As an American overseas for the last ten years, I’ve watched as other countries struggle with the curious fact that the most prosperous, successful, and emulated civilization the world has ever seen lives with the certainty that every few months one of its troubled citizens will casually acquire the tools to massacre a large group of his neighbors: shoppers in a mall, moviegoers, voters meeting their congresswoman, a kindergarten full of children. Even to those who desperately want to be American, this special brand of American madness lies not in the banal fact that deranged men attack children, but in the shame that the rest of us, all of us, allow our laws to enable it. “This is heartbreaking,” one Chinese commentator wrote after the Newtown attack. “Shootings keep happening, people keep dying, but you never see the government or regular people standing up for gun control. Don’t they see the inevitable cause and effect?”
It takes a lot to make China’s government—beset, as it is, by corruption and opacity and the paralyzing effects of special interests—look good, by comparison, in the eyes of its people these days. But we’ve done it. When Chinese viewers looked at the two attacks side by side, more than a few of them concluded, as this one did that, “from the look of it, there’s no difference between a ‘developed’ country and a ‘developing’ country. And there’s no such thing as human rights. People are the most violent creatures on earth, and China, with its ban on guns, is doing pretty well!”
Twenty-two children injured. Versus, at current count, 18 20 little children and nine eight other people shot dead. That’s the difference between a knife and a gun.
Guns don’t attack children; psychopaths and sadists do. But guns uniquely allow a psychopath to wreak death and devastation on such a large scale so quickly and easily. America is the only country in which this happens again — and again and again. You can look it up.
As news spread in China of the attack in Connecticut, in which 20 children were gunned down, Chinese commentators praised their country’s strict gun control laws.
“Without gun control, the result of the Henan incident would not just be 22 injured children,” wrote another.
Zhang Xin, a prominent real estate developer and one of the wealthiest women in China, deplored the lack of political will in the United States.
“Really, why can’t these politicians put aside their difference and prohibit the sale of firearms?” she wrote in her widely followed microblog on Sina Weibo.
Google “knife control” and you’ll find legions of gun-control skeptics comparing U.S. firearm attacks to Chinese knife attacks. In the past two years, there’s been an epidemic of knife attacks on Chinese schools. Some of them show up on Wikipedia’s list of school massacres. But none crack the top 10 because the body counts never rise above single digits. It’s just too hard to kill that many people, even little kids, with a knife.
Guns do more damage. Look down the list and you’ll see gun after gun after gun. But not all guns are equal. I’ve gone through the 25 worst massacres on the chart, and nearly every shooter had a semi-automatic weapon. The one exception was a guy who had speedloaders and a bandolier so he could keep firing. High-capacity magazines are another common factor. All these patterns converge on a common lesson: Speed kills. Madness pulls the trigger, but the rate of fire drives the body count.
We’re all for fair and balanced here though. What’s the other side saying? Why, here’s Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America:
“Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones. The only thing accomplished by gun free zones is to insure that mass murderers can slay more before they are finally confronted by someone with a gun.”
Here’s the petition for gun control. The world is watching, America.
In China, President Barack Obama’s full address on the school shooting has been viewed 924,000 times on Youku alone: