Gun control

Orly Mercado

Posted on April 21, 2007

Taking the law into one’s own hands

“Will the American love affair with guns finally end after the Virginia Tech incident?” a Japanese mother asked me while waiting for our kids to be dismissed from school. I said there will be a lot of talk, but things won’t change. Just be thankful that here in Japan access to guns is not easy, I reminded her.

She had lived in the United States. She recalled an incident sometime ago, when a Japanese exchange student was shot, when he wandered into the wrong house for a Halloween party.

It appears that even after the horrific Virginia Tech massacre, nothing much is expected to change, as far as gun control in the US is concerned. Recent surveys indicate no groundswell for new laws to make access to guns more difficult. Even Democrats seem hesitant to take up the issue. American gun culture may yet survive its worst campus slaughter.

There are some seventy million gun owners in the US. The National Rifle Association is a political force most American leaders are not willing to tangle with, especially during in an election season.

While following the story of the deranged Korean immigrant who shot and killed thirty fellow students and professors, I thought to myself, it could have been worse. Thank heavens for the assault weapons ban which the Clinton administration passed in 1994.

Could you imagine if Cho Seung Hui was able to purchase a semi-automatic weapon? He could have mowed down a lot more. The thought was chilling. But even with two pistols, considering the high capacity of magazines today, he was an effective killing machine.

The battle for gun control policy in the US can be won only in increments. The assault weapons ban clearly shows that. So does the ill-fated Brady bill.

Pro firearms lobbyists have been saying that restricted access to guns leads to more crimes against unarmed citizens. What this argument ignores is the fact that once a person carries a firearm, he actually makes a decision to take the law into his own hands.

Many decades ago in the Philippines, every now and then the papers would carry a story of a “juramentado.” The usual description was that of a bolo-wielding man who ran amuck. Cho was a “juramentado” who took the law into his own hands. What made him different was his easy access to guns.

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