Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Fork in the Road
Yesterday's terrible shooting at Virginia Tech should be met with a large amount of nazel gazing from American society. The proliferation of freely available, military-grade guns at local stores, coupled with a almost ubiquitous availability of ammunition at retail giants such as Walmart, is simply a recipe for disaster.

Whilst I can understand the roaring trade in hunting rifles and hunting equipment to the NRA crowd, I simply cannot understand the need to freely sell military grade automatic guns and accompanying ammunition. The US is one of the only countries in the world that still allows the sale of high-calibre, rapid fire weaponry to the public. The tolerance and in many cases, celebration of hard weaponry like this makes it infinitely easier for a disgruntled person to take the ultimate revenge on innocents, with some of the most powerful killing weapons available. A complacency seems to have set in where it seems so easy for someone to take revenge with deadly force.

Undoubtedly the gun debate will now rage in the states. NRA campaigners will resist with all their might, and anti-gun campaigners will bay for the complete repealing of gun-friendly laws. The responsible line will lie somewhere in between. One-third of US households contain a gun and hunting is simply too entrenched in the US psyche to make wholesale weapons bans. Hunting rifles will undoubtedly still be allowed, but one would hope that military-grade arms would be restricted at best. It'll be a huge battle, one that is central to American societal views of the constitution and individual rights.

Watch also for the cold reality of presidential candidates jostling to leverage the political opportunities from this. Obama and Edwards will undoubtedly come out swinging, but Hillary's response may be more guarded, given her strategy of wooing more moderate Republicans. The Republican candidates will make placating, compassionate speeches but will probably only make consilitory gestures in terms of gun laws, lest they alienate conservative lobbies and the powerful NRA voting blocks.

All this said, I hope you will join me in sending condolences and prayers to all those affected by this tragedy.