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Gareth Edmundson

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How Can America Put Red Lines on Syria but No Red Lines on Gun Deaths at Home?

Posted: 17/09/2013 15:14

Another mass shooting, more panic on the streets of America. The images we witnessed are all too familiar. There were heroic first responders, crouching and crawling with their rifles. We saw unfurling police tape and flashing blue lights and terror stricken civilians fleeing the since. And now in the aftermath, the discussions into the gunman's motives are being exhaustively debated.

13 more deaths in Washington D.C. will be added to the total of more than 30,000 people who are killed annually by guns in America. And just as 24 hour news reports from the scene with the latest eye-witness account, pro-gun politicians and lobbyists will be dusting off the familiar rebuttals. They'll be stating the importance of not making any legislative knee-jerk reactions and staying true to the Second Amendment - the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Pro-gun hardliners might even remind us that incidents like those in Sandy Hook or the Navy Yard give Americans even more justification to buy a gun to protect themselves against the armed mad men that are loose on the streets.

To draw a sobering comparison to America's gun deaths, the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights reported that since the start of the uprisings, more than 40,000 civilians have been killed, a figure that includes over 5,800 children and over 3,905 women.

Even when you include the alleged 1400 people who have died through chemical weapons that crossed Obama's 'red line', more people have died in America because of a gun than civilians in Syria since March 2011. But still the response of America's politicians, including Obama and Kerry, to this scandal at home and abroad offers a brazen moral double standard.

Why is it that so many of America's Congressman apply red lines, interventionist rhetoric and calls for military action against Assad but rejects minimal gun reforms at home? In April this year, the Senate voted against background checks on the sale of guns - a measure that most American's support, because it would contravene a law abiding citizen's right to buy a gun. Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina is one such example. Graham has been calling for strikes on Assad, has criticized the Russian deal for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons, and is, as we speak, trying to construct a joint resolution for military action but yet voted against banning high capacity ammunition magazines of over 10 bullets, that are capable of killing large numbers of people with a truly chilling swiftness.

By design, America's political system and many of its politicians seems to accept gun deaths as an acceptable cost of living in freedom, almost as if gun violence is part of the fabric of the American way as set down by the Constitution. But, as Australia has shown, this moral duplicity is unacceptable.

Following the Port Arthur, Tasmania massacre in 1996 where 35 people were killed and 23 wounded, Prime Minister John Howard and the Australian Parliament took swift action and passed gun control laws that have resulted in falling gun deaths. In the decade after Howard passed gun control legislation a study by an Australian university reported that gun homicides reduced by 59% and gun suicides by 65%. And it's not as if John Howard is a liberal left winger, he was actually a close ally of George W. Bush and took a hard line on many domestic social issues such as immigration.

How did America's National Rifle Association try to respond to Australia's legislation? They attempted to discredit Australia's reports of falling gun deaths to further their agenda, a move that led to Australia's Attorney General to accuse the NRA of falsifying statistics and to remove any references to Australia from the NRA website.

The United States Constitution is a document that should be revered. The Founding Fathers provided a political foundation based on inalienable rights which has successfully steered America to its global position of economic, political and military power. But, by the same token, the Constitution and its Second Amendment should not give American politicians and other pro gun zealots a mandate to call for military action abroad to stop the violence while ignoring gun deaths in their back yard.

Remember, the US Constitution isn't just about guns, it's very first line tells us the following:

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

30,000 gun deaths per year in America without recourse or intervention is neither domestic tranquillity nor a more perfect union. America's political leaders need to take note and take action on this constitutional imperative.

 

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