“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” –Albert Einstein
While I’m unable to wrap my head around his eerie Theory of Relativity, I can certainly comprehend what Mr. Einstein meant when he defined insanity. Interestingly enough, you’d think that some of the most intelligent people in the world would be able to see insanity if they met it, but alas. A prime example of this insanity is the refusal of the American people to even contemplate life without their trusty guns. In fact, if you want to lose an election fast, talk about gun regulation. This despite the fact that there were 52,447 deliberate and 23,237 accidental non-fatal gunshot injuries in the United States during 2000, according to the Atlanta-based Centre for Disease Control.
Why these fatal, and near fatal, incidents? Because some hoary men decided, in 1791, that the right to bear arms was a good idea and inserted it into the US Constitution, naming it the Second Amendment. I can see how it was a good idea at the time, what with the pesky British, brown bears and ‘Injuns’, but why is it still a good idea today? The US of 1791 was a dangerous place but the biggest threat the average American faces today is ANOTHER American carrying a gun.
Why was James E. Holmes, the 24-year-old man accused of killing a dozen people inside an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, able to buy legally and easily over the Internet 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for an assault rifle and 350 shells for a 12-gauge shotgun, making a New York Times journalist write that “it was pretty much as easy as ordering a book from Amazon”?
Because the US Supreme Court in 2008 and 2010, issued two Second Amendment decisions. In District of Columbia v. Heller the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia. And furthermore went on to decide that many longstanding prohibitions and restrictions on firearms possession as being consistent with the Second Amendment. In McDonald v. Chicago, the Justices ruled that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the federal government; therefore prohibiting any local authority from limiting gun ownership.
What have been the result of these choices? Four successful assassination attempts on US presidents, , the deaths civil rights leaders (Dr. King Jr, Malcolm X come immediately to mind), the 1999 Columbine High School massacre (where two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold embarked on a shooting spree in which 12 students and 1 teacher died), the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre (where student, Seung-Hui Cho, shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others), the 2011 Gabrielle Giffords shooting in Tucson, Arizona (she lived but six people didn’t) and the 2012 Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida.
The above are some of the best known instances of gun violence but every day someone dies because archaic laws are being held in higher esteem that people’s lives. They often say that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. And that is correct. But what happens when you remove guns from peoples grasp?
In 2009, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recorded 3.0 intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants. In comparison, the figure for the United Kingdom, (where handguns are totally prohibited) was 0.07; about 40 times lower than the US figure. So, while the majority of the 40% of Americans who, in 1997, reported having a gun in their homes aren’t criminals, there is an obvious link between gun ownership and gun violence.
That’s when all the insanity comes in. President Obama travelled to Aurora to meet the survivors of the rampage and instead of using the pulpit to call for change, he talked about how, “even in the darkest of days life continues and people are strong”. And how, “what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy”. I disagree with him. What will be remembered is the fact that an insane man was able to get guns and shoot people for no reason, simply because he had ceratain ‘rights’. Who cannot, in all honestly, not see imagine similar headlines in the future? Something needs to change, and fast.
Which brings me to Rwanda. After seeing just how the idea of free speech could be used by mad men and women to call for the annihilation of an innocent group, the Parliament passed into law in 2008 the Law relating to the punishment of the crime of genocide ideology. What was realized by the Rwandan leadership, and right thinking Rwandans, was that the freedom to life superseded any other freedom. We saw a problem, and instead of burying our heads in the sand, we solved it. Today, hate speech is something of the past, and when it does rear its ugly head, the country has the tools needed to combat it. The same cannot be said about those trying to reduce homicide rates linked to gun use in the United States.