Meanwhile In Some Parallel Universe…

I know I’ve been out of the loop for a while, but I also know you all don’t mind since you’re all certainly busy reading Ice and Fire, which has been out for the better part of the month.  Anyhow, David has sent along a short but timely and poignant piece which is worth pausing your current novel for. There are sure to be some interesting opinions and reactions to this one, so make your voice heard in the comments.

Full text after the break.


Meanwhile In Some Parallel Universe…


Imagine this. On the same day – Friday 14th December 2012 – two deeply sick young men, one armed with an assault rifle, the other with a kitchen knife, each launch a homicidal attack on a group of frightened and unprotected children, most of them aged six or seven, the two attacks happening on either side of the globe, the two attacks being on an unprecedented scale, with their victims being numbered in the twenties.

No need to imagine. Because that is precisely what happened last Friday. While the Western media were tightly focused on Sandy Hook school in Connecticut, and the awful events there, the Chinese and Asian media were looking to Guangshan in Henan province where, believe it or not, a maniac, in his thirties, had attacked an elementary school and badly injured 23 children, aged between 6 and 12, severing ears and fingers, and slashing eyes, driven, it would seem, by the same kind of Doomsday fears that (partly) lay behind Adam Lanza’s actions in America.

Sina Weibo – China’s micro-blogging equivalent of our Facebook – has been filled with items about the significance of this incident, most commenting on the contrast between what happened in the USA and what happened in China. In the US, they point out, the reaction was immediate and went to the highest level of government, the president, and might eventually involve changes in the law. In China, by contrast, it took officials a full three days to respond to the incident, a fact which – now that it’s out in the open – horrifies most middle class Chinese. When pushed, Chinese officials have stated that “it was meaningless to discuss it”, though CCTV – China’s overseas media arm – has been doing a good job of reporting it the last day or two.

Aside from the differing responses to these two tragedies, one massively significant fact leaps out at you from this weird paralleling of events.

The problem is GUNS.

There are always going to be nutters, like Min Yongjun, the epileptic who may or may not have mental problems (I’d guess he has) and whose attack on the Guangshan school must have been – imagine it! – terrifying. But the fact is that in the Chinese school attack there were NO fatalities. Twenty three children had to be dealt with, sure, and some are in hospital in a pretty bad way, but there weren’t twenty seven deaths as there were in Newtown, and there aren’t twenty three grieving parents in China because their nutter didn’t have access to major military hardware.

China doesn’t allow its citizens to have guns. America does. And the result? Twenty seven deaths in the USA, and none in China. Same event, two outcomes. And I tell you, you really couldn’t have it displayed more clearly if you set this up as a laboratory experiment.

Life doesn’t often organise itself to give us such lessons, so this time we ought to be listening and doing something about it. When I hear young American men on the media – one was seventeen years old – talking about “the great benefits of having a gun”, I wonder what parallel universe I’ve lived my life in, because I’ve sure as hell not missed having a gun these last fifty eight years.

So there we are. Look it up on the internet if you think I’m making this shit up. It’s happened. So let’s learn from it this once, eh?

Tsai Chien!


David   Tuesday 18th December 2012


3 thoughts on “Meanwhile In Some Parallel Universe…”

  1. Hi David,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this. Do you believe that outlawing guns in the U.S.A. would take guns out of the hands of people who commit crimes? I’m sorry but I just cannot believe that. If we’re to have gun laws it should be involved with screening people who want to purchase one. Better yet, the guns that should be outlawed in this country should be automatic weapons I think. But law abiding citizens should have the right to arm themselves in my opinion. You and I could probably go on and on with a debate on this topic but I really do appreciate your opinion.


    By the way, David, I’ve been obsessed with learning wei chi lately. I currently rank as an 11k on the kgs site. What’s your rank? Can you and I play online sometime?

    1. Well, the problem is that “law-abiding” citizens might have not-so-mentally-stable relatives (like the tragedy in Newtown) who have guns readily available. How would the outcome in Newtown have been if Lanza had been armed with a knife instead? Probably not nearly as many tragic deaths.

      Can you kill someone from a hundred yards away with a knife? A spear? An axe? Quite hard. With a gun? Quite easy. THAT is the difference between guns and other weapons – the relative ease by which one can seriously harm or kill other people.

      Remove all guns (and I do mean ALL) guns from the world and you would see far fewer casualties from violence – I dare anyone to dispute that.

      We have very strict gunlaws here in Sweden and I’m extremely grateful for that. I sincerely hope that Obama manages to make the gunlaws more strict.

  2. Moral arguments aside, the political and legal reality in the United States make this an issue that will not be changing any time soon. The Second Amendment of the Constitution, combined with the District of Columbia v. Heller case, and other court cases go pretty far in preserving the rights of citizens to own, possess, and carry guns. And the only way that can change is by a constitutional amendment that alters the meaning of the Second Amendment.

    For those not familiar with the Constitution of the United States, this is not an easy process. It requires a two-thirds vote by both the House and the Senate (bodies that currently seem incapable of agreeing on how to walk up a flight of stairs) and ratification by at-least 38 of the 50 states (off the top of my head I can list 20 states where any major gun-ban legislation has virtually no chance of passing, and some of those are reliably “blue” states). And all of this is even after the horrific acts done by Adam Lanza.

    What makes passage even less likely is how far you have to go in a gun-ban for it to be effective. Every study that I have heard of about the enactment and expiration of the 1994 assault weapons ban comes to the conclusion that there is no evidence that it had any measurable effect on gun violence (keep in mind that the absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence). So it seems clear that more extreme measures than the 1994 law would be required. But how far can you go before it becomes unacceptable to voters? Assault rifles and large capacity magazines? That just gets us back to 1994. Hand guns? Good luck getting that past the “personal protection” lobby. Hunting rifles? Do you know how big hunting culture is in the USA? For example, last I checked in western Pennsylvania many schools still close for the opening day of deer season because so many students are out hunting and wouldn’t show up anyway.

    In order for major and effective gun law changes to happen, you’ll be asking for a huge cultural shift in the entire fabric of the country. In my opinion, this would be an even larger shift than the one we Americans have made recently on gay marriage (which has shifted from under 30% favorable to over 50% over the last 16 years).

    Full disclosure: Like my dad, my dad’s dad, my dad’s dad’s dad, and so on down the line (likely all the way back into the 1700s), I am a gun owner. I own a Winchester Model 52B Utah Centennial .22 LR which was given to me by my grandfather, was in storage at my dad’s house until a few months ago, and which I have only used for target practice. I plan to eventually start small game hunting (e.g. snowshoe hare during the winter months) but don’t expect this to actually happen for another year or so, at best.

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