Wednesday, 18 April 2007

More European VTech coverage

I thought I'd give a little round-up of the European coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting. There's been a lot of talk about Charlton Heston and the NRA (apparently people here were left with the impression, from "Bowling for Columbine," that he's one of the most powerful people in America). He keeps coming up on radio and TV coverage. Everyone is also mentioning the 2004 expiration of a 10-year ban on semi-automatic weapons under the then Republican-controlled Congress.
"Only the names change—And the numbers," read a headline in the Times of London. "Why, we ask, do Americans continue to tolerate gun laws and a culture that seems to condemn thousands of innocents to death every year, when presumably, tougher restrictions, such as those in force in European countries, could at least reduce the number?"
The French daily Le Monde said the regularity of mass shootings across the Atlantic was a blotch on America's image.
"It would be unjust and especially false to reduce the United States to the image created, in a recurrent way, from the bursts of murderous fury that some isolated individuals succumb to. But acts like this are rare elsewhere, and tend to often disfigure the 'American dream.'"
Italian daily Il Messaggero writes:
"The bloodbath on the university campus is the work of a suicide killer -- an American suicide killer who, differently from Muslim killers, did not act out of religious motives but was driven instead by the unrest affecting broad layers of US society. America is a nation that has for some years been in danger of becoming more and more unloved in the world, especially in the poorest countries. During the period following World War II, America was seen as the guardian of democracy and was equated with the defense of liberty; today, America is a superpower that begins wars and lives with the constant necessity of having to defend itself against the enemy -- whether this enemy be called Islam or whether it bears the face of the neighbor who has done you wrong."
British daily The Independent writes:
"The passionate feelings of the gun lobby may be traced to the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, enshrining 'the right of the people to keep and bear arms'. Although the provision stems from the times when 'well regulated militias' were deemed necessary to protect against a British attempt to regain the lost colonies, it is the default position of any argument against greater gun control here."

"As such, it has trumped every other consideration, not least the fact that on any given day about 80 people are killed by firearms, the vast majority by murder or suicide. Gun violence may cost $2.3 billion each year in medical expenses, but it is a price, gun supporters believe, that is worth paying to protect a fundamental freedom ..."

"There is no sign of attitudes hardening. Despite the opposition of every police force in the land, Congress in 2004 allowed to lapse a 10-year federal ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, a particular favorite of violent criminals. The reaction was not exactly deafening. Even amid yesterday's shock, the initial calls were for stricter security measures on campuses -- not serious moves to reduce gun ownership."
and Spanish daily El Pais writes:
"The president of Virginia Tech called it a tragedy of monumental proportions. But similar comments could already be heard following previous tragedies of this kind. The shooting spree at the Columbine high school in Colorado, for instance, revived the debate on the necessity of better controlling access to weapons. This led to some laws being toughened and security at schools being improved. But the measures are decided by the individual states and are constantly side-stepped by means of an exaggerated interpretation of the US constitution."
It's literally across the board. Every media account of the incident mentions the lax gun laws. But as I look through the US coverage, there seems to be very little mention of gun laws, even though it's now coming out that this kid, who wasn't even a full citizen, bought the guns and ammo for $500 at a gun shop just a few weeks ago, easy as pie. Still, in the editorial pages, there doesn't seem yet to be a serious call for gun reform, even though that was the first reaction of virtually the rest of the world.

You can see it in the reaction of US politicians as well. In their initial reactions to the shooting they have been falling over themselves to support loose gun control laws. Before he even made an official reaction to the shooting President Bush, through his spokesperson, said that he supports the second amendment. The first thing John McCain said was that he supports the second amendment. Trust me, this grotesque detail has not been lost on European media.

No comments: