The shooting in a movie theatre in the US state of Colorado that killed at least a dozen people and wounded over 50 others, is the stuff of nightmares. It is hard to imagine the fear that must have filled the darkened hall as a man dressed in a helmet and body armour stepped out from behind the screen playing the latest batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, and created true darkness as he opened indiscriminate fire at the audience. The mental state and possible motives of the man identified as 24-year-old James Holmes are being examined. Holmes was a neuroscience graduate student — in the process of withdrawal from the programme — with no previous criminal record.
But what is also under scrutiny, once again, as in fact happens after any such incident, are the gun laws in the US and the ease with which people are able to acquire arms. All of Holmes’ four guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition were apparently bought entirely legally. Calls have come in for tougher gun control laws but there is already much scepticism as to whether these will ever be implemented given the power of the gun lobby in the country and the backing it receives from politicians and others in powerful places.
This brings us to our own country. Gun laws are not as relaxed as in the US, but due to their lack of implementation, the end result is the same. Pakistan is rated as a country with one of the highest number of weapons in circulation; Karachi is said by international agencies to have more small arms than any other major city in the world. It is true that we may not have seen the kind of psychotic killings the US has experienced over the years, but the easy flow of guns through society is responsible for the repeated gun fights in Karachi and violence of all kinds elsewhere. In this age of the internet and instant TV coverage, we may not even be far from a ‘copycat’ killing spree such as that carried out by Holmes. We need then to remove guns from people’s hands, just as should happen in the US, to make society a safer place.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2012.