Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"The American Government Protects the Weapons Industry"

Liberation (France's premier left-wing political journal):
Interview With Benoit Muraciolle by Gregory Onillon, a researcher for Amnesty International responsible for the "arms control" campaign.

Onillon: Has the gun legislation situation in the United States changed since Columbine?

Muraciolle: Two important facts to consider with respect to the American administration's action covering guns since these events: in 2002, the Bush administration refused to sign a proposed law to mark munitions so as to allow firearms' usage to be traced. Then there was the voting-in of a law rejecting all weapons industry responsibility [for use of their product]. Since then, no suit may be filed against gunmakers. These two political initiatives took place after the events at Columbine. The American government protects the weapons industry and continues to show itself unable to recognize the causality between violence and firearms.

Is it easy to get a gun?

In Virginia, the state where the shooting took place, it is possible to buy a gun from age 12, and that without parental consent. In the United States, studies show that 70 percent of guns move into an illegal network within three years of their purchase. Legislation on gun acquisition varies from one state to another, and there are many loopholes in the application of these laws.

Is the gun lobby still powerful in the United States?

The NRA (National Rifle Association) claims 4 million members across the United States. It acts as a powerful lobby at the political level. In the framework of the Columbine shooting, the NRA reacted by saying that there "would have been fewer deaths if all the students had been armed...." In 2006, 153 governments supported a proposed international treaty aiming to prohibit transfers of the weapons that feed conflicts, poverty and serious attacks on human rights. Only the United States voted against it. The NRA pressured the American government not to ratify that treaty.

Do you think the situation could evolve?

To change the situation, the control and monitoring of gun owners would have to be improved. Look at the examples of Australia and Canada, which, following a tightening of legislation and public sensitization to weapons, saw a two-thirds drop in firearms homicides. During the Million Mom March, a great movement in favor of a change in firearms legislation, one mother said to me, "How many massacres do we have to have to change the situation?" The shooting at Virginia Tech shows that there's still a long way to go. Nonetheless, one may hope that the impact of this tragic event will create some momentum to modify the laws with respect to firearms. Moreover, the American political situation and the problems of the Bush administration may beget a situation favorable to change. American politicians such as John Kerry and Arnold Schwarzenegger have already declared themselves to be in favor of a modification in weapons legislation. The most urgent thing is to change the laws and effect a sensitization to the subject. There are still 30,000 deaths a year in the United States due to firearms.
Howie P.S.: Translation by t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.

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