Sunday, December 16, 2012

Child deaths and gun laws

Like most everyone else I have nothing but sadness and sympathy for the children and their families who have suffered the loss of life in Newtown.

And like many people -- although nowhere near enough -- I heartily endorse President Obama's support for the victims and their families, and his intimations that he might get behind gun control.

However, there are some other things I believe need to be said, and I am sure there are many blog posts and other writings being undertaken right now saying much the same thing. Although, once again, probably not enough.

First, I wonder if President Obama could say truthfully that his administration (described in some recent newspaper reports as following a very hawkish foreign policy) has played no active part in fomenting and otherwise supporting the numerous 'uprisings' in sovereign states abroad, where countless thousands of children (as well as youth and adults) have died and continue to die. Simply because a country does not like another country's government is no excuse for helping foment and support activities that cause widespread death. President Obama sheds tears for innocent US children who die in a senseless violence, but successive US administrations have brought death and destruction on a scale not even remotely matched by any other country in history.

Second, there is a lot of breast-beating going on around why there are so many public attacks in the US involving the weapons of war. This raises the question of "whose gun control?" Just who, exactly, will have pressure brought upon them to refrain from using guns.

Here's the thing. Once again there are many such posts and pages available, but this one, by Dr Zoltan Grossman, on A Century of US Military Interventions will serve perfectly well. And it does not even include The Cold War waged by the US on the Soviet Union from the years immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution, that ushered in unprecedented production, distribution and exchange of weapons of war and mass destruction. The US waged the Cold War on the Soviets, not the other way round. Meantime, it is nothing less than sobering in the extreme to try and look for a year or two here and there in which the US has not been involved in using guns and supporting the use of guns in some foreign country or another. (Grossman's list also includes military interventions against various Native American Nations).

In the face of lists like that provided by Grossman, the question that arises for me is not why there are so many 'random' killings in the US civic sphere, but how the number remains relatively small. We are talking here about a society that lives by the gun on a tragic scale. Taking up arms against other people, and maintaining a massive arms producing industry, is closed to the very heart of US society. Killing is hardwired into the society.

If the President -- and/or anyone else is going to talk gun control, let's hope there is some serious talk that extents to the roots, not just to the symptoms.

This, of course, gets uncomfortable for people like me, because I know that even though I have not voted for it, and never would, I -- and people relevantly like me -- am a beneficiary of this recourse to force. All my working life I have received "more than my fair share". For sure I have given plenty away. Some of that has gone into financing projects that have been shot and bombed out of existence as a result of US foreign policy initiatives in various places. But in a world where a very small minority get more than their fair share and the vast majority get way less than their fair share, the 'interests' of those relative few are 'protected' by force: with guns. There is no way I can make an educated guess at what the income or benefit level is at which one can say that a person benefits from the industry, strategy, policy, and intervention that involve guns (and other weapons) at their heart. Even if we ignore the so called "under-developed" countries and just focus on countries like our own, my rough guess is that any individual earning more than the equivalent of US$35,000 a year is a 'beneficiary' of the threat and exercise of armed force hardwired into "the American (Australian, British, New Zealand, you name it) dream".

Beyond tinkering with symptoms, none of us can sensibly talk "gun control" without talking in the first instance about "economic justice". Unless and until there is no need for "the force of arms" to sustain privilege; unless and until we can eliminate this 'need', I don't believe we can even get on first base. I believe that getting to first base begins by asking the question "who benefits" from the circumstances that require arms to sustain them.

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