By JOSEF OMOROTIONMWAN
In whichever direction we look, we see a world sitting precariously on a keg of gunpowder, waiting to explode – a world thoroughly dominated by guns. In this situation analysis, we shall spread our dragnets to three nations – the USA, Australia and Nigeria.
America got it wrong when it reckoned that the cure for violence is more violence. What has today gone awry in America started as a humane gesture in a democratic setting.
After the American civil war, there were guns everywhere and the guns were being used to torment and kill innocent citizens. To the government of that time, if a man must die, he must be seen to have made efforts to defend himself instead of being plucked off like foliage. They then came up with the second amendment to the American Constitution which amendment was ratified in 1791. It provides. “… The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Essentially, the right to bear arms is the right to kill. What was intended for self-defence soon blossomed into an open general license for mass destruction. As temper rises in an argument between a man and his wife, because the gun is there, the woman pulls the trigger and in split seconds, she has a dead husband in her hands.
In this world of monkey-see-money-do among children, because the father’s gun is around, a child that wants to mimic the protagonist in a cowboy film he has just watched, soon finds that in real world, he has just killed a friend!
Barring a few exceptional killings with obvious racial connotation, it is no longer news that a man has been shot dead in America. The only issues that now struggle to hit the headlines are the ones they call mass killings.
The latest entry here is that the penultimate Sunday, Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, unleashed a rapid-fire barrage of bullets from the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel, killing 59 persons and injuring over 500 others who were attending a country music concert. This type of incident occurs quite frequently. Once the gun is there, people use it to address whatever problem they have with society. A lover-boy who has been jilted by a lady with blonde hair could develop deep hatred for all blondes. He simply embarks on an indiscriminate shooting of blondes that come his way.
Suddenly, a white-man could develop deep hatred for blacks. For such a man, a person’s black skin pigmentation makes him a sure candidate for death.
Like in most mass killings, the motivation for the Las Vegas massacre may never be known as the mass killers invariably end up killing themselves. But if all the facts were known, it could also have been that this was Paddock’s way of expressing disgust for country music.
Once proliferation started in America, it could not be stopped; and more so, the single most powerful lobby group in Washington is made up of gun manufactures. These powerful lobbyists are quick to see any gun-control measure as trying to put them out of business and they resist it with all intensity.
All the same, enough is more than enough. America must learn from the Australian experience. Ordinarily, America and Australia share may cultural affinities but Australia has broken away from the gun proliferation tradition with the result that today, Australia’s gun possession is no longer as unbridled as that of the US. The US has 13 times Australia’s population; and a whopping 134 times Australia’s fire-arms death rate!
In April 1996 – six days after a miscreant shot 35 people dead at Tasmania’s historic Port Arthur Tourist Centre, the conservative government of the time passed the National Firearms Agreement, outlawing all civilian access to semiautomatic rifles and pump-action short-guns. The statistics produced by this reform are quite revealing: whereas in the less than 18 years between 1979 and 1996, Australia recorded 13 mass shootings resulting in 104 deaths; in the 21 years since the passage of the National Firearms law, there has been no single incident!
It is not enough for President Trump to describe the Las Vegas mass killer as “pure evil”, he must do what the Australians did to put evil at bay.
Those clamouring for war in Nigeria are ignorant of the effects of war. Far beyond the direct casualties and mass destructions of war, one of its most debilitating effects is that it leaves in its trail, lots of accurate gunners and sharp-shooters as well as guns and other weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps unknown to many, there is a direct correlation between the assassinations, armed robberies and kidnappings currently plaguing Nigeria on the one hand; and the Nigerian civil war that supposedly ended over 47 years ago, on the other.
During the war, several people were trained to shoot and kill as their new profession. Suddenly, they were told that the war had ended but they still had guns in their hands.
In Nigeria, many have called on government to allow adults to bear arms for their self-defence. Such calls must be starkly resisted.
The flow of arms from foreign countries – principally from Turkey lately – provides a frightening glimpse. We commend our men and women of the Customs for their eternal vigilance. But whatever happened to the pre-shipment inspection of goods coming into Nigeria? This is too important to be allowed to go the Nigerian way of jettisoning every noble idea soon after conception.
Again, it is a height of indiscretion to treat gun-runners with the same kid gloves as importers of frozen chicken. It is not enough to just confiscate the guns. We deserve to know the identity of the merchants of death and what is being done to them.
Nature must run its course, uninterrupted. True, if a man is cut down by the assassin’s bullet at the age of 150, it is still an untimely death. Therefore, in the struggle to free the world of weapons of mass destruction, all hands must be on deck. It can’t be done otherwise.