In the Aug. 3 AFN, Susan Stamper-Smith provided us with the normal National Rifle Association (NRA) talking points on the futility of gun control, as a response to the horrific massacre in Colorado (“The futility of gun control”). Her basic assertions are that mad killers will always find the way to kill (“If every last gun was shipped across our borders fast and furiously, murderers would still find a way to kill”), and that if only people in the Aurora movie theater were packing heat a tragedy could have been minimized.

We do agree on one thing, gun control is futile in the USA, but I believe it is because we the people, and our leaders, have been indoctrinated by the NRA’s scorched-earth, no compromise policies. I don’t want to take rifles away from hunters, nor do I want to take handguns away from people for personal protection. However, for the life of me, I cannot understand how we allow automatic weapons, whose sole purpose is killing other humans, to be so readily accessible, and how insane people like James Holmes can purchase 6,000 rounds of ammunition without any check at all. For goodness sake, my grandmother can’t purchase Sudafed at the local CVS without all sorts of checks to make sure she is not running a meth lab, but James Holmes can get almost anything he needs to create death and destruction without any police intervention.

There is, by the way, a large, modern, industrial nation that has made the ownership of guns almost impossible for its citizens. In Japan, most guns are illegal, with onerous restrictions on those who would want to own one. To get a gun in Japan, one has to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are only held once a month. You also must take and pass a shooting range test, and then head over to the hospital for drug and mental competency tests. Finally, there is a rigorous background check for any criminal activity. As a result almost no one owns a gun. In 2008 there were exactly 11 deaths by gunfire, including accidents, in all of Japan. That same year there were over 12,000 in the U.S. And that was a pretty big year, in 2006 there were exactly two, and when that jumped to 22 in 2007 it created a national uproar in Japan.

Admittedly there are cultural differences between the Japanese and the American people, but the lack of guns in Japan doesn’t seem to have led to some government takeover of the people. Seems like things are running just about normal in Japan. Again, I am not anti-gun, but the fact that the NRA and supporters like Stamper-Smith are unwilling to even broker a conversation about some sort of controls on automatic weapons and 100-bullet clips shows how far we have moved away from other Western countries when it comes to a rational gun policy.

Finally, I really don’t think it would have helped had a few gun toting cowboys started firing in that dark, smoky, crowded theater in Aurora. Yes, they may have taken down Holmes, who was in fact wearing all sorts of combat gear. But it seems just as likely that many more innocent people would have been killed. We will never know, but we do know that more people died in that theater on that terrible night than did in all of Japan in 2006 or 2008.

Pete Gitlin

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