the "gun trap" - and there seems to be no way out.

It is not just the assault rifles which are the problem. Even small handguns like the very popular and modern "Glock" pistols are so high-powered that it is easy to kill many people within a few seconds.

There is also another inconvenient truth: If the "good guys" are allowed to own the guns, then the bad guys will have them as well. In addition, sometimes the distinction between a "good guy" and a "bad guy" is almost impossible. The Orlando killer Omar Mateen had a security and a firearm license, and therefore by definition was a "good guy."

Gun control can only work if the policies are very strict, like it is the case in Europe, or for example in Australia after the big change 20 years ago:


The chances of being murdered by a gun in Australia plunged to 0.15 per 100,000 people in 2014 from 0.54 per 100,000 people in 1996, a decline of 72 percent, a Reuters analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed.

In 1996, Australia had 311 murders, of which 98 were with guns. In 2014, with the population up from about 18 million to 23 million, Australia had 238 murders, of which 35 were with guns.

It was the April 28, 1996, shooting deaths by a lone gunman of 35 people in and around a cafe at a historic former prison colony in Tasmania that prompted the government to buy back or confiscate a million firearms and make it harder to buy new ones.

The country has had no mass shootings since.

The figures directly contradict assertions of most leading U.S. presidential candidates who have either questioned the need to toughen gun laws or directly denounced Australia's laws as dangerous.

See also the three brilliant "Daily Show" clips I mentioned above regarding the situation in Australia.

The concept that one has to fight gun violence with even more guns is simply insane, and nobody outside the USA seriously promotes this theory. However, in the USA, in the year 2016, the grass is blue and the sky is green. Not always, but far too often. The lack of effective gun control is a collective failure.

Here in Europe, we have pretty effective gun control in place, which makes the life of the Europeans so much safer, and so much better. Usually, it is almost impossible to buy guns. You need special licences, but in contrast to the situation in the USA, the rules are actually extremely strict. Only very few people receive such kind of licences.

Yes, Europe just recently had massive terror attacks with guns as well, in Paris. Does this mean that gun control does not work? No, of course not. There is one major difference to the situation in the USA: In Europe, the "bad guys" cannot just walk into a shop and buy a gun. They need to go to extreme measures to get hold of guns, and this makes a huge difference. This is a very effective way for example to prevent the "lone wolf" attacks which plagued the USA for so many years.

How do the terrorists in Europe get their guns? The answer might be surprising: The weapons need to be smuggled from Eastern Europe - because the cannot be bought in Western Europe.


France outlaws most gun ownership and it’s almost impossible to legally acquire a high-powered rifle such as an AK-47, so where did the weapons in the Nov. 13 terror attack—not to mention the bloody January assault by Islamic terrorists on the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo magazine and the 2012 shootings by a militant in Toulouse—come from?

The answer: Eastern Europe, most likely, where the trafficking of deadly small arms is big, shady business. And where local authorities find it difficult to intervene.

The French government and the European Union know they have a foreign gun problem. But as the chain of attacks illustrates, efforts to tamp down on the flow of weapons have, so far, failed to disarm terrorists.

French police reportedly seized more than 1,500 illegal weapons in 2009 and no fewer than 2,700 in 2010. The number of illegal guns in France has swollen by double-digit percentages annually for several years, Al Jazeera reported, citing figures from Paris-based National Observatory for Delinquency.

This is a really important difference: The weapons need to be smuggled. Every potential "lone wolf" attacker will have great difficulties to obtain a weapon in Europe. You will most likely need an organization for the smuggling, and the effort has to be huge. This gives law enforcement much more possibilites to intervene and prevent possible attacks. If an IS supporter in France or Belgium could simply walk into a shop and buy a gun, without any checks or permits, the work of the police would be so much harder - and the threat for the general population would be so much greater.

But this is exactly the case in the USA. In Florida, for example, you do not need a licence to buy or own a handgun. You also do not need to be registered. There are virtually no restrictions in regards to obtaining a gun, as far as I understand. From an European point of view, this sounds totally insane.

Looking at the numbers of guns in the USA ("More guns than people"), the situation seems almost hopeless:

Of course it should not be hopeless. A major, combined political effort could of course eliminate the threat, although this would be very unpopular with large parts of the US population.

But such a combined effort won't happen. Many more people in the USA are condemned to die through the hands of heavily armed psychopaths. The USA is trapped, just like the poor victims were trapped in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on Sunday morning. There will be no solution, unless the grass is green and the sky is blue. I am not holding my breath.

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