Andrew M Niccol wrote and directed Lord of War, a movie that critically explores the world of gunrunning. The DVD release of the movie includes an Amnesty International advertisement, showing the ease with which an AK-47, an assault rifle, can be sold on regular network shopping channels in the United States. Niccol is famously quoted as saying, “We hear so much about weapons of mass destruction — but nine out of 10 war victims are killed by guns. It’s the AK-47 that’s a weapon of mass destruction”.
President Barack Obama and the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, have made it clear that they will not use the Colorado killings to push for restrictive gun laws. They do not want to upset politically influential gun-owners in the midst of a re-election battle. What makes this especially shameful is that both men actually believe in stricter gun control — but remain silent only because there is marked trend against restrictive new gun laws in the United States. Obama was chastised by rural Pennsylvanian voters in 2008 when he suggested that all they do is “cling to guns and religion”; while Romney was criticised during the Republican primaries for signing an assault weapons ban during his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts. This silence prevents effective measures from being ratified to prevent future killings. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg recently expressed: “Maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about gun control”.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer argues that the only way to push for gun control is for citizens, as the silent majority, to speak out. Politicians, according to Schumer, will never confront powerful lobby groups, such as the National Rifle Association, unless there is substantial constituent support. Gun aficionados in the United States will always use the Second Amendment to argue that it is within their constitutional right to bear arms. The reality is that the Second Amendment — crafted to address 18th century homeland security threats — has no place in today’s civil society. The US claims to be waging a war on terror to make a more peaceful, egalitarian world. Statistics speak otherwise. In 2005, 846 American troops died in Iraq compared with the 11,493 American civilians that died from gunshot wounds in the US. Obama’s silence characterises the trepidation many Democrats share of isolating voters when proposing tougher gun laws. Apologists will argue that Obama will articulate support for gun control during his second term. The reality is that speculative punditry will not thwart another shooting like the one in Colorado.
Ray Kelly, the New York City Police Commissioner, told reporters that the perpetrator, James Holmes, fancied himself as the Joker, Batman’s archenemy. Sporting a shock of orange hair, Holmes indiscriminately shot moviegoers at the Batman premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. The comic book Joker is a homicidal maniac. The crimes he commits are senseless, capricious and brutal. Many years ago, I had a series of conversations with the cartoonist Jerry Robinson — the creator of the Joker. He told me, the Joker personified a world of senseless tragedy. It is a world of violence, where elected officials pander to powerful lobby groups and where money trumps the sanctity of life. Holmes may physically personify the Joker, but our politicians exemplify the Joker’s capricious mindset. In the words of the Joker (Joker’s Asylum, Volume 11, DC Comics), “Who’s the real sicko, America? Me, for carrying out this little prank? Or is it you (the) people, who mindlessly watched it all”.
Today, it is easier to buy an AK-47 assault rifle in the US than it is to buy an Italian Kindersurprise — a product that has never been allowed into the country. The Kindersurprise is a chocolate confection intended for children. It is shaped like a chocolate egg and contains within it a small toy. The US Food and Drug Administration alert to its import states, “The imbedded non-nutritive objects in these confectionery products may pose a public health risk as the consumer may unknowingly choke on the object”.
Oh the irony…
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2012.