The unfortunate reality of guns in America

For those who have been reading my blog for a while, they’ll recognise many posts like this. Ones where I liberally and happily refer readers to

Harvey Dzodin

For starters, I am in favor of a comprehensive ban on guns, which is what the majority of sane countries have. Though this would be ideal if it could be implemented in America, I am at my wits end to see how it might actually become a reality. My unfortuante conclusion is that it is unlikely at best, and impossible at worst. The specific context of the USA just makes it very difficult to achieve this ends.

Harvey Dzodin, “a senior adviser to Tsinghua University and former director and vice-president of ABC Television in New York” hits the nail on the head with his short but very accurate analysis titled ‘Little hope for gun control in US‘. Not the most heart warming title, but very realistic. Just goes to show, sometimes Chinese commentaries can be just as good if not better than American ones.

Even if President Barack Obama, defying history and against overwhelming political odds, succeeds in fulfilling the wishes of the advocates of gun control, which, among other things, would require getting Congress to re-institute the assault weapons ban, imposing a prohibition on magazines holding more than 10 rounds, closing the gaping loophole that allows 40 percent of all gun sales to be free from registration or background checks to eliminate criminals or the mentally ill, and optimizing the abysmal information-sharing systems among various jurisdictions. And even if in this era of budgetary restraint, he can get Congress to expend hundreds of millions of dollars on mental health, gun safety education and the rest. The reality is little would change. Simply because of the prevalence of guns in the US, the attitudes of most gun-rights proponents, and the terror of single-issue politics.

The US is being buried under firearms. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in 2009 there were 310 million guns registered in private hands in the US: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles and 86 million shotguns. While “only” 40 percent of Americans own guns, this is just about one for each man, woman and child in the US, twice the figure in 1968, the year Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. Although some paranoids worry that the government will confiscate some or all guns, this is as unlikely to happen. So these guns will continue to wreak havoc for decades to come. Don’t even think about a voluntary buy-back program such as Australia tried. Assuming that each surrendered weapon was bought back for $100 on average, recovering just 10 percent would cost $3.1 billion.

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