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2011年1月13日 (木)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 12
EDITORIAL: Rampage in Arizona

The United States has suffered yet another horrific gun tragedy.

The latest scene of bloodshed was Tucson, Arizona, in the American West. On Saturday morning, Gabrielle Giffords, a member of the House of Representatives from the Democratic Party, was holding an informal get-together and chat with constituents in front of a supermarket.
A man suddenly approached with a semiautomatic pistol and shot her in head. While Giffords somehow survived the attack, a federal judge and five others present were killed and 14 were wounded.

Taken into custody was a 22-year-old man. A note found in his home was scribbled with the words: "I planned ahead," "My assassination" and "Giffords."

In the United States, it is a time-honored grass-roots tradition for members of Congress to hold events encouraging dialogue with voters. Turning such an occasion into a bloodbath was an act of unbridled barbarity designed to destroy democracy.

According to U.S. media reports, the suspect previously sought to enlist in the army but was rejected based on the results of drug testing. He had attended a local junior college, but was suspended last autumn due to his aggressive words and actions.

Yet, the pistol used in the crime was purchased legally from a sporting goods store in November. It is a weapon with high lethality used by police officers and soldiers. Why was it so easy for someone with a history of drug abuse to get his hands on such a high-powered firearm? We can only wonder anew at the shoddy nature of gun control in the United States.

Some point out the confrontational mood in American politics as a contributing factor behind this crime. Both Democrats and Republicans are inextricably locked in toxic party politics, highlighted by escalating personal attacks carried in both the conventional media and the Internet. Among the comments and behavior are extreme cases that even allude to use of guns on opponents.

Though Congresswoman Giffords is a moderate Democrat, she voted in favor of the health-care reform bill championed by the administration of President Barrack Obama.
That stance caused her to receive threatening e-mails, while a glass door in her district office was smashed after the vote on the bill. Aberrant tones and environments acting to target politicians are intolerable under any circumstances.

Firearms have been used to gun down numerous U.S. politicians. High-profile examples include the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the wounding of President Ronald Reagan in 1981. School shootings remain rampant as well, such as the deadly rampage by a lone gunman in 2007 at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Gun control groups estimate that more than 100,000 people are shot with firearms annually in the United States. Guns kill more than 30,000 people each year in America when gun-related suicides and accidental deaths are added to the homicide count.

Under the Brady Act of 1993, gun purchases require a waiting period to check the buyer's criminal record. Conservative camps oppose such controls, however, saying that the U.S. Constitution clearly guarantees the "right to bear arms." We would point out that significantly more Americans are killed and wounded by guns each year than are felled by acts of terrorism perpetrated by Islamic extremist groups.

Among the dead in the Tucson attack was a girl born on Sept. 11, 2001. Noted her father, "It does say something about our society that our daughter was born on a tragic day and taken out on a tragic day."

The American people would be well served to contemplate these poignant words and take earnest steps in the direction of meaningful gun control.


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