In the US there are more guns than people. The US also boasts the highest per capita rate of firearm-related murders of all developed countries. Of course, this isn’t a surprise. Mass gun massacres have become inherently American, a daily news segment, a regrettable regular occurrence in the land of the free. Moreover, they are almost always followed by the same ritualistic debate: Could this (insert one of 300 mass shootings that have already taken place in 2015) have been prevented?
But what if it could? China might seem like an unlikely example of effective gun control. Currently, the primary statute in regulating firearms is the Firearms-Control Law, which took effect on October 1, 1996. It prohibits any private possession of firearms in China with extremely limited exceptions; the maximum penalty for the possession of an illegal firearm is death. As a result, gun crime in China is extremely low. The correlations speak for themselves, but if it were that simple, surely the slaughter of innocent thousands would have, and should have, ceased.
The problem is that one of the fundamental differences between the US and China is their governments. Obviously, one is democratic and capitalist, whilst the latter is hierarchical and communist. Tight gun control has been in place for most of Chinese history since the Mao era because the laws coincide with the fundamentals of communism. The law categorizes firearms as those for official use and those for civilization use. Firearms for official use are confined to the police and personnel that require them for the performance of their duties and firearms for civilian use are limited to three areas: sports, hunting and wildlife protection, and breeding and research. The people of China are accustomed to the notion that the government is the authority; it makes sense that the Chinese government prohibits guns and it makes sense that the regular citizen is okay with that. The communist world doesn’t necessarily encourage the rights of the individual, instead it endorses the rights of the collective.
So could gun control laws comparable to China be implemented in the US? Given the current social and political climate of the country, probably not. Why? Because many American opposers to gun control simply do not want to give up their individual liberty. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” However, is the Second Amendment a tradition that needs to be kept, when guns are widely accessible and people keep dying at the hands of the people who shoot them?
China is not the only case study that demonstrates that gun control works (in terms of less gun crime in general and less massacres specifically). After the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, a mass shooting in which one man killed 35 people, Australia implemented a new gun control scheme, outlawing semi-automatic rifles and certain categories of shotgun, implementing strict licensing and registration requirements, and conducting a massive gun buyback program. And it worked. Australia has not been devastated by a mass shooting since that tragedy and overall gun crime has fallen dramatically.
Although those opposed to gun control measures might find it relatively easy to oppose China’s example of gun control laws by emphasizing that China’s political ideology does not give much credence to individual rights, it is harder for them to oppose Australia’s gun control standards; Australia is a democracy that highly values individual human rights and liberties. However, when one’s right is the right to murder others, whether on purpose or accidentally, it is important to ask: is that a right humans we should have? When it comes to guns, it is clear that it is the United States that should be in the firing line.
This article was written by Stephanie Bailey. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Arshaun Darabnia