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Wednesday, November 20, 2002
The logic behind gun control and preemptive strikes is very similar
Proponents of gun control may promote their agenda as a means of eliminating gun violence but gun control in practice has never been about eliminating guns but rather controlling who possesses them. Despite some scattered and deliberately provocative calls to “disarm the police,” nobody close to make decisions about gun ownership has ever called for preventing the police and military from having guns. At the very least it is assumed that arms of the state will have guns no matter what restrictions are placed on the rights of citizens to possesses firearms. Guns in the hands of the “wrong” people lead to bad results, the argument goes.
President George W. Bush is just one of many who use the same logic to justify the U.S. military striking Iraq. If Bush is to be believed at his word, Saddam Hussein is a threat because he possesses and continues to develop additional weapons of mass destruction. That in and of itself isn’t the full reason, however, as a number of countries, including the U.S. and its allies Great Britain and Israel, possess weapons of mass destruction and that hasn’t lead to war. Behind Bush’s rhetoric there is the assumption that Saddam will strike soon. He is the type of a person who is denied guns.
One of the primary arguments against gun control is that it doesn’t penalize the act of using a gun in a harmful way but rather the simple possession of a gun no matter how the gun is used. The response to this is that if a person does not have a gun they cannot use one in a harmful manner and after the fact is often too late to prevent a violent crime.
A similar phenomenon plays in the debate over attacking Iraq. Lacking any evidence that Iraq is a direct threat to the U.S. now, Bush says after the fact could be too late. In an October 7 speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, the President said:
Some citizens wonder, after 11 years of living with this problem [or Iraq having weapons of mass destruction], why do we need to confront it now? And there's a reason. We've experienced the horror of September the 11th. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing, in fact, they would be eager, to use biological or chemical, or a nuclear weapon.Bush substantiated the threat coming from Iraq as resulting from Americans having seen the damage that other individuals had done
Advocates for gun control responded in much the same way to a series high profile school shootings in the late 1990s. "After tragedies like Columbine [high school in Littleton, Colorado] and Jonesboro [, Arkansas], why do some Members of Congress still want to make it easy for juveniles and criminals to get guns?" asked Sarah Brady in June 10, 1999 press release by Handgun Control.
Organizations favoring gun control have long sought what they believe are achievable measures with the hopes of getting stricter laws in the future. (Which isn’t to say that all proponents of gun control want to eliminate private gun ownership all together.)
[T]he war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act.In effect this is gun control amongst nation states with the US. being in charge of determining who gets to have the “guns” and who doesn’t. Other countries that lack the necessary weapons of mass destruction to credibly defend themselves against the U.S. are effectively disenfranchised from the process.
The similarities between the justifications for gun control and striking Iraq are perhaps most interesting in the area of assigning responsibility for violence. In short both have a tendency to blame factors outside of the control of those who actually shoot high school students or order the bombing of Baghdad for those acts of violence. Brendan O’Neill noted on Sunday that Michael Moore’s current movie Bowling for Columbine blames many factors but not personal decisions for gun violence:
What was missing was any sense of the [Columbine] killers' personal responsibility, or any idea that they must have had specific (and big) problems to do what they did. Hundreds of thousands of children in America get bullied, live near weapons factories, have access to guns and have miserable teenage experiences - but they don't shoot people dead. Using every social problem to explain something so rare and bizarre as the Columbine killings risks overlooking the specifics of the case.On Monday Tech Central Station published a piece by Howard Fienberg that denied the U.S. was in any way responsible for the war it has waged and continues to wage against Iraq. Fienberg believes Saddam is solely to blame:
...If Iraqis' ill health, poverty and environment are merely the results of "war" and "sanctions," then it becomes the United States' fault, since they imposed these twin boogeymen on Iraq. But what if the boogeymen were just resulting from the actions of one person (whose last name does not end in Bush). Well, that would be too simple, wouldn't it?Fienberg presents the U.S. as a passive observer who bears none of the responsibility for, amongst other things, using to sanctions to kill 100,000 Iraqis according to a conservative estimate.
Such a suggestion should sound as ridiculous as thinking that a high schooler who shoots some classmates is merely reacting to social factors. The shooter and the sanctioner played an active role in their actions and yet it would be a mistake to think that factors outside of their control don't happen within a larger context. A culture less violent in nature than the U.S. would likely have fewer shootings and an Iraq that did whatever the U.S. told it to do at all times would probably be a well petted lapdog. What the student of society and the world needs to do is find different levels of responsibility in a variety of factors that cause events to happen.