Holidaying in Maine a few years ago, I popped into a Smith and Wesson Outlet shop, just for fun. I found myself in the company of a friendly, but definitely anxious customer who, noting my reticence, insisted I take a close look at the display cases. He needed a handgun and he needed it now. ‘Does this state have a cooling off period?’ he asked. He wouldn’t be buying if it did.
The ironic soundtrack included Canadian Bruce Cockburn’s If I had a rocket launcher (ironic because this US Top 40 Hit, was written against US backed actions in Central America). Sadly unavailable in the UK, it’s performed in maudlin country style; ‘If I had a rocket launcher… I’d make somebody pay / If I had a rocket launcher… I would retaliate / If I had a rocket launcher… I would not hesitate / If I had a rocket launcher… some son of a bitch would die’. I don’t imagine it sounded anti-American when played loud in an attempt to drive Manuel Noriega out of the Vatican Embassy in Panama City in 1989. A Cockburn fan site reports it failed because the ambassador complained. Here it sounded like an anthem for some weird militia cult.
Anyway. All this is to illustrate that the idea that gun control is an obvious step toward a safer, more peaceful world is far from universal. Nevertheless, that there are 639 million small arms and light weapons in the world today, with a further eight million more produced each year worries me. So you’ll see my face here, as part of the joint Amnesty International, IANSA, Oxfam campaign to control arms. And I suggest you add your face (if you live amongst nutters use a silhouette, like the one above).
You’ll be agreeing that guns fuel violent conflict, state repression, crime, and domestic abuse and that unless governments act to stop the spread of arms, more lives will be lost, more human rights violations will take place and more people will be denied the chance to escape poverty. You’ll be calling for an international treaty to help stop weapons falling into the hands of indiscriminate killers and human rights abusers by creating legally binding arms controls and ensuring that all governments control arms to the same basic international standards.