Passion For Humanity

what's new

US Gun Violence on its way to Uganda?

US Gun Violence on its way to Uganda?



US Gun Violence on its way to Uganda?

By Muniini K. Mulera

March 6, 2000


Dear Tingasiga: 


The television screen came alive last week with yet more pictures of armed police officers with body armour, crouching behind trees and motor vehicles, staking out a building as if engaged in the final assault on a city under military siege.

Was this somewhere in Chechnya perhaps, or was it another outbreak of violence in Bosnia?

The news anchor informed us that once again a gunman had shot and killed an unarmed person in America's unfinished civil war.

Hardly newsworthy, except that this time the gunman was only six years old, and his victim a girl of the same age, his grade one classmate in a Michigan primary school.

Republican presidential candidates and senators, a gun-loving lot who protect the gun industry with more zeal than they do the environment, pronounced themselves duly shocked and "unable to comprehend what could have led an innocent child to take the life of another."

Even the spokesmen for the National Rifle Association (NRA), the largest and most powerful gun lobby in the United States, popped up on TV screens to share in the nation's grief and to urge stiff punishment for those who misuse the guns.

"Guns do not kill people", the NRA recited its usual mantra, "people kill people."

In other words, the six-year-old little rascal who shot that weapon was the problem, and not the gun that he used.

The death of this one child dominated the front-pages of the newspapers for a few days, but this being America, where people do not dwell on such tragic stories for too long unless a celebrity is involved, the papers quickly reverted to less depressing news and entertainment.

Unreported was the fact that the dead girl was just one of a dozen children who were cut down by bullets that day across the United States. Add the adult victims of gun violence that day alone and the figure rises to 89 people.

Over 32,000 people will be shot to death in the US this year, representing approximately 9 per 100,000 people. Here in Canada, the figure is 2 per 100,000 while 1 per 100,000 will be murdered in Britain.

It is not that the Canadians and British are necessarily less violent than their American counterparts.

Indeed many of the ingredients which lead to such violence in the USA, including family conflicts, drug misuse, economic disparity, and racism, are to be found in fairly good measure in Canada and Britain.

The difference is that America's abundant supply of guns in civilian hands, at least 250 million weapons of all sorts, has enabled them to engage in an orgy of mutual destruction. The great nation where the rule of law and the solution of problems by due process are treasured with religious fervour, is also a leader in conflict resolution through violence.

And there isn't much that one can do to stop the Americans from killing each other with their guns, for the whole thing is entrenched in the great Constitution of the United States.

Back in 1791, the framers enacted the Second Amendment which reads: "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

While the original intent of that amendment was to give the citizens the collective right to overthrow an oppressive government rather than to turn their guns on one another, the "well regulated" bit of the amendment was quickly ignored by a people who, by nature, equated manhood with the ability to fight.

Even the Supreme Court of the United States reinforced the American individual's right to fight in a landmark case that came before it in 1921. A Texan, who had refused to retreat when attacked by an assailant with a knife and had shot him to death, was convicted of murder by a lower court, prompting an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Delivering the Supreme Court's ruling, the legendary American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: "a man is not born to run away."

Thus the gun lobby in the United States stands on solid ground, and the right to bear arms, and by extension, to murder a friend, foe and stranger alike - is as American as apple pie. And this right will probably never be abolished.

Though President Bill Clinton has had some success in passing legislation aimed at controlling the availability of guns in general and deadly assault weapons in particular, he is currently engaged in an uphill struggle to get Congress to pass common sense gun laws that would restrict access and use of guns by criminals and children.

But such is the power of the gun lobby that in spite of last week's child-to- child killing, the Republican-controlled legislature has rejected Clinton's sensible bill once again.

With Clinton's time running out, and this being an election year in the US where the National Rifle Association's money will make or break politicians' careers, it is unlikely that the President's bill will get majority support.

If Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush wins the White House in November, it will be the end of all efforts to reign in the gun industry in the United States for at least four years.

Bush is a pro-NRA guy who subscribes to the "guns do not kill" nonsense and has publicly dismissed Clinton's commendable efforts to tame America's insatiable appetite for lethal weapons in private hands.

One of America's problems is that Hollywood has desensitized the citizens - particularly the impressionable children - from the shock of murder by the gun.

The average American child witnesses 100,000 acts of violence on television every year. Thus to a child's mind, picking up a gun and shooting somebody has become mere acting.

Could such a thing happen in Uganda? The ingredients are there and it is only a matter of time before The Monitor begins to report gun-violence by kids in Kampala's elite schools.

After all, there is no escape from the pernicious influence of America's violent culture which is beamed into people's homes and public places via satellite and television.

On a recent visit to Uganda, I watched an American TV programme during a rest-stop at the Highway Takeaway Restaurant in Masaka.

The TV set, hanging under a large mango tree, was tuned to CNN! A powerful symbol of the unstoppable march of American culture in deepest Africa, I thought to myself.

Add to this the increasing availability of guns in civilians' hands in Kampala and the other towns and you have the necessary ingredients for the Americanization of Ugandans' conflict resolution.

Uganda becoming a gun-soaked nation with gun-related homicides on the scale of the United States may sound a farfetched proposition at the moment. And perhaps it is.

But then again the folks in 1791 America could not have imagined that their descendants would dispatch each other to early deaths with a frequency that has turned the United States into a leader among the most violent places on earth.


Recent Posts

Popular Posts