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Monsieur Obama, Tears Are Not Enough. A European Plea For U.S. Gun Control

Article illustrative image Partner logo Obama on Friday


PARIS - America is crying for its children. The country is in mourning, after the Connecticut elementary school shooting that left 28 dead, including 20 children between the ages of six and seven.

President Barack Obama shed real tears as he was listing the number of recent shootings: “These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children,” said the President on the day of the shooting. “Our hearts are broken today.”

He had used the same words after the Tucson, Arizona shooting that killed eight people and wounded former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011. Until now, Obama has mostly limited himself to comforting the victims. His spokesman Jay Carney said in the aftermath of the shooting that “today is not the day to talk politics.”

The tears are not enough. If America wants to prevent such tragedies from happening again, there needs to be some politics. Now. Obama’s response was insufficient. “We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” he said. The proliferation of firearms in the U.S. wasn’t even mentioned.

During the presidential campaign – after the July 2012 shooting during the screening of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado – both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama avoided the subject of gun control. This is revealing of how the U.S. refuses to admit the link between easy access to firearms and this endless string of massacres.

The correlation is crystal clear. No country will prevent a madman or a monster from killing people. Europe is not immune to this problem, as peaceful Norway found out when extremist Anders Breivik shot and killed 77 people in cold blood in July 2011. Germany suffered a similar tragedy in a school in 2009.

Gun control

However, it must be said that the reason U.S. keeps experiencing such shootings is because of how easy it is to buy guns. The homicide rate is five times higher than in France and U.S. gun-related deaths are 16 times more frequent than in Germany.

It is an inextricable problem. The Second Amendment of the Constitution has given U.S. citizens the explicit right to own and bear arms since 1791. This amendment was meant, originally, to prevent the federal government from disarming the population. This right to bear arms has now become an individual right a country where self-defense was often preferred to calling the police. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that people have a right to have a gun for self-defense. In this context, it’s not likely that the Americans will want to change their Constitution.

It is possible, though, to limit and impede the purchasing process. But for that there needs to be a political will, which is absent. The mighty National Rifle Association –  touting the Second Amendment and a kind of pioneer hunting tradition – is against any gun control. Its ever efficient lobbying and powerful financial resources are a deterrent for any politician. Their favorite saying is that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people...” Yes, but unarmed people kill less often, with fewer victims.

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