America today, India tomorrow?

"Any man's death diminishes me" warned a 16th-century poet while reminding us that no man is an island. When we read about the appalling school shootings in far-away America, we exult that such incidents do not happen in our country. We read about them and even forget what we read. But, as inhabitants of the same planet, we too need to fight the forces that cause these gruesome events.

We may not be able to fight the Second Amendment of the American Constitution, or the gun lobbies of that country. But we can hang our heads in shame when the wealthy immigrant of Indian origin generously funds the election of persons who support the sale of firearms; does nothing to stop this carnage while climbing the ladder of success.

We can prevail on all the South Asians settled in that country to be more proactive in these matters, instead of being mere spectators. Do they have to act only when a calamity affects them directly? Why don't they speak up against all those politicians "who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA" (National Rifle Association) and who support laws that precipitate such mass killings?  

Anyway, it is only a matter of time before the gun culture permeates this country as well if we don't even bother to condemn such incidents. I remember opening a newspaper in Chicago long ago and reading with shock about that young 19-year-old student from Tokyo who was shot dead because he did not understand the command "Freeze!" when he innocently trespassed into someone's private property on Halloween night. If the owner did not possess a gun, the boy might have got away with a milder punishment.

Since then, the number of mass murders and school shootings of innocent children have increased, with these tragedies occurring at chilling regularity. Yet, guns continue to be manufactured and sold with impunity. The US president has even suggested arming teachers in schools with these deadly weapons to protect their pupils!

A brilliant move, indeed, to enable the gun manufacturers to improve their business. Even the rejection of the modest ban proposed by his government to restrict the buyers' age and sale of semi-automatic rifles, which can shoot hundreds of rounds in a minute, shows the arrogance of the powerful gun nabobs.  

According to a UN report, America has the highest number of privately-owned guns in the world. A country that boasts of having the best of everything does not lag behind in this respect. A Washington Post report that although "Americans make up less than 5% of the world's population, yet own 42% of the world's privately held firearms," says everything.

Yet, the federal government prefers to skirt the issue by expressing concern now for the mental health of the country since most arsonists plead psychological aberrations for their violent behaviour. And yet, the same government reversed former president Barack Obama's executive order that made it impossible for mentally ill persons to buy or possess firearms!

Anyway, curing mental abnormalities is a long-term agenda, whereas banning private possession of guns is a matter of state policy that can be implemented immediately in public interest.

Public hazard

The very possession of firearms is a public hazard as it is easy to pull the trigger on oneself or on others. Without a gun, it would not have been so easy to kill two presidents, among others. In our own country, we have seen the greatest tragedy in the assassination of Gandhi, which was executed so easily with a small handgun. Planning and executing a political assassination would have been much more difficult without it.

With the increasing influence of cinema, video games and access to undesirable internet sites, the younger generation in India is also at risk of turning to violent acts to solve simple problems. We are already witnessing crimes committed in several states for trivial reasons. We need not be complacent that such tragedies like school shootings and mass killings occur only in other countries.  

In India, the rising cost of living, coupled with unemployment, can become a major trigger for crime. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the number of jobless persons in India will increase over the next two years, pushing up the unemployment rate. It also points out how this has affected the crime rate in many states, with murder, robbery and riots taking precedence.

With increasing social and economic disparities, the crime rate is bound to increase, too. Then, we may not be far from America where the mental health of the nation has deteriorated resulting in such macabre crimes. It is time we reminded ourselves that no man is an island detached from the rest of the world.

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