North America

Right to bear arms

rightLast Friday, a lone gun man in the state of Connecticut plunged the United States of America into mourning. That day, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, took an assault rifle belonging to his mother, killed her at home, went to a school where she was a teacher and killed 20 school children and six others before taking his own life. The mass killing was at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton City of Connecticut. The motive for one of the worst mass shootings in the United States remains unknown.

The attack was possible because the young man had easy access to an assault weapon at home. President Barack Obama, while mourning the victims, said ‘our hearts are broken’. We can only add that our hearts are joined with the parents and citizens of America in mourning. Obama also urged Americans to take necessary steps to avoid similar tragedy again, as he has become more of Mourner-in-Chief, than a Commander-in-Chief. To stem the tide, he chose his deputy, Joe Biden, to help push to formulate gun policies in the country.

As America grapples with this shocking and unexplainable act of barbarity, we urge the United States to get more civilised. The horrendous result of a constitutional provision allowing unrestrained access to dangerous weapons needs a reexamination. Their country, while allowing unlimited access to all kinds of assault weapons as against defence weapons, has shown a lack of capacity to be proactive in crime prevention. It may be noted that the Sandy shooting was the second in the United States in the last week, and the latest in a series of mass shootings in the United States within the year. This frequent descent into barbarism is contrary to the United States’ advancement in other areas of endeavour.

Unfortunately, America has not been able to measure up in terms of effective control of the use of the guns in the hands of its citizens, as in other countries where there is liberal access to gun. For instance, in Switzerland, a gun at home must have a gun lock in place, and as such a third party will not have access to use it as the young Lanza did with his mother’s gun. So, despite the access to gun, Switzerland remains one of the highest crime-free countries. Even Norway where a similar tragedy of a young man running crazy and mercilessly murdering even younger people for a misguided or no reason at all, has better records than the United States in this regard.

It is heartwarming, however, that the National Rifle Association which has a strong lobby against gun control has indicated its willingness to work with government to curtail this recurring tragedy. We hope the Connecticut tragedy will effectively moderate their extreme partisan interest against gun control, and make them stop using their political influence to work against legislation to control access to dangerous weapons. President Obama, with a fresh electoral mandate, must seize the momentum to once and for all help the United States deal with one of its few crises of liberalism.

We also hope that Nigeria will learn a few lessons from this unfortunate incident. The quantum of unlawful weapons in the hands of private citizens in Nigeria is scary, and there is need for a concerted state action to check the trend. Unlike in the United States, such weapons have no records, and as such remain untraceable when used to commit crime.

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