Arming teachers not the way to end shooting

By Xu Qinduo Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/27 20:53:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

In the wake of the latest massacre in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, US President Donald Trump suggested that teachers be armed to prevent or stop similar attacks in school campuses, saying that "a gun-free school is a magnet for bad people." He didn't talk much about gun control.

The US is not the only country where people are allowed to own guns and suffer from mass shootings. But the scale of gun-related tragedies and their frequency are unrivaled in the world.

Every day in America, approximately 19 children are killed or injured by guns, according to US media. In fact, over 30,000 Americans die of gun shots every year. No wonder it is said that going to war in Afghanistan is less dangerous than living in Chicago.

In response to the latest massacre, student activists are pushing for stricter gun control. A growing list of US companies are cutting ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful lobby group for the right and freedom to bear arms. People can't help but ask if it is a turning point.

If history offers any guidance, it's hard to be optimistic. 26 students and teachers were killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School five years ago. Many people thought it was the tipping point. But little changed. In 2016, 49 people were shot dead in Orlando. Last year in Las Vegas, 58 people were massacred by a lone gunman. No gun control measures were taken after those incidents.

Why would anything change after the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School? 

While legislation aiming at tighter gun control is hard to make, the culture of gun violence goes beyond legislative issues. 

In fact, violence has been part of American life since the founding of this country, if one considers the massacre of Native Americans. As William Carlos Williams said, "History begins for us with murder and enslavement, not with discovery."

Trump's proposal of arming teachers against potential gunmen amounts to "meeting violence with violence." That also echoes his words targeted at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un - "my nuclear button is bigger than yours."

The international stereotype of Americans has been the Texas cowboy playing with guns in Hollywood movies. Such an impression isn't far from the real America. According to one estimate, there are some 300 million guns in the country, nearly one for each American on average.

In popular culture, firearms have long been identified with masculinity. Besides Hollywood movies, video games, some sports like American football involve verbal aggression that is also seen among some American politicians. Some politicians utter words like "bomb the shit out of them," or "bomb them back into the stone age."

The US has a military budget bigger than 10 countries put together. In recent times, it has launched wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and threatens North Korea with a "bloody nose."

In 1996, a mass shooting resulted in the death of 35 innocent people in Port Arthur in Tasmania, Australia. Canberra took immediate action by passing sweeping strict gun control legislation in a period of 12 days. Nothing close to that is even imaginable in the US.

In fact, almost after every major mass shooting, such as Virginia Tech, Las Vegas, public support for gun rights went up. Criticizing those calling for more gun control, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre contended that the right to bear arms is "not bestowed by man but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright."

At the same time, the American public seems to have been resigned to a reality of inaction - nothing will be done to prevent future killings despite the fierce debate and wall-to-wall media coverage. A couple of weeks after a particular shooting incident, everything will return to normal and life will go on. Until the next tragedy of course. 

With gun violence steeped in its culture, it's almost impossible to solve the uniquely American problem of frequent mass shootings.

The author is a commentator on current affairs with China Radio International.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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