December 16, 2012
Lay down your arms!
I am a theologian. I don’t do political blogposts. But sometimes it is time to just do what you know is right. Well. This is. Since I got to know about Newtown, Connecticut, I wanted to do this. I wanted to do it, when I saw the first pictures. I wanted to do it when I heard about how many people have died – and how many children. And I wanted to do it, when I had to explain it to my 11-year-old son, when he stared at me and simply asked me “Why could this happen?” and I didn’t know what to say. Like most of you I am furious, cold furious, and confused. Like most of you I have tried to find a way to express my feelings about it.
Actually there is nothing anyone can say about what happened there. It is just abject horror. There are no words that can cover the terrible news, the terror people must have felt and the grief of those who are involved there. All of them. Perhaps the only possibility to cover it in an appropriate way was how the NYT did it: With a black page only showing the names of the innocent victims. The most touching thing I have seen so far.
I am also a teacher. But there is nothing I can teach you about this. I just can give you a piece of my mind. Sometimes things are not that complicated. Most certainly they are not in this case. If we look around there is a very easy way to prevent human catastrophes like this from happening. And I think it is about time for America, that big and wonderful country, to get it right. Just look at these two examples:
Firstly: Australia. After a mass shooting in 1996 Australia decided for a new gun control law. A study looking at the situation in Australia between 1979 and 2003 showed this: 13 mass shootings in the 18 years before the new gun law, none in the years after it. None. Zero. (Thanks to Aniina Jokinen on Twitter for sending that study my way.)
Secondly: Japan. Japan has the most rigorous gun control law I’ve heard of so far. You are not allowed to own most firearms. You are not allowed to own ammunition. And most certainly you are not allowed to fire. Result: In 2008 for example, Japan hat 11 homicides connected with firearms. Want to know about the US? Add three zeros. And one thousand extra. That makes more than 12,000. (Read about that in an insightful article brought to my attention by my friend Matthias Rascher on Twitter.)
If that doesn’t convince you, nothing ever will. But if it does, act. Don’t wait for your government to do so. Tell them you want a change. Now. Owning a gun – that is my deepest conviction – has nothing to do with freedom. A man’s (or woman’s) value has nothing to do with the fact that they carry a gun. But it has everything to do with knowing that whatever can help prevent events like the one at Newtown is a good thing. There is no reason whatsoever why a normal person should need a firearm.
Show your government and the gun lobby that you want things to be different. Put your arms down. Destroy them. Bring them to your next police station to take care of them. Do it for yourself, for your children, for your country and for us all.
Opting for laws to control guns is not an American question alone. It is a question of humanity. Yesterday I read this in a very personal and touching blogpost: “The right to not get shot is a bigger right than the right to own a piece of metal.” And I second this wholeheartedly.
You Americans have given us so much in the last hundred years. We are grateful for it, here in Europe, and especially here in Germany. We admire you for your willingness to step in when things get rough. So now – step in again. Show us what your great nation is able to do. Let us be proud to be your friends.
It is about time.
Lay down your arms!(Bertha von Suttner, 1889)