When a strong ally and predominantly conservative country like Australia becomes disillusioned with America’s “illogical policy with … guns” and encourages its citizens not to visit the U.S., will gun-toting advocates in the U.S. get the message?
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australians should avoid the United States because of its “illogical” gun laws, the country’s former deputy prime minister, Tim Fischer, said Friday after the killing of college baseball player Christopher Lane. SOURCE
Christopher Lane, from Melbourne, Australia, was attending East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma on a baseball scholarship. Jogging down a street in what news accounts referred to as an upscale neighborhood, Lane was shot in the back by a group of teens who claimed they did so in part because they “were bored”. How they got their hands on the .22 caliber revolver that killed Lane is still not clear. But it’s probably safe to say that only in America can anyone at anytime get their hands so easily on a firearm.
Fischer went on to describe his rage and a perception that is likely a popular one with many in Australia at this time as well as other countries around the world.
“The U.S. has chosen the pathway of illogical policy with regard to guns,” Fischer said Friday. “They cannot expect not to have any criticism of it worldwide.”
“I am angry because it is corrupting the world, this gun culture of the United States.”
Fischer said the lack of gun control in the U.S. had led to a massacre “each and every year since 1996” – in contrast to Australia, which has restrictions on firearms ownership.
He said the majority of illegally obtained guns used in crimes in Australia and Mexico had come from the U.S.
He added that he was not against guns, and kept weapons at his rural home, but added: “I am in favor of firearms sensible regulations to have the best of both worlds.
“Anybody can tomorrow go to a gun show in Oklahoma or California and buy a gun without a simple background check. That is illogical.”
To what may sound to some like an over-the-top assessment of gun violence in America, especially supporters of the NRA, Mr. Fischer ‘s sentiments not only resonate with many other foreign nationals these days but with many Americans like myself as well.
I live here in the state Texas and have all of my life. But the sentiment expressed out of a concern for what appears to be the lawless nature of this country is not unlike what I have expressed myself towards our neighbor to the south, Mexico. And justifiably so. Mexico has one of the highest murder rates in the world – 18 per 100,000 according to this United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime report – which is more than three times the US rate of 4.8 per 100,000.
But for those on the other side of the border looking into Texas they are perhaps the one who should have the greater concern over mine. According to Robert Reid over at the Lonely Planet blog there is a lower rate of Americans being murdered in Mexico than in my home state of Texas.
Texans are twice as safe in Mexico, and three times safer than in Houston. Looking at the numbers, it might be wise for Texans to ignore their Public Safety department’s advice against Mexico travel. Five per 100,000 Texans were homicide victims in 2010, per the FBI. Houston was worse, with 143 murders, or a rate of 6.8 – over three times the rate for Americans in Mexico.
But it’s not just in Texas. Tourist, including those from abroad, are actually more prone to being murdered in popular U.S. cities than they are in Mexico. In 2010, Orlando, the gateway to Disney World, had higher murder rates than the popular Mexican tourist sites of Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. And New Orleans, who hosted the Super Bowl this year, had a murder rate that is “ten times the US homicide rate, close to triple Mexico’s national rate” according to Reid.
Americans tend to be protected from this inconvenient truth by those in government who are loyal to groups like the National Rifle Association and others working closely with the gun manufacturers who supply the deadly weapons that get spread to countries around the world. The corporate-owned media in this country barely, if at all, reveal international attitudes about America’s perceived lawlessness. But this perception is not obstructed in countries who lose their citizens to gun violence while visiting the U.S.
Like my fearful analysis of Mexico, many non-Americans share similar reservations about planning their vacations here and many likely do so as the violence in this country increases and becomes identified with the free-wheeling gun laws that continue to surface in many states. Similarly, according to the Institute of International Education, US colleges and universities are witnessing a decline in matriculation rates from other top nations including students from India, South Korea, Canada and Taiwan. The influx of Chinese students however probably offsets these diminished numbers from other countries, which would explain the increase last year by almost six percent of students traveling to the US to study. One in four foreign students in U.S. colleges call China home.
The “castle doctrine” and “stand your ground law” are part of the law in 30 of the 50 states. Those laws were modeled after legislation that the NRA and state legislatures formulated as members of ALEC, an organization that attempts to keep its activities out of the public’s view to piece together bills that serves corporate special interests.
The Trayvon Martin murder in Florida likely instilled even greater worries for foreigners, especially dark-skinned nationalities, to fear Americans in those states who may also harbor resentment for anyone who looks like a Middle-Eastern terrorist in their mind. Factor in the lack of adequate mental health care in the U.S. and it’s not hard to conjure up a picture of those gun owners running loose in this country who view themselves as avenging patriots and focus their embellished hate on those who they imagine pose a threat to “our freedoms”.
Even though many think American economic clout is in relative decline, publics around the world continue to worry about how the U.S. uses its power – in particular its military power – in international affairs.
There remains a widespread perception that the U.S. acts unilaterally and does not consider the interests of other countries. 2012 Pew Research Global Attitudes Project
Over the course of the last decade the image of America and its people has suffered tremendously around the globe beginning with the polarizing Bush mantra that “you’re either with us, or against us” in our declared global war on terrorism, to the senseless slaughter of 20 small children and 6 of their teachers by a mentally unstable teen whose goal was to kill more people than the last mass shooter in an Aurora, Colorado theater.
Europeans, Australians and many Asian countries, whose own laws restrict guns at some level, must have been horrified after the Newtown slaughter to watch many Americans actually defend ownership of small arsenals by individuals as they also went about to change laws that would allow even greater access to guns in areas where sane people would normally object, likes bars, public parks and even ironically, grade schools. One report suggest that it is our military aggression around the globe that continues to produce high rates of gun violence in this country.
… other countries with high gun ownership are much less violent than the U.S. … so there must be something unique about modern America. What is it?
Charles Derber, Professor of Sociology at Boston College and Yale Magrass, Chancellor Professor of Sociology at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth provide an explanation at liberal website Truth Out:
In the flood of commentary about the Newtown massacre and broader US gun violence, liberals tend to blame failures of gun control while conservatives blame the mentally ill and Hollywood. But they are both missing one important and overlooked explanation: the domestic consequences of a militarized superpower engaged in chronic wars around the world.
The US spends more money on the military than the next ten countries together. It also has the highest level of domestic gun violence in the developed world. Highly militarized societies cannot compartmentalize foreign from domestic violence. They cannot prevent wars – and guns – from coming home.
A militarized society develops a culture and institutions which program civilians for violence at home as well as abroad. SOURCE
So, regardless of any fact that might try to prove that the U.S. is not as violent as other countries – countries which by the way like El Salvador, Jamaica, Honduras, Swaziland, Columbia and Mexico have little social stability and vast levels of political corruption – the perception of the U.S. is changing around the world because we’re no longer being viewed in Ronald Reagan’s perception as a shining city on the hill, but more like one where thugs with easy access to guns rule the streets while the government supports merchants of death. Unless we turn things around here in how we address gun violence in this country, many more of our international friends will echo Tim Fischer sentiments that American entrepreneurs fear – “Don’t go to America”.