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New Straits Times, Malaysia

New Straits Times, Malaysia

Don't Just Blame Virginia Tech

 

"It is the ready availability of guns in that country that gives ordinary people there a chance to live out a Hollywood, gun-toting, mass-murder fantasy."

 

EDITORIAL

 

April 19, 2007

 

Malaysia - New Straits Times - Original Article (English)

IT would be unfair to blame the Virginia Tech tragedy entirely on the jilted South Korean student who went on the murderous rampage that resulted in the worst-ever gun massacre American history. After all, the country is notorious for such incidents.

 

Monday's slaying of 32 people differed only in scale. It is the ready availability of guns in that country that gives ordinary people there a chance to live out a Hollywood gun-toting, mass-murder fantasy. The Glock 9mm handgun used by Cho Seung-Hui, the shooter at Virginia Tech, was legally purchased off-the-shelf from a nondescript gun shop five weeks ago. It was, by all accounts, a routine transaction. No one could have imagined that this would lead to the bloody mayhem that has so shaken the world's most powerful nation, and reignited the debate on gun control.

 

In the United States, gun control is a subject that can be as divisive as abortion or stem cell research, and it is further convoluted by powerful lobby groups like the National Rifle Association. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to bear arms. Judging by the murderous incidents of the past - Columbine, Jonesboro and now Virginia Tech - this is one freedom that comes with a fatal price.

 

In 2002, the number of Americans dying of gunshot wounds exceeded the number of U.S. fatalities in Iraq. In a country with a population of 301 million, there are about 192 million privately owned firearms, 65 million of them handguns. One in four households have a gun and almost two million new ones are sold each year, not to mention the uncountable numbers traded in private and on the black market.

 

Even before Monday's shooting, there were attempts to restrict gun purchases by amending federal and state law, but these routinely founder on the strenuously defended right to keep and bear arms. In Virginia, where the shooting took place, a law was passed a few years ago to restrict gun purchases to one per week.

 

The country still seems deeply ambivalent about whether gun ownership promotes or prevents crime. This is where there is such a disconnect between the U.S. and the rest of the world. While countries like Australia and Canada have shown positive results in tackling firearms abuse, in the U.S., matter appears to be spiraling out of control.

 

This is all the more reason to be thankful for Malaysia's own prohibition on firearms possession and use.