Guns, abortion…let us end the madness

I have a horrible habit that I’ve found extremely hard to get rid of; as soon as I get to bed I switch on my small bedside radio to listen to the BBC, and falling asleep without switching off. I’m a horrible news junkie and I constantly go online to see what new thing has happened in an obscure part of the world. But while I sometimes find out some good news, more often than not, I’m besieged with bad news. Like on Monday, some crazy person entered the Oikos University campus in Oakland, California and started shooting randomly. The 10:30 am (local time) attack has ended the lives of seven innocents and grievously injured three others.
Taken as an individual occurrence, you can say that crazy people do crazy things. But this shooting comes hot on the heels of another attack that took place only a month ago, where an Ohio high school student entered his high school’s cafeteria and proceeded to shoot to death three students. This attack wasn’t that bad, if you compare it with the Virginia Tech attack (where mentally deranged Seung-Hui, killed 32 people, wounding 25 in two separate attacks before he took his own life) and the grand-daddy of them all, the massacre at Columbine High School, where two dissatisfied high-schoolers took automatic firearms and indiscriminately shot to death twelve students and a teacher.
I always ask my American friends why in the world they allow such things to happen. “Can’t you just prohibit some people from getting guns”, I ask. They say that the right to ‘bear arms’ in constitutionally protected. And they are right. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution states, among other things, that ‘a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed’.
But I then I ask, “if a law is doing more harm that good, shouldn’t it be amended”? Shouldn’t the political class have the gumption to change the law, especially when it is causing untold suffering and has lost its original raison d’etre? The US has the best armed military in the world, it certainly doesn’t need a militia anymore. So, why still have the right to bear arms? It seems to me that this is only so because the political class in the US don’t want to annoy the pro-gun lobby because it has money and, therefore, influence. The facts (for example, gun deaths would fall), which would rock the boat, are being ignored in order to maintain the status quo.
Which brings me to Rwanda. This weekend, while doing a bit of Umuganda, I listened to the debate on the popular BBC Kinyarwanda programme ‘Imvo n’Imvano’. The radio show, about abortion, pit various people (all men) on opposite sides of the pro and anti abortion debate. What frustrates me is the fact that, more often than not, this debate is governed by religious and legal principles and not real people. Abortion isn’t a theoretical issue. It isn’t about sin, legal texts and what not. It’s about real women facing real challenges. This debate should be guided by this principle, ‘a state should do whatever it can to protect the rights of its people’. When a law is promulgated, it must protect that one person, whose rights are being trampled on. In this case, the people whose rights to proper medical care and protection are being trampled are the 60,000 women annually who have to seek backroom abortions. These 60,000 women should be the ones that people, most especially lawmakers, think about. Not some vaunted legal concept of this and that. Make abortion legal, protect our women. Let’s not pretend that everything is okay because it is not. The US has made its choice and now barely a month passes by without tragic gun violence. Let’s not go the same way. Our people are the only resource we have, and we need to protect this resource.


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