Global sympathy for Newtown, antipathy for US gun laws (+video)
Even as observers around the world mourned the teachers and children killed in Newtown, many expressed frustration with a US political system that has left guns so easily accessible.
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Gun proponents in the US vociferously defend their constitutional right to bear arms, but that doesn’t mean that horrific violence remains the exclusive domain of the US. In 1996, Britain, in fact, experienced an unprecedented tragedy when 16 children, aged five and six, were struck by a gunman who burst into a school. That same year, 35 were killed in a shooting rampage at a tourist attraction in Tasmania, Australia. In Norway last year, Anders Behring Breivik went on a shooting spree at a political youth camp, killing 69 on site.Skip to next paragraph
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But in many of the historic cases throughout the last century, countries have quickly moved to implement stricter legislation on guns, including in Scotland, Australia, and in Finland after two deadly shooting sprees in 2007 and 2008.
The US has also been thrust into its own debate about gun laws and change. But across the globe, it’s been dismissed as “empty talk.”
In Russia, the independent Moscow daily Noviye Izvestiya summed the political talk as such: "Mass gun killings similar to what happened last week have become as regular as natural disasters," it stated. “After each massacre Americans talk about needed changes, but this is just empty talk. Pro-gun organizations and other lobbyists for unrestricted gun sales appear to be stronger than reason.”
In China, the “Southern Daily” wrote: “The gun culture and the gun economy have become key elements of US culture and are entangled in politics, the economy, and the law.” The paper did not hold out much hope for reform, titling its article “US Gun Ban: Mission Impossible.”
Guns are strictly prohibited in China, except in rare cases, and many observers here and abroad credited that policy with saving the lives of 20 Chinese elementary school children who came under attack just hours before Mr. Lanza opened fire across the globe. A man used a kitchen knife to stab the children in a wild assault on a rural school in Guangshan, in the central Chinese province of Henan on Friday. None of his victims died. The suspect is in police custody.
“How can guns be so widespread in America?” wonders Hou Honghua, a project manager at a high-tech battery company in Beijing. “It’s just too dangerous.”
Mexico's challenge to the US
Gun prevalence is more than just a rhetorical question in Mexico, where more than 60,000 were killed in drug-related homicide from 2006 to 2012. Mexican politicians have been calling on the US government to clamp down on the availability of arms that they say help fuel their deadly drug violence.
“Mexico is more sensitive to these deaths [in Newtown] because, even if in the US it’s been at the hands of a solitary individual and here in Mexico we have groups of organized criminals carrying out 60,000 murders … in both we see that the US shares part of the responsibility,” says Jose Arturo Yanez, an independent crime expert in Mexico City.
In Mexico, victims are often beheaded, killed en masse, and thrown into graves or piled onto highways as a threat. It is a sort of barbarity south of the US border that the American media, and the world at large, has fixated on. But Mexico is also fixated on what, to many, seems incomprehensible violence north. An editorial in the left-leaning La Jornada on Saturday called it “devastating” that a country with such high levels of development that attempts to be a model of civilization for the world is so often the site of "barbarity."