Sadly, due to another terrible shooting disaster, gun control is back in the news. A poster is going around Facebook and the Internet with some amazing statistics:
Last year, handguns killed
48 people in Japan
8 in Great Britain,
34 in Switzerland,
52 in Canada,
58 in Israel,
21 in Sweden,
42 in West Germany,
10,728 in the United States
I support stronger gun laws in the United States of America, and I know many other citizens do. But we all know that gun laws alone won’t solve the problem of gun violence (though it would help a lot), and we also know that there is a strong organized resistance to gun control. To solve this standoff, we need to dig deeper. We can start by looking for the roots of our society’s gun violence problem.
Our Constitution states that government cannot prevent citizens from arming to form a well-regulated militia. This made sense during the tumultuous, war-torn era of the late 18th Century. Today, unfortunately, the world remains tumultuous and war-torn, and many Americans believe the country is surrounded by military or quasi-military threats: Communism, militant Islam, the United Nations. This has led to our policy of “muscling up” against all possible military threats — a practice that has gotten badly out of hand.
The statistic about handguns above is pretty stunning, but here’s a different statistic that’s equally stunning:
Here are the top ten military spenders in the world last year, in ascending order:
10. Brazil: 35.4 billion
9. Germany: 46.7 billion
8 India: 46.8 billion
7. Saudi Arabia: 48.2 billion
6. Japan: 59.3 billion
5. France: 62.5 billion
4. United Kingdom: 62.7 billion
3. Russia: 71.9 billion
2. China: 143.0 billion
1. United States of America: 711.0 billion
So our nation muscles up with big weapons, and our people muscle up with big guns. I think there must be a psychological tie between hysterical militarism and hysterical gun violence, and I think an American paranoia caused by a perception of constant global warfare must be a subconscious cause of our obsession with guns and heavy weapons.
We should all speak out about gun violence, but when we do so, let’s remember that militarism is the country’s biggest form of gun violence. Militarism is gun violence. It’s no coincidence that Newtown, Connecticut 20-year-old school shooter Adam Lanza decked himself out in desert-storm-style military amouflage beginning his rampage. To Adam Lanza, this was the uniform to wear for a shooting rampage.
It’s hard to face up to the fact that we are all complicit as taxpayers for the world’s greatest weapon bazaar: the USA military-industrial complex. It’s easier to forget this disturbing truth. President Barack Obama forgot it as he fought back tears while speaking about the killings of kindergarten children in Newtown, Connecticut. He said:
The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers — men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.
So our hearts are broken today — for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost. Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain.
I believe that President Obama’s words were heartfelt and sincere. However, unfortunately, his words are also hollow. Our own drones have killed countless innocent children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Their innocence has been broken too.
We need an activist popular movement for gun control in this country right now (Occupy NRA? Why not?). But we also need an activist popular movement for world peace, for pacifism. On a legislative level we need an enthusiastic push for gun control, and an enthusiastic push for reduction of our gigantic and wasteful military budget.
Big weapons, little weapons; the USA needs to solve both problems — rampant militarism, rampant gun violence — together. And we need to begin now.