Last week we marked the somber one year anniversary of the fatal mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in which we lost 26 precious lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Can America learn something?” asked CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in response to this tragedy. In the special "Global Lessons on Guns" that aired Sunday, the host of Global Public Square lectured Americans on our firearm culture.
“It’s a year since the tragedy at Newtown, yet remarkably little has changed. Despite the loss of 26 lives in the Sandy Hook School shooting that day, including 20 children, Washington has failed to coalesce around any really substantive changes to America’s gun laws. Sadly, that means it is only a matter of time before the next mass shooting.”
Our failure to limit gun rights, according to Zakaria, means we as a country are failing our children.
“Here's how I think about it. One of the most important tasks for a government is to keep its citizens – especially its children – safe, on the streets and in their schools. Every other developed country in the world is able to fulfill this basic mandate. America is not. And the greatest tragedy is that we know how to do it.”
While Zakaria implies the way to keep our kids safe is by taking action on gun control, time and again studies have revealed that gun restrictions often do the opposite of what they intended, no matter how sincere the advocates’ motives may be.
Erich Pratt, the communications director for Gun Owners of America, pointed to the unfortunate fact that all of the mass shootings over the past couple of decades have occurred in gun-free zones. He highlighted just two cases in which good guys (and gals) with guns actually helped to save lives:
Consider Assistant Principal Joel Myrick at the high school in Pearl, Miss. (in 1997) or Jeanne Assam at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs (in 2007). Both Myrick and Assam stopped their attackers before the police could arrive and without injuring one innocent person.
Nonetheless, CNN’s Zakaria continued to demonize gun-toting America by comparing it to countries such as Japan and Switzerland, where gun violence is significantly lower.
While the numbers may make a good case themselves, it’s unfair to compare America with these culturally different nations. In this Atlantic article is an important distinction:
Even the most basic framework of Japan's approach to gun ownership is almost the polar opposite of America's. U.S. gun law begins with the second amendment's affirmation of the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" and narrows it down from there. Japanese law, however, starts with the 1958 act stating that "No person shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords," later adding a few exceptions. In other words, American law is designed to enshrine access to guns, while Japan starts with the premise of forbidding it.
Dave Kopel further explains the significance of our two countries' polar opposite societies in The American Rifleman, (an article from the early 90s but still prevalent):
“Japan's low crime rate has almost nothing to do with gun control, and everything to do with people control. Americans, used to their own traditions of freedom, would not accept Japan's system of people controls and gun controls.”
But these considerations didn’t fit in Mr. Zakaria’s presentation. The timing of CNN's special suggests there’s no better moment to push a political agenda than a tragic anniversary. Thank you, Mr. Zakaria, for lecturing us at this vulnerable time.